Candied zest or peel can be made well in advance and is a great way to make the most of the zest from oranges used for eating or cooking that would otherwise be wasted.
It stores brilliantly too, as this is a traditional method of preservation.
Any citrus fruit (oranges, grapefruit, lemons, pomelo, satsumas, limes etc) can be used but lemon and orange are the two most common. Oranges and lemons, plus limes seem to keep their unique flavour when candied better as well. Use for garnishes and a sweet-sharp hit within bakes such as giving extra bite to a lemon drizzle cake.
The recipe can easily be multiplied if you want to make a large batch (for instance if you’ve juiced a lot of fruit).
I made this batch to garnish these little orange and pistachio cakes; a recipe from Claire Clark’s fabulous Indulge dessert book. I don’t think it’s right to write up a chef/cook’s recipe, possibly unless it’s one that they have made freely available online (and therefore I could reference the original and link to it to show its origination), so as this recipe is only in Claire’s book I can’t repeat it here.
I have seen a number of other bloggers that seem comfortable to write up a chef’s recipe verbatim and just name the chef (I have seen one quite popular blog which has posted nearly all the recipes out of a particular recipe book – effectively making buying the book almost pointless), but I don’t feel that should be done. I’m not sure how they get away with it either, especially when they’re a ‘repeat offender’.
If you want the recipe for these little gluten free cakes – and they are amazing – you’ll need to buy or borrow Indulge [a quick look online shows a second hand copy of the book can be bought for around £7 and new for about £13]. I’ve even seen it in my local library.
- Very sharp chef’s knife (don’t use a short blade)
- Vegetable peeler
- Optional – tiny petit four cutters
- Greaseproof paper
- Storage jar (needs to be spotlessly clean but doesn’t have to be sterilised)
- Two oranges – use the best you can get hold of. Blood oranges or navels seem to have the nicest zest for my tastes. Alternatively use about 5 lemons or limes or one large grapefruit or pomelo.
- Caster sugar – 250g plus extra for rolling the peel in
- Wash and dry the fruit
- Carefully remove the zest in long strips using the vegetable peeler – try not to get any of the white pith along with the zest. If you do, lay the zest flat on a worktop and carefully pare the pith off with a knife
- Once all the zest is off, use a very sharp knife to cut fine strips (about 1-2mm or 1/16″ in width)
- You can also cut out shapes such as hearts, stars and flowers if you have any tiny petit four cutters
- Discard the rough edge pieces only keeping the fine strips and shapes (if you’ve done shapes)
- Pop the zest pieces into the saucepan and add cold water to about 1 cm / 1/2″ in depth. Do not try to cut corners and use hot water – this will not prepare the zest properly
- Bring the water to the boil
- Discard the water over a sieve to catch the zest
- Return the zest to the saucepan and put in more cold water to the same height as before.
- You need to do this heating, boiling and discarding three times
- Now put 300ml of cold water in the saucepan and 250g of caster sugar. Stir (off heat) until the sugar is dissolved
- Pop the saucepan on the heat and add the zest
- Bring to a rolling boil – then let it boil gently for a couple of minutes
- Do not stir!! This will crystalise the sugar and you do not want this
- Reduce the heat to a tiny simmer and let it cook for about 30 – 45 minutes until the zest starts to look see-through
- If it is boiling away the liquid too quickly you can add some hot water (about 20ml at a time) VERY CAREFULLY to the saucepan. Again, don’t stir. (Don’t use cold water or it will spit profusely at you – and this is boiling sugar water so will burn you)
- When the zest is translucent, drain it from the sugar syrup (you can catch this in a bowl – it will cool and go toffee-like, and can be added as an additional flavouring dropped into other dishes)
- Lay out the zest on the baking parchment so that the pieces are separate and not clumped together
- Sprinkle over some caster sugar and roll the pieces in it to cover them
- Leave to cool and harden before use or storing