I Love Chocolate

by Stephanie Zonis


Candied Citrus Peel

Makes 2 to 2-1/2 pounds


Ever wonder who first thought to eat certain foods? I do, and candied citrus rind is one of them. Sometime in our lives as kids, everyone bites into a citrus peel, and they are quite bitter; who came up with the idea of boiling the rind in repeated changes of water, then in a sugar syrup? But the peel loses just enough of its bitterness after such cooking to result in a lovely sweet-tart flavor. After being allowed to dry, the peel is dipped into bittersweet chocolate. The finished strips will keep at cool room temperature or in the fridge for weeks, if stored airtight. This is a lovely, old-fashioned sweet, and very nice for the holidays.

Patience and time are required to make these, and you'll need a candy thermometer. Most recipes I've seen suggest cooking the peel in a sugar syrup until only a few spoonfuls of the syrup are left, but that's not very specific, and it's too easy to overcook or undercook the peel. I found one recipe that specified cooking the peel until the syrup reached a certain temperature, but there wasn't enough syrup left to register on a candy thermometer when I tried this. Finally, I increased the quantity of syrup, and used a candy thermometer. The cooking time was increased, but I've had great results since.

The recipe following is for orange peel; if you'd like to use lemon peel or grapefruit peel, see the Notes below. I have read that you can candy lime rind, too. I thought this would look festive and pretty, but when I boiled the peel in water for the initial cooking, the nice bright green of the limes faded out, and the remaining color was exceptionally unappealing. Tangerine peel would also work here. This makes a nice gift.


4 large oranges
About 5 cups plus 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar, divided
3 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1 pound best-quality bittersweet chocolate,
   finely chopped (semisweet chocolate can be substituted)
2 Tbsp. solid vegetable shortening


Rinse and dry the oranges. If necessary, slice a thin slice from each end. Cut each orange into quarters. Most books I have seen tell you merely to remove the pulp with a spoon, but that isn't so easy at this stage. I cut out what I can with a small, sharp, serrated knife; any remaining pulp will scrape off easily after boiling. Do not cut into the peel if you can help it. Do not use just the zest from the outside of the peel; it is too thin to candy well.

Place the quartered peel sections into a heavy-bottomed, nonreactive three quart pot. Add enough water to float them generously. Bring to a boil; keep at a gentle boil for 10 minutes. Drain well. Float generously with fresh cold water; bring to a boil again. Boil gently for 15 minutes. Drain, then rinse thoroughly with fresh cold water. Peel should be soft at this stage; if you cannot pierce it easily with the tip of a sharp knife, cover with fresh cold water, bring to another boil, and boil gently until you can do so, then drain and rinse well. Let cool until you can handle it.

With a teaspoon, gently scrape off any remaining pulp and pith from the inside of the peel. Ideally, the scraped peel should be about 1/8 inch thick, but if it's a bit thicker that's OK. with a kitchen shears, snip the peel into strips that are 1/4 inch wide; you'll have some long strips and some shorter pieces. Set aside.

Clip a candy thermometer onto the sides of a 2-1/2 quart, heavy-bottomed, nonreactive pot so that the bulb rests just above the bottom. Remove thermometer. In the pot, combine 2-1/2 cups fresh cold water, 2 cups plus 1 Tbsp. sugar (reserve remainder), and corn syrup. with large spoon, stir over medium-high heat to dissolve sugar completely. with a pastry brush dipped into cold water, wash down the pot sides once or twice. When the syrup boils, add the strips of peel; the strips will float on top of the syrup.

Adjust heat so syrup boils moderately; introduce thermometer into pot. Boil the strips, stirring occasionally, until syrup registers 230 degrees F. on candy thermometer. As the amount of syrup diminishes, you must stir the strips more frequently. Watch carefully as syrup diminishes. This step usually takes me one to two hours, but there are many factors involved, including weather.

While the peel candies, line a cookie sheet with sides with aluminum foil. Using a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the remaining 3 cups of sugar until texture of grains is very fine. Spread about two cups of this processed sugar onto the lined cookie sheet in a thin layer (reserve remaining cup). Also have ready two large cooling racks, each over a sheet of wax paper on a flat surface, a large slotted spoon, and two tablespoons.

When the syrup registers 230 degrees F., remove pot from heat. with slotted spoon, lift peel from syrup, allowing excess syrup to drain back into pot, and place peel onto sugar on lined cookie sheet (you'll get some syrup into the sugar, too--OK). Some syrup will be left in the pot--OK. When all peel is out of the pot, sprinkle the reserved one cup of processed sugar on top of it. with two spoons, begin to carefully toss and separate the strips. Be careful! They are hot at first. When cool enough to handle, use your fingers to separate the candied peel strips and coat each one with processed sugar. If there are any moist lumps of sugar on a strip, remove them. As you finish each strip, place it on a cooling rack to dry. Allow finished strips to dry on rack for several hours or overnight. Note: If you allow the sugar is which you rolled the cooked peel to dry as well, you can sift it through your fingers or a sieve to remove any dried syrup, then re-use the sugar for a future batch of candied peel. Store candied peel airtight until dipped; if you stack the strips in a container, sprinkle each layer with a bit of granulated sugar, then cover with a piece of wax paper before adding the next layer.


To dip in chocolate:
Have ready two large cookie sheets, each lined with foil or wax paper. In medium heatproof bowl, combine finely chopped chocolate and shortening. Place over simmering water on low heat (water should not touch bottom of bowl); stir often until about three-quarters melted. Remove from heat and hot water; dry bowl bottom and sides. Stir chocolate until completely melted and smooth. Transfer melted chocolate to small bowl. Cool until just slightly warm; if the chocolate is too warm, it will be thin, and you'll get big puddles of chocolate forming at the base of each piece of rind. That's not a tragedy, but it doesn't look as attractive and you might not have enough chocolate to cover all the strips.

Pick up a strip of peel and shake off any excess sugar. Place the strip into the melted chocolate. with a fork, push under to cover completely with chocolate. Pick up on fork tines (do not spear on tines!), and allow any excess chocolate to drip back into bowl. Gently shake fork up-and-down and side-to-side to facilitate this process. Gently slide dipped strip onto lined cookie sheet. Repeat with other strips; do not allow freshly-dipped strips to touch (if this happens, ease them apart gently with a fork). When one cookie sheet is filled up, place it in the refrigerator so chocolate can set.

As you continue dipping the strips, the chocolate will continue to cool. If it becomes too thick, place over simmering water again for just a short time, stirring frequently, until melted again (if necessary, cool until just slightly warm). As you use up the chocolate, transfer it a couple of times into increasingly smaller bowls. Do not try to use up the last little bit of chocolate (if you don't use all of the small bits of candied rind you'll have, you can dip them into the last of the chocolate for yourself!).

When chocolate is set and firm on candied rind, remove cookie sheets from refrigerator. Use a piece of tissue or paper towel to peel the chocolate-dipped rind from the lined sheet (if you use your fingers, they might leave marks or smudges). Place into container (stacking them is OK); store airtight in refrigerator or at cool room temperature.



If you only want to dip half of each strip into chocolate, use 8 ounces of chocolate and 1 Tbsp. of solid vegetable shortening, and expect a yield about eight ounces less. Some people think these half-dipped strips are prettier. You can dip strips this way by picking each one up with your fingers, shaking off excess sugar, dipping it into the chocolate about halfway, then scraping off excess chocolate on the edge of the bowl.

To substitute another citrus for the oranges here, use 2 large grapefruit or 5 to 6 large lemons. You can use regular grapefruit, but I like to use ruby red; the candied peel is a beautiful color. Cut the grapefruit into eight sections each before removing the fruit from the peel. Lemons should be cut into quarters the long way. Because these fruits' peels are more bitter than is orange peel, they'll need three changes of water. Start these peels in a four quart, heavy-bottomed, nonreactive pot. Float them generously with cold water and bring to a boil as above. Boil 5 minutes, then drain and rinse. Bring to a boil with fresh cold water; boil 5 minutes, then drain and rinse. Again, boil in fresh cold water until peel is very soft and easily pierced with a knife tip, 15 to 30 minutes. Proceed as above.


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This page created December 1999