Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Candied Orange, Lemon and Grapefruit Peel

I think it must be my English heritage, because I love candied citrus peel. When I eat this sweet old fashioned winter treat, I feel like the spring sunshine is already here. Or maybe it's the Scot in me that just likes the concept of making a sweet treat out of something most people throw out. It citrus time here in central California, so my naval orange tree, and my parent's lemon and grapefruit trees are bearing lovely fruit. I save the peels during the week and then do a batch of mixed citrus peel on the weekend.

There are 3 keys to making a good batch of candied peel. First it's important to remove as much of the bitter white pith from the peel as possible. Secondly, blanch the peel using fresh cool water each time, three times before cooking the peel in simple syrup. And lastly, add about ¼ cup of triple sec to the simple syrup and let the peel soak overnight, before draining and drying. I prefer the peel to be semi dry not brittle, so I slowly dry in the oven rather than in a dehydrator. If you want to give the peel a glamorous touch, you can dip one end in dark chocolate.

Candied Citrus Peel

3-5 orange peels, from peeling them into 8 sections.

2 lemons

3 cups of water

2 cups sugar

¼ cup Triple Sec liqueur

½ + cup sugar for coating

  1. Cut the pith, the white part between the fruit and the peel, away from each peel section, using a paring knife or grapefruit knife. Cut these thin peels into strips.
  2. Place the peel strips in a large sauce pan with a lemon half. Add water to cover blanch; bring to a boil and boil for 15 seconds, then drain and rinse under cold water, drain again and discard the lemon.
  3. Repeat the blanching process 2 more times, covering the peels with fresh water and adding another lemon half.
  4. Combine the 3 cups of water and the sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the peels and remaining half lemon. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 15 mins.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and add the Triple Sec liqueur. Leave the peel in the liquid loosely covered for at least 12 hours.
  6. Remove the peel from the liquid and set on a rack to drain. Place in a warm oven, with the heat off. When semi –dry toss with granulated sugar to coat. Return to warm oven to continue drying. Store in an aire tight container.
  7. Optional: dip one end in dark chocolate

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Seasonal sweet treats: February means chocolate!

In the first Seasonal Table class of the year and spring semester, we made several citrus curds. Curds are old fashion pudding type spreads, made with juice and zest of lemon, tangerine or orange, and several egg yolks as well butter. (I will post that recipe soon) This meant a big jar with a dozen leftover egg whites. Although the heavy rain was great for the crops, it wasn't ideal weather for making meringue. I was asked to bring a chocolate treat to an art reception so I forged ahead despite the humidity, and made Chocolate Pistachio Meringue Kisses. They came out perfectly and I only increased the bake time by about ½ hour to compensate for the rain. They are also non-fat which makes them a sweet guilt free treat. The local pistachios are from Ornadi Farms and added a touch of color and crunch. Make a batch to share with your Valentine !

Chocolate Meringue Cookies

6 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1 /2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened chocolate cocoa
1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp finely chopped pistachios

Preheat oven to 225 degrees F.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper

In a small bowl, combine the 1/4 cup cocoa and sugar together; set aside.

In a large bowl using your electric mixer, beat egg whites until foamy/frothy

While beating to the frothy stage, add salt, cream of tartar, and vanilla extract. After reaching the frothy stage, add the cocoa/sugar mixture (1 tablespoons at a time) while continuing beating until the egg whites are stiff and glossy.

Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets (1-inch apart).

Sprinkle the chopped nuts over the non-baked cookies.

Bake 90 minutes; turn off the oven, open the door slightly (secure with a wooden spoon), and allow cookies to cool in the oven.

Remove from oven and store in a tightly covered (airtight) container.

Yields 50 cookies.