Candied Orange Peel (Pierre Herme Recipe) : Star Anise and Vanilla

Candied peel2

The Sugar Plum Fairy bade Marie and Nutcracker sit down while a feast was brought before them: teas, cakes and the rarest of fruits. The food was the feast, first for the eyes, then for the palate… Marie hardly had time to nibble at her sweetmeats before the next diversion was presented: the music abruptly changed to an adagio tempo. Arabian dancers dressed in gauzy veils garnished with gold medallions and jewels swayed hypnotically past… The rich aroma of coffee drifted past.  –from E.T.A Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.

The last days of each year are invariably orange hued for me: an evening spent peeling the stubborn orange peel with orange stained fingers and tossing the curls into the fire; the delicious icy chill of mandarins brought home from an outdoor winter market; the vanilla-orange sweetness of vin d’orange and slender orangettes dipped in chocolate. As I set the ingredients to make candied orange peel, I am once again a little girl watching her grandmother making this confection. To prevent me getting near the boiling sugar syrup, I would be given a large illustrated volume of E.T.A Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. To this day, the scent of oranges conjures visions of fairy kingdoms, groves made of candied fruit and coffee scented dancers.

Even though I make candied oranges often, the process of transforming fresh fruit into a crystalline morsel has not lost its magic for me. As the peel softens, absorbs sugar and becomes more and more jewel-like, its scent likewise deepens. Smell the oranges when you peel them—the perfume is floral and bright, with a bitter, metallic-waxy note. As the peels are blanched, the bitter notes vanish, while the orange blossom accent becomes more pronounced. The fragrance is no longer bright, but rather flat. Yet, as the peels are cooked in sugar, their aroma is once again revived. At the end of the preparation, the transparent, golden strips smell of honey, caramel and orange liqueur.

There are numerous recipes for making candied citrus peel, and the method is fairly straightforward—first, the peel is either soaked in water for several days or boiled to remove bitterness; then it is cooked in sugar syrup till transparent. My grandmother favored the soaking method over the course of several days, but I find that it tends to accentuate the waxy, metallic facets of orange perfume. Moreover, most commercial orange varieties today are not nearly so bitter as to necessitate a long soaking. My favorite recipe takes only two hours of work and an overnight maceration in syrup, which results in fragrant, fresh tasting peel.

The below recipe comes from the renowned French pastry chef Pierre Hermé. It was published in almost all of his books, including Le Larousse des Desserts. The vanilla and spices lend a brilliant twist to the citrus aroma, and as long as you do not add more spices than the recipe requires, they will not overwhelm the delicate floral caramel perfume of candied fruit. Another successful variation I discovered is to use 1/8 teaspoon saffron and ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom.

IMG_5460citruspeel

Pierre Hermé’s Spiced Candied Orange Peel

Orange peel can be used in baking or on their own as a candy. One of my favorite ways to eat candied oranges is to slice them in tiny cubes and scatter them over my morning yogurt. I cannot imagine a better or more fragrant start to my day.

If you want to make orangettes, slice the peel in slender strips and once they are dry, dip them in melted chocolate.

Peel of 4 grapefruits or 5 oranges or 6 lemons

For spiced syrup:
4 cups water (1L)
2   1/4 cups (about 450g) sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
10 black peppercorns
1/2 star anise
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, slit lengthwise

Thickly slice off the peel from the fruit. It can be left in large pieces or cut into thin strips. Cover with water and bring to boil. Simmer for 3 minutes, drain and rinse under running water for 2 minutes. Repeat two more times. This process softens the peel and removes bitterness. I do not mind a hint of bitterness, but especially if you are using grapefruit peel, taste it after the third rinsing and decide if you want to repeat the boiling.

Drain the peel well and absorb excess water with paper towels. In the meantime, mix the ingredients for the syrup, except for the spices. Bring to boil, skim and let the sugar dissolve completely. Add spices and peels. The syrup should cover the peels completely, and it is best to err on the side of having too much, rather than too little. Cover the pot and leave it to simmer on low flame for 1.5 hours. At the end of 1.5 hours, the peels will be transparent and the syrup thick. Turn off the fire and leave the pot at room temperature for 12-24hours.

Next day, remove the peel from the syrup and drain on a rack. Once the peels are dry, even if somewhat sticky, they can be tossed in fine sugar and stored in an air tight container. I usually skip the sugaring and simply layer them between sheets of wax paper. Best stored in the fridge.

The syrup used to poach the peel is fragrant and delicious. It usually gels nicely and can be used as jam on toast or over ice cream. Try diluting it with sparkling water for a delicious lemonade. It also makes a fantastic glaze for lamb or chicken: mix 1 tablespoon of syrup with olive oil and crushed garlic and brush over the meat towards the end of grilling.

Photography © Bois de Jasmin

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24 Comments

  • Ines: Thank you for this lovely recipe! :)

    I definitely plan on doing this (I really enjoy the taste of candied orange). December 28, 2011 at 5:23am Reply

  • Tatiana: Vika,
    This recipe is very tempting! I will surely give it a try. Have been following your blog for some time – very interesting! Post more recipes! I am experimenting with my own food blog right now :)
    Tanya
    P.S. С наступающим Новым Годом и Рождеством! December 28, 2011 at 6:22am Reply

  • Anne: Oh I love this! So much! And my house smells DIVINE! December 28, 2011 at 8:35am Reply

  • Musette: Pierre Herme’ is a god among pastry chefs – I adore his chocolate sables.

    I, too, love the poached syrup, probably more than the peel itself. It’s great in tea!

    xoA December 28, 2011 at 8:58am Reply

  • Victoria: Tanya, I love the picture of brussel sprouts in your recent post! Cool lighting and depth of focus.
    I look forward to reading more.
    И тебя с наступающими праздниками! Пусть 2012 принесет вам много радости и любви! December 28, 2011 at 10:28am Reply

  • Victoria: Ines, I experimented with so many recipes for candied orange peel that I lost count. This one never fails me. And the perfume is amazing! December 28, 2011 at 10:29am Reply

  • Victoria: Yes, it would make your house smell fantastic. :) December 28, 2011 at 10:29am Reply

  • Victoria: I love how the syrup sets into a luscious, transparent jelly. I finish it even before I eat the peel itself.

    An acquaintance of mine worked for Herme as an intern, and she says that he is a very nice person too. December 28, 2011 at 10:31am Reply

  • zazie: Wonderful recipe!
    I often do candied kumquats and feel very inspired by your spicy syrup!

    May I suggest an additional use for the syrup?
    Pour some on a really fresh and good ricotta cheese.
    You can arrange individual portions in tiny transparent glasses – the end result looks great and tastes delicious (and is rather low calory, too)!
    You may also add dark chocolate chips or a leaf of mint to the presentation. December 28, 2011 at 10:44am Reply

  • Suzanna: I often make the candied peel for my mother, who adores it. I also make an orange butter that is wonderful on breads and muffins.

    Glad to hear that Herme is a nice person. I’ve long admired his work! December 28, 2011 at 2:18pm Reply

  • Lavanya: ooh- I am very tempted to make this (maybe a New Year’s eve project)..Did you mean 2 and 1/4 cups of sugar in the ingredient list? I am loving the sound of the jelly-like syrup too- would be perfect in cereal or with yogurt covered fruit. Thanks V! December 28, 2011 at 2:40pm Reply

  • Victoria: Yes, 2 and 1/4 cups! If you use a real vanilla bean, the transparent jelly with the tiny black vanilla seeds is especially gorgeous.

    I usually collect peels over several days as we eat fruit and store them in the fridge. If you get a hold of pomelo, do try it in this recipe. It is less bitter than grapefruit, and the spices match the fragrance perfectly. Of course, for pomelo, feel free to double the quantity of syrup. It is best to make too much than too little, otherwise the peel will not candy properly and remain tough. December 28, 2011 at 2:46pm Reply

  • Victoria: Me too, I’ve always been a big fan.

    How do you make orange butter? It sounds so good… December 28, 2011 at 2:46pm Reply

  • Victoria: Mmmm, wonderful! I will definitely try it. I like the idea of chocolate chips.

    A friend shared a recipe of candied kumquats, the ways her Iraqi sister-in-law makes. It contains ginger, which would be such an interesting twist. December 28, 2011 at 2:50pm Reply

  • behemot: Wonderful recipe, thank you! The syrup Iwe made at home did not have so many spices, so I will be glad to try yours, which is more complex.
    You also inspired me to wear Fendi Theorema today. It is sweet and very orangey.. December 28, 2011 at 4:55pm Reply

  • Victoria: My grandmother also did not use any spices, other than a dash of vanilla. However, this is a very successful recipe. Herme is a genius when it comes to flavor.

    I also love Theorema. It is easily one of the best orientals for me. December 28, 2011 at 5:23pm Reply

  • behemot: We used to put in vanilla and lemon juice. I guess our grandmas had to rely on simple spices since the exotic ones were not available in stores in eastern Europe these days…
    Have a wonderful new year, full of wonderful things including, of course, food, wine and perfume. And a lot of good books, too. December 28, 2011 at 7:16pm Reply

  • Victoria: That's a wonderful wish, and I reciprocate in turn! :) I hope that there will be many exciting discoveries for all of us in 2012. December 28, 2011 at 10:49pm Reply

  • sweetlife: Oh brilliant–thanks for sharing this V! Came over here to catch up on this recipe and I just today bought two Buddha’s Hand citrons with the intention of candying them after they’ve perfumed the house for awhile. I did something similar with the Meyer lemons from my tree last year. I give away nearly all the candy, for me the voluptuous part is the two days of incredible fragrant cooking. December 29, 2011 at 9:31pm Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, lucky you! Those are the most fragrant of all citrus fruits. I also like to mix their grated peel with sugar (equal weight.) I store this paste in the fridge and use it to perfume cakes, cookies and ice cream. Or just my morning yogurt! December 29, 2011 at 9:39pm Reply

  • maja: I just wanted to let you know I making this at the moment! Thank you as always. :) December 23, 2013 at 10:42am Reply

    • Victoria: Yay! Doesn’t it smell amazing? I love this recipe from Pierre Herme and I’ve been making it for several years. Just got home from a store with 2 large citrons (cedrat), so I’ll do candying later. December 23, 2013 at 11:26am Reply

      • maja: It does. The whole house smells amazingly! I’ve been planning adding it to my chocolate orange cake as a side decoration but I am afraid they might not make it until the 25th. :) Preparing dessert for my friends’ Christmas lunch, hope everything turns out well. December 23, 2013 at 12:55pm Reply

        • Victoria: I’m sure it will be delicious! Chocolate and orange go so well together. December 23, 2013 at 2:51pm Reply

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