Friday, December 24, 2010

How to Make Candied Citrus Peel

Candied citrus peel, or “candied peel,” is used in many recipes for festive holiday breads, such as panettone and Dresdner Christollen (Christmas stollen). You'll also find it used in cookie and candy recipes. They can also be enjoyed on their own.

Candied peel can be hard to find in the grocery store, and is somewhat expensive. Making your own is actually pretty simple, but it does take a bit of time. It can be made with several different kinds of citrus fruit, oranges, lemons, limes, or grapefruit are all fair game.

I originally got this recipe from Elizabeth LaBau. I modified her recipe only slightly, to make it just a bit easier for home cooks. Her recipe uses oranges, but she also uses them as a simple baseline for other fruit. Her conversion works pretty well: 1 grapefruit counts as 2 oranges, 2 small lemons or limes count as 1 orange. You'll want to use about 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon of water and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar per “orange.”

It is best to use organic fruit for this recipe. If you can't get organic citrus fruit, wash the outside thoroughly to remove the residual pesticides.

Equipment needed
paring knife
medium saucepan
measuring cups
baking sheet and parchment paper or fine mesh cooling racks

4 oranges
4 1/4 cups water
2 1/2 cups sugar plus 1 cup sugar for dredging

Using a sharp paring knife, cut the top and bottom off of an orange. Score the peel into quarters, and then again, into eighths. Peel the orange carefully, trying to keep the peel intact.

Next, cut away the bitter white pith from the backside of the peels. It's easiest to do this by laying the peel flat on a cutting board, and carefully running the knife between the pith and peel. It's okay is a little bit of the pith remains on the peel. Discard the pith. The remaining outer peels will be about 1/8 inch thick.

Repeat this process with the remaining oranges. The peels can be set aside in the refrigerator until needed. They'll keep for a few days in case you need to build up your supply.

Combine 2 1/2 cups of sugar and all the water in a medium saucepan, uncovered, over medium heat, until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, boiling it uncovered for 5 minutes. Add the citrus peel strips, pushing them down into the syrup with a spoon, and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook, uncovered, until reduced to about 1/4 the original amount. The peels should be just covered by the syrup at that point. DO NOT STIR. The sugar is so concentrated that stirring may cause a chain reaction, giving you large sugar crystals instead of syrup. Reducing to 1/4 the volume will take about 2 hours.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool. Drain the peels in a colander. You may be tempted to use the remaining syrup, but I find it too bitter, in spite of the high sugar content.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the remaining 1 cup of sugar in a shallow dish. Dredge the peels in the sugar, both sides, and place in a single layer on the baking sheet. Add more sugar for dredging as needed.

Place the baking sheet on a rack in the upper third of the oven and let dry for 1 hour. Check the peels every 20 minutes to make sure they are drying and not cooking. Alternately, you can put the peels on cooling racks and let them dry overnight.

Once the peels are dry, scrape off any large sugar clumps. The peels can be stored in a cool, dry place for a few weeks. Candied peels can be used as directed in recipes, or dipped in chocolate and enjoyed by themselves.

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