The sunny color of candied orange peel adds a fresh, cheery garnish to the foods and drinks it graces. Surprisingly inexpensive and easy to make, the bright slivers of peel look seriously impressive. Recipes for candied orange peel abound, and once you've nailed the technique, you'll want to add their bright, sweet bite to much of your baking and bar-tending.
The operative word in the phrase candied orange peel is, of course, "candied." Presenting the pretty peels as individual treats -- especially the chocolate-dipped version -- makes for a delightful dessert presentation. Candied orange peels also make for a lovely gift, especially when dolled up in a packaging that's as pretty as the peels themselves -- nested fetchingly in a paper-lined tin or cut long and tied with a ribbon.
If you're making candied orange peels to eat as candy, make the pieces large enough to eat in two or three bites, not one. This is true especially if you're planning to dip them, as you'll want to leave enough peel that your fingers remain safely away from the heat of the melted chocolate as you work.
Garnish Cocktails and Other Drinks
As fancy-looking as they are delicious, candied orange peels add a festive feel to drinks. The garnishes are especially suited to sweet, gingery cocktails -- whether they have alcohol or not. For a more decorative touch, skewer the peel and balance it on the glass. For a homier version, float the peels on the surface of the drink to infuse some flavor.
A candied peel garnish also works for hot drinks. Dress up a hot chocolate with a few curls of candied peel -- especially one that includes orange liqueur. The peels are also a natural choice to garnish a chai or a gingerbread latte.
Garnish Baked Goods
The exuberant shade of candied orange peel contrasts beautifully with light-colored frostings and glazes, making them a tasty accent for cakes and cupcakes. This is an excellent use for pieces of candied peel that aren't large enough or are too oddly shaped to be given as candy. Mince the peels down into a jolly-colored sprinkle and toss them over the finished cake.
As a rule, don't use candied orange peels to garnish a cake with base flavor drawn from a different citrus -- for example, don't use a candied orange garnish on a lemon meringue or a key lime pie. Instead, candy the peel of the matching fruit. The method is the same for all citrus fruits.
Tips and Tricks
As a rule, one orange, stripped with a vegetable peeler, will yield about 1 cup of peel. When shopping, choose evenly rounded, blemish-free oranges. The firmer the fruit, the easier it will be to work with.
If you're planning on serving the peels as candy, coat the slices in superfine sugar while they're still wet to give the candy a satisfying chewiness. If you're using them as garnish, you may skip that step.
Don't throw out the syrup. You can store it indefinitely in the fridge and use it for flavoring and sweetening.