The technique is nothing new, of course, but I've been going through so many oranges lately that I thought I should learn how to make candied citrus peel. Verdict? Candied peel on its own is very nice -- sweet, chewy, slightly bitter, and would be a nice substitute for the awful candied fruit tossed into holiday fruitcakes. It could also be a gorgeous gift for someone if giving out homemade goods is your thing.
But dipped in chocolate? Dark or perhaps even white? Oh, friend, now you're speaking my language. Because, rolled in sugar and then partly dipped in chocolate, the flavor falls somewhere between pâtes de fruits and a Jaffa Cake. But the good part of a Jaffa Cake, which, in my opinion, has always been the orange jelly filling and chocolate coating. As a kid, I would routinely scrape the top orange and chocolate layer off with my teeth and discard the dry biscuit. Insatiable sweet tooth and a basic lack of control in the presence of chocolate. I'm not proud of it.
I grew up with those Jaffa Cakes and, consequently, still have a soft spot for them. Make no mistake: there is nothing nutritious about a Jaffa Cake. I don't even think the chocolate coating is real. It's probably some twisted conglomeration of sugar, milk fat, emulsifiers, and artificial food coloring. (If you've never had the pleasure, let me help you out). It's been years since I've actually had one of those cookies but the transcendent pairing of bitter chocolate and bright citrus is still a favorite.
To be fair, this candied peel is not exactly a detox item either. But think of it as an occasional treat and a healthier update on mass market junk food. If that looks like an outrageous amount of sugar, it is, but you need it to create enough simple syrup to coat the orange peel. And you won't actually consume the entire quantity of sugar required. In fact, after candying the peel, you should have at least a cup and a half of orange-infused simple syrup remaining for use in cocktails (highly recommended, especially with citrus bitters).
For what it's worth, there are some positive aspects, too. There is no artificial food coloring -- that cheerful orange color comes from the peel itself. No preservatives or other additives. As long as your sugar and chocolate are vegan and gluten-free, it's a vegan and gluten-free candy. (I used Florida Crystals Natural Cane Sugar -- it's vegan, organic, and allegedly "less processed"). Basically, if you use organic ingredients and good-quality dark chocolate, you could have something roughly approximating a healthy sweet. But very roughly.
Enjoy the sugar and stay warm.
Chocolate-Dipped Candied Orange Peel
Makes approx. 2 cups
2 organic oranges
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus additional sugar for rolling
3.5 oz. organic bittersweet chocolate (70%)
Wash and dry the oranges and slice a 1/4" off the tops and bottoms. Then with the oranges positioned vertically, cut whole strips of peel peel off with a sharp knife, leaving about 1/4" of white pith attached to the peel. (Save the orange segments for snacking, salads, etc.). Slice the peel lengthwise into 1/4"-wide strips.
Place the strips into a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and continue to boil for about one minute. Drain and repeat three more times to reduce the bitterness. (The more times you blanch the peel, the less bitter it will be). Set the peel aside while you prepare the simple syrup.
In the same pan over medium heat, bring 1 cup of water and 1 1/2 cups of sugar to a boil, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Reduce to a simmer and add the peel back into the pan. Simmer the peel for 45 minutes.
Drain and reserve the syrup for use in cocktails and other recipes (store in the fridge for up to 1 week). Allow the peel to drain well -- for about 10 minutes or so -- and then roll it in sugar, carefully separating the strips. Lay the candied peel out on a baking sheet lined with wax paper or foil until completely dry -- this should take at least 4 to 5 hours but a full day is preferable.
To dip in chocolate, simply heat up a few ounces of dark chocolate in a small bowl. Dip each strip halfway into the melted chocolate, gently shaking to remove excess chocolate, and lay it out to dry on a wire rack. After 15 to 20 minutes, transfer to a baking sheet lined with wax paper or foil to dry completely. Store at room temperature or in the fridge.
Note: Be sure to let the candied peel drain well before you roll it in sugar to prevent clumps or soggy peel. You can substitute white chocolate for the dark. Try this with lemon or grapefruit peel, too, but you may need to blanch the peel more times to get the bitterness out. For grapefruit, I would blanch five or six times. You can try to substitute alternative sugars but understand that brown sugar and coconut sugar may not candy the fruit properly and will almost certainly discolor the peel (speaking from my failed grapefruit peel/coconut sugar experiment).