Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Candied Meyer lemon peels

The flavor of desserts made with olive oil intrigue me (i.e. gelato, chocolate mousse). I recently found a recipe for a lemon olive oil cake, which I plan to make later this week. Since it's a very simple recipe with no frosting or garnish, my idea is to dust the top with some confectioner's sugar and serve it with a dollop of creme fraiche and a few strips of candied lemon peels.

Since the candied lemon peels can be stored up to 2 weeks, I decided to make a batch tonight. It requires minimal ingredients (just lemons, water and sugar), but requires some care and attention. I decided to use Meyer lemons since they're in season (saying this about citrus fruits in NY is a bit strange, but...) and are sweeter than your standard lemon, especially the peel, but a standard lemon will work just fine, too. Enjoy these over ice cream or, even better, dipped in dark chocolate.

Some notes on the recipe:
• Be sure to use organic lemons since you'll be preserving and eating the peel.
• After peeling off the strips, I trimmed off any additional pith on each piece with a paring knife to avoid bitterness. In general, pith = bad in any form of cooking or baking.

• I sliced the peel into thin strips so they'll look more delicate sitting on the cake, but you can make them whatever shape or size, depending on the application.

• I skipped the last step in the recipe where you cover the peels with extra sugar. I find this step totally unnecessary, and perhaps even a bit disgusting. It makes the peels much too sugary and gives them a grainy texture. Yuck.

• I doubled the amount lemons since the recipe calls for a boat load of sugar and water.
• Next time, I'll remember to reserve the sugar water for a lemonade.

Recipe: Candied Meyer lemon peels
Adapted from Epicurious
2 organic Meyer (or standard) lemons, washed well
2 cups sugar, plus additional 1/2 cup if desired for coating
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peel from the lemon in vertical strips. Try to remove only the yellow zest, avoiding as much of the white pith as possible. If you see any additional pith, trim off with a paring knife. Leave in wide strips, or cut into thin slices as needed.
Save the lemon for another use.
In a small saucepan, combine the peels with 2 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, then drain off the water. Again add 2 cups cold water, bring to a boil, and drain. Repeat the process a third time, then remove the peels from the pan and set aside.
Measure 2 cups of the sugar into the pan and add 1 cup water, whisking until the sugar dissolves. Add the peels and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the peels are tender and translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain the peels and let cool.

Optional: Measure the remaining 1/2 cup sugar into a medium bowl and add the peels. Toss to coat. Using a fork or your fingers, remove the peels one at time, gently shaking each to remove excess sugar.
Store in an airtight container. The peels will keep for several weeks.