Chocolate-dipped candied orange peel (also known as orangettes) are a lovely holiday confection. And this post is actually one big public service announcement. I made all kinds of mistakes, so you don’t have to. See how virtuous I am?
I’m afraid orangettes are fussy fare. I’m willing to make exceptions to my unfussy mandate in the interest of holiday cheer.
Last week, when I first developed a hankering for candied citrus peel, I scoured the web for recipes. They varied wildly from one another. I, of course, chose the quickest one. The one that didn’t entail blanching and re-blanching strips of peel before boiling them in sugar-water. What I got was a very pretty and very bitter batch of candied peel. Even coated in sugar, the bitterness lingered waaay too long. I love bitter, so believe me when I tell you it was too much.
Next I opted to make orangettes, figuring that the chocolate would counteract the bitterness in the orange peel. I also decided to blanch the peels three times, as several recipes recommend. However, because I am impatient, I only let them boil for about five minutes each time. The recipes I read called for 10 or 15 minutes of boiling each time. The results are what you see pictured here. They were plenty tasty enough to eat, but still too bitter. I am a frantic hare who should really take a page from the tortoise’s book.
Bottom line, I learned some things that will inform my next batch, which I am confident will be perfect. The first thing I learned is that some instructions merit following. Oh wait, I already knew that. I just haven’t figured out how to discern which instructions merit following. So really, the first thing I learned is that I love The Joy of Cooking, by Irma Rombauer.
I had relegated The Joy of Cooking to my seldom-used pile of cookbooks. I thought it was dated, and not really my style. But upon closer inspection, it’s absolutely my style. The instructions are loose. I like that in a cookbook. Plus, there are recipes for cooking bear, woodchuck, and muskrat, which bespeaks a certain fearlessness in Irma. I admire that. But the main thing I like about The Joy of Cooking is that Irma validated my hunch that salt could effectively tame the bitterness of citrus peel.
You know how I’m hopelessly in love with preserved lemons, right? They are proof positive that salt removes bitterness from citrus peel. I wondered if a variation on that method could be applied here, without ending up with overly-salty candy. Irma Rombauer said yes. (I knew I liked her.)
The recipe below reflects my lessons learned. While I haven’t tried it yet, I feel confident enough to recommend it. I’m determined that I will not be defeated by candied citrus peel. Not after all the time I’ve spent making pretty, bitter little candies. I’ll keep you posted. Or better yet, you can keep me posted.
Four medium oranges (look for ones with thin peels)
2 cups sugar
4 ounces good bittersweet chocolate
Cut the top and bottom ends off the oranges. Cut the peel off the oranges in six sections, as close to peel edge as possible.
Cut peel sections in half lengthwise, so you can flatten them more easily, and remove as much pith as you can with a paring knife. Some pith will remain. Don’t worry about it.
Cut peel sections lengthwise into quarter-inch wide strips, as evenly as possible.
Place the peels in a non-reactive bowl with enough salt water to cover. (One teaspoon salt per cup of water.) Soak for at least 24 hours. Drain, rinse, and soak peel in fresh water for 20 minutes. Drain again.
Boil peel in fresh water for 20 minutes and drain again.
Mix two cups of sugar with two cups of water in a medium saucepan. Stir. Add peel. Bring to a boil, reduce heat until the mixture is just simmering. Simmer for 45 minutes.
Remove peels from syrup a few at a time using a fork, and put them on a rack to drip dry. (Put something under the rack to catch the drips.) Allow them to dry completely. (Overnight worked for me.)
Melt chocolate in a double boiler. (I use a metal bowl set on a saucepan of simmering water.)
Dip peel strips into melted chocolate. Place on parchment paper or wax paper to dry.
If you don’t want the chocolate, you can just roll the peels in powdered or granulated sugar instead.