Monday, February 2, 2009

she's back!

Well, cooking adventures have been kind of slow this last month or so with one big honking exception:

Candy. Candied citrus peels actually.

These are so good, not that hard to make, and really fancy looking. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon... or say something nice in capital letters. like THANK YOU (now admit me to grad school edition) or HAPPY HOLIDAYS (planning for next year edition) or I LOVE YOU SO MUCH LET'S MAKE OUT (valentines day edition).

So here's the scoop: grapefruit is way too bitter, I tried it so you don't have to. Lemons and oranges were delicious, I bet that limes would also be knockout.

Peel the fruit and slice it. Yes, this takes forever. I did three lemons and four oranges, which made enough stuff for four people to have a little gifty-sized package. I found that the peel first cut second approach worked better than the "try to cut rectangles on the fruit then peel" approach.

"Reserve the fruit for another purpose." I made lemon/orange/grapefruit-aid. Just add seltzer and more sugar than you would expect.

OK now plop these in a pot of boiling water. Boil for like ten minutes. Now change the water and reboil. Now do it again! Again, monkey, again! 5 times. I did a control round where I meticulously scraped off the pith of the lemon rinds. It made kind of a less substantial chewier candy and tasted just noticably less bitter. So unless you are super bitter-averse, forget it.

Now heat up 1/4 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar for every 2 cups of peel. My 4 oranges and 3 lemons were pretty much two cups, for the record. Let it get all liquidified then dump the peels in there. Simmer (or boil) until the peels absorb all the liquid. Don't let them burn, stir a lot and monitor the heat. I would say this step took like 20 minutes? Everything should be a sticky mess.

With a slotted spoon (or your hands, if you can't feel heat-- hiyo!) transfer these guys to a plate of sugar before the syrup cools and your sticky mess gets even stickier. If it does, just reheat until the sugar melts again. Roll them around in sugar them let them cure for a few hours/overnight on a baking sheet covered with tin foil or waxed paper. Are they dry? Good.

Now melt some chocolate. I used Ghiradelli chocolate chips (60% cacao) because they were like 3 bucks and I only needed to use like 2/3 the bag. Do the math, son. If you make orange juice/lemonade, that brings the price of these puppies down to the price of the chocolate. 2 dollars for 4 presents is a pretty good deal. If you want to use cheaper chocolate, whatever. If you want to use classier bars of baking chocolate, whatever.

So melt the chocolate in a double boiler if you have a dishwasher or in the microwave if you have a microwave. Be careful that it doesn't burn, obviously. Stirring helps because chocolate melts before it looks like its melted. 1 minute?

Now dip the peels in the chocolate (you can leave a little tail of the peel so that you have somewhere to hold and the presentation is ultimately more elegant) and let that cool in the fridge or over a tray of ice. Voila. More coming soon, I miss blogging.

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