The process of making candied citrus peels reveals several steps in the process with which we can play around with the recipe to introduce some fun variations. We can easily tweak the shapes, flavors, tang and texture of this treat with a slight of hand that will make our gift recipients think we are magic.
The recipe I used for making this batch of candied zest came from Alice Medrich’s latest book, Pure Dessert. She offers two methods for making candied citrus peels, a quick version and a longer more involved process. I chose the more involved process as it yields a thicker, chewier candy that suggests itself to be a evolutionary partner to gummi bears.
Here’s a recipe overview of candying citrus peels
The quick method Medrich outlines utilizes a vegetable peeler to create thin pith-less extractions of zest, which are boiled in sugar syrup and then dried for a couple of hours and rolled in sugar.
The longer more involved process involves cutting the fruit from the peel and boiling the whole peel (pith and bits of orange too) in several water changes of boiling water to soften the thick peel. Look through this post from eGullet for a picture guide on how to prepare the fruit skin for this process. The cut peels are then scraped of their pith (use a paring knife to slice or scrape it off) and boiled in sugar syrup till they reach 220F and are translucent. They are removed from the syrup, dried overnight and then rolled in sugar. For 3/4 of my batch I followed with a dip in tempered chocolate.
Fun variations for candying citrus peels
Shape: After blanching the citrus skin, different shapes can be cut from the skin. While strips of zest are the classic shape, utilize the bottoms cut from the oranges and make rings of it with different shaped round cookie cutters (my smallest is the diameter of a Quarter). I even blanched and candied the navals of my naval oranges for a thicker round coin of goodness.
With these different shapes you can offer gift bags of bottoms and bellybuttons (from the naval orange). You can also make a bag of hugs and kisses using the rings for the hugs, and drying strips crossed over one another for the kisses. This variation alone can extend this classic Christmas gift as a perfect sweet touch for Valentine’s Day too.
Flavor: the step of boiling the prepared peel in sugar syrup yields the perfect opportunity to add aromatics to your candy’s sugary bath. Here are some ideas:
- candied orange peel with cinnamon sticks
- candied orange peel with clove
- candied orange peel with chilies
- candied lemon peel with vanilla bean
- candied lemon peel with peppermint leaves
- candied lemon peel with ginger (and you would make your own candied ginger too!)
- candied grapefruit peel with peppercorns
- candied grapefruit peel with lavender
Tang:are you a fan of sour flavored candies? If you are, you’re gonna love this next idea. Mimic that tang by adding some citric acid (available in the canning section of kitchen supply stores).
Citric acid comes in a powder whose granules are roughly the size of granulated sugar. For figuring out the strength you want, make up a batch of sour sugar by adding 1 tsp of citric acid powder to 1 cup of granulated sugar. Shake or stir together and then dip a finger in to test.
- Is your sour sugar tangy enough? If not, add a 1/2 tsp more of citric acid. If too tangy, add a touch more sugar.
- Does your citric acid fall to the bottom of the sugar? If so, pulverize more citric acid powder with a mortar and pestle. Add this ground citric acid to your sour sugar.
Now use the sour sugar to dust your dried peels.
Texture: these days, we have a larger variety of sugars to play with. Try out different types of sugar such as raw, demerara, or date sugar. These will lend a slightly different flavor and texture as they often have different sized sugar granules. Even trying powdered sugar will yield a new texture of candied fruit peel.
And of course, what is my favorite way to alter the texture of candied citrus peels? By dipping them in tempered chocolate! Tempering the chocolate will yield a product with a nice snap to the chocolate.
With all the fancy types of chocolate available these days in gourmet candy bars you can even add funky flavors to plain candied citrus peels just in this step alone. How about spicy chocolate wrapped around orange? Peppermint chocolate playing with grapefruit or lemon? An additional benefit to using a gourmet chocolate bar is that they have done the tempering for you. If the chocolate is glossy and hard (no blooms of white color), melt it very gently to ~85F. Do not let it get higher than 89F to maintain the temper of your chocolate. Now your peels with have a snappy hat of satiny chocolate flavor.
With all these variations to play with, we can make up a spate of excuses to gift our friends with the products of our imagination. But most important of all, remember to give some to yourself!