Candying orange peels is fun and special. The thrifty process reminds us that oranges in the winter for the holidays were exotic and rare—no part of the precious citrus fruit could be thrown away. At the same time, the bitter-sweetness of this treat is adult and particular. It’s a sweet grandma would reach for; not at all like the gooey chocolate bars or peanut butter cups we ran to as kids. A pretty boxful of the candied peel also makes an interesting gift.
The process used below on orange peels can also be used to candy tangerine or lemon peels. You first blanch them to remove the bitter oils and soft the peel. Then toss them with hot simple syrup and coat with sugar to leave them well preserved.
Beyond just nibbling with a cup of good espresso, candied orange peels are essential for baking fruitcake or Italian panetone and can be added to coffee cake, oatmeal cookies or even simple muffins. They make spectacular garnishes for an orange, lemon or chocolate layer cake or for a chocolate tart. Try making a traditional French mendicant tart, a rich winter dessert in which twists of candied peel, dried fig bits, almonds and hazelnuts stud a smooth dark-chocolate ganache.
- peels of 2 oranges (navel or tangelo)
- 1 cup water, plus more for blanching
- 1½ cups sugar, divided
Remove as much of white pith from peels as possible. Cut peels 1/2 to 1/4 inch wide. Cover in water and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain and repeat this process one to two more times to remove bitterness from peel.
In small pot, mix 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves, to make simple syrup. Add peels to hot simple syrup, and simmer for 45 minutes, until quite soft.
Using slotted spoon, drain and lift peels onto cookie sheet lined with foil or silicon baking sheet. Sprinkle wet peels with about 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar. Let dry for 24 to 48 hours. Store packed loosely and covered a tin or glass dish.