I love presents, you love presents, everybody loves presents! One of the main reasons I became a jam-maker is to have a stash of homemade gifts at the ready all year round. Sure I love to give a box of assorted cookies (labour intensive) or a jar of jam (jam again?), but recently I want to branch out. My first name is a giveaway that confectionery holds a special place in my heart. Candy By Candy sure has a nice ring to it! My latest foray into the world of candy making is candied citrus peels.
I don’t know why I thought candying citrus peel would be difficult. I made countless batches of marmalade before, even in someone else’s bachelor kitchen. I put up jars of candied kumquats. I have no fear of playing with heat and sugar. This is a classic treat to introduce newcomers to the wonderful world of homemade candies.
I followed directions from Rachel Saunder’s Blue Chair Jam Cookbook. Instead of 4 large navel oranges, I opted to use 6 Seville oranges. Seville orange is highly sought after for making marmalade because of their thick and fragrant peel. This very same reason makes it great choice for candying as well. I took care to blanch the peel three times to rid of all traces of bitterness. I froze the pips for future jam-making projects when I need a boost of pectin.
Candying the peel was not difficult at all but mostly just time consuming. I blanched, I cooked the peels until soft, I cut them meticulously to 1/4-inch strands, and I simmered them in syrup until glowing and translucent. Oh wait, that wasn’t all! I let the peels soak in syrup overnight before multiple days of air drying.
I packed away most of the sticky candied peels in an airtight container. High quality candied citrus peel is a splurge and I am glad to have a stash at a fraction of the cost. They would certainly make for great addition to many baked goods for months to come. However, they are also ridiculously addictive candies. For a simple presentation, I trimmed the peels and coated them in vanilla sugar. An elegant little gift can be had by simply filling a square metal tin lined with parchment paper and handful of sugared peels. For something more decadent, enrobe the peels in tempered dark chocolate and call them by their proper French name orangette.
I prepared a small gift box as a token of appreciation to a friend’s mother. You see, every Christmas for the last four years, my friend M would brag about his mom’s famous Trinidadian dark rum cake (also known as black cake). Without fail, I would turn green with envy and wish I could get my hands on a small sliver. Finally, after four long years of waiting, my friend surprised me last month with half of a 10-inch cake. Not a sliver. Half a cake, seriously. I almost wept with joy as I held that precious boozy moist cake in my arms. Dark rum cake is notoriously time consuming to make and it tastes best when make with quality ingredients. I can now brag with him that his mom indeed makes the best rum cake.