Candied Orange Peel

I recently wrote a piece for the Washington Post on the secret to making great cannoli. The secret, by the way, is to use my mother’s recipe, which she developed in the 1970s, and which, I can tell you, has stood the test of time. The crisp-fried shells, flavored with cocoa powder and finely ground espresso crunch and shatter ~ just a little ~ when you bite into them, and the fresh ricotta cream is lightened ~ just a little ~ with whipped cream.

The only detail I’ve changed is that I garnish my cannoli with homemade candied orange peel rather than store-bought, which I have never cared for.

I snapped this during the photo shoot for the Washington Post story.

Some cooks are intimidated by the candying process, which calls for poaching fruit in sugar syrup, but it’s easier than you might think, and it is especially easy to candy citrus peel. As the peel absorbs the hot syrup, it is transformed from a bitter pithy thing into a chewy-soft confection with jewel-like translucence.

Once the peel has been candied, you can, if you like, coat the strips in sugar to make them sparkle. I like, so I do.

Obviously, you are not required to make cannoli to go with your candied orange peel. The strips on their own make a nice after-dinner sweet. If you want to get fancy, you dip the candied peel in melted tempered bittersweet chocolate and let it dry for the perfect accompaniment to an espresso. I put chopped candied peel in panforte, and, occasionally in sweet breads.

You can use this same process to candy lemon, lime, and other citrus peel; just make sure to choose fruit with a fairly thick rind. Some cooks eliminate the pith before candying, but I leave it because it retains a slight bitterness that I like and the candied peel stays appealingly soft and chewy.

Makes 2 cups

Candied Orange PeelProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

These sparkling sugared strips are a classic garnish for cannoli, but they have plenty of other uses, too. Their texture is somewhat softer than typical candied citrus peel.

Chop them finely and add them to cakes or pastries or dip them in bittersweet chocolate and serve them with espresso for an elegant, light dessert. And don’t limit yourself to oranges; you can peel lemons, limes and grapefruit using the same technique.

Store the candied peel in a clean, airtight glass container at room temperature for up to 1 month. This recipe is adapted from "Williams-Sonoma The Art of Preserving: Sweet and Savory Recipes to Enjoy Seasonal Produce Year-Round" (Weldon Owen; 2010).

Ingredients

  • 3 organic navel oranges, preferably with thick peel, rinsed well
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • About 1/2 cup superfine sugar, for coating

Instructions

Use a sharp paring knife to slice off the top and bottom of each orange. Score the oranges, making vertical slices at 1-inch intervals and cutting just through the peel and pith but not into the flesh. Pull off the segments of peel and slice them vertically into strips about 1/4 inch wide. (Reserve the flesh for another use.)

Place the strips of peel in a saucepan with water to cover by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to low, and cook the peels gently for about 45 minutes, until just tender. Drain in a colander set in the sink.

Set a wire cooling rack on a rimmed baking sheet.

Combine the granulated sugar and 2 cups of water in the same saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then reduce the heat to low and add the drained peels. Cook gently, stirring from time to time, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the peels are tender and most (but not all) of the syrup has been absorbed. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peels to the rack, taking care to keep them from touching. Let dry for 1 to 2 hours. (Don’t discard the syrup; store it in a jar in the refrigerator and use it to sweeten brewed tea.)

Spoon about 1/2 cup superfine sugar into a quart-size zip-top bag. Add 3 or 4 strips of peel to the bag and shake to coat with evenly. Place coated strips back on the rack, taking care to keep them separate. Continue until you have coated all the strips. Let dry overnight, turning them once or twice, before serving or storing.

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23 Responses to Candied Orange Peel

  1. Marisa @ All Our Way March 8, 2017 at 4:38 pm #

    I’ve never tried making candied orange but since we are striving to make the perfect cannoli I guess we’ll have to do the whole home made experience. We’ve been searching for a good recipe – the last one we did was a total dud. It really is great your mamma did all of the work and we get to the benefit. Grazie!!

    • Domenica Marchetti March 8, 2017 at 7:54 pm #

      Marisa, believe me when I tell you there is a world of difference between store-bought candied peel and homemade. The technique is simple and definitely worth it. Now homemade cannoli are more involved…but also worth it. Enjoy xx

  2. Rosa Jeanne Mayland March 8, 2017 at 4:43 pm #

    So fragrant and heavenly. Thanks for the recipe. I wish I could grab one of those cannoli…

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    • Domenica Marchetti March 8, 2017 at 7:55 pm #

      I wish you could too, Rosa. I’ve certainly had more than I need. Cheers, D

  3. ciaochowlinda March 8, 2017 at 9:22 pm #

    I couldn’t agree with you more about store bought vs. home made candied orange peel. What a dramatic difference. I’ll never go back to using store bought. Would you believe I am eating some candied orange peel that I made a few days ago, right now as I type this? I gave up cakes, pastries, etc. for Lent, but the orange peel qualifies as fruit, right? So in my book, that’s ok. Seriously, I’m limiting myself to only two or three pieces a day, otherwise I won’t have any left for those Easter desserts. I gave some to friends today too as a small International Womens’ Day pensierino. But I am longing to try your mom’s recipe for cannoli. I haven’t made them in at least ten years. I guess it will have to wait until after Easter.

    • Domenica Marchetti March 9, 2017 at 4:02 pm #

      Yes, I’m with you ~ candied orange peel most definitely qualifies as fruit. And what a nice idea to give it as a gift. Also, it’s hard to beat homemade cannoli as the reward for sticking to your Lenten vow.

  4. italianchristy March 9, 2017 at 6:30 am #

    These look really tempting! I would probably end up munching them all before I could prepare any batter for the cannoli shells. 😛

    Grazie mille, bella! 😀

  5. David March 9, 2017 at 10:28 am #

    Candied orange peel (and lemon, and grapefruit, etc…) is a staple in our house and neighborhood. We have such a plethora of great citrus, that everyone makes peel! But no one – and I mean no one – is making homemade cannoli. I need to try your mother’s recipe! Thanks for sharing, Domenica!

    • Domenica Marchetti March 9, 2017 at 4:06 pm #

      You’re fortunate to have such good local citrus out there, David. I’m a teeny bit jealous. Also, I’m confident you will master cannoli technique in no time. Hope you give it a try.

  6. elisa March 9, 2017 at 10:31 am #

    I love candied orange peel!!!!! And when I buy ..ready?…3lbs Cara-Cara oranges I use them all for making the delicious strips. After cooling completely I place them in 3 or 4 1Quart freezer bags, making sure they freeze flat, After they are completely frozen I stack the bags into a gallon freezer bag for extra protection. They last for a long time (well,not really, I eat them with all my favorite cheeses). Thank you for the recipe! I will give it to my friend who will love it. I always look forward to your recipes!

    • Domenica Marchetti March 9, 2017 at 4:08 pm #

      Thank you, and I always look forward to your comments because I always learn from you. For example, I had not thought of freezing as an option for storage. And I also hadn’t considered candied peel as an accompaniment to cheese. That’s a great idea. Do you have a favorite pairing?

  7. elisa March 9, 2017 at 10:41 am #

    By the way, what do I do with all those peeled oranges? I squeeze them for a fresh orange juice.

    • Domenica Marchetti March 9, 2017 at 4:10 pm #

      Usually I just eat the oranges. Otherwise, I slice them into rounds and make a salad, maybe with arugula and red onion, a sprinkle of salt, maybe a sliced avocado, and good olive oil.

  8. stefano March 9, 2017 at 11:21 am #

    I like them dipped in chocolate 🙂

    as for candying them, I tend to adopt a slower method. Whenever I had an orange or I make myself an orange juice, I keep the peel aside, in the fridge. When I have collected a decent amount, I start the candying process. I keep the peels in cold water for about four days, changing the water a couple of times each time. This is to remove the bitterness without destroying too many of the essential oils that are in the peel; I have also sometimes adopted the boiling method, but, again in a slightly less aggressive way: I bring the peels & cold water to the boil, I drain them and I repeat three more times.
    I then candy them using a heavy syrup: three times the weight of the oranges and equal amount of sugar and water. I bring to the boil and I then switch if off. I repeat this every day for about five days… untill the oranges are translucent and soft.When They are done, I often preserve them in a mix of their candying syrup + glucose – this keeps them soft, moist and shining.
    I know, it is a long process, but it is also rather care free and dead easy (incidentally: the candying process over few days is something I learnt in Provence and, If I am not mistaken, from a Deborah madison’s recipe)
    …. and now off to try Domenica’s version of cannoli! thanks

    • Domenica Marchetti March 9, 2017 at 4:14 pm #

      Salve, Stefano, and thank you for your comment. I’m glad you brought up the essential oils, as I had been wondering about that. I definitely used the “lazy” way to candy the orange peel. I have used the longer process of candying fruit when making mostarda, and maybe I’ll try it with orange peel as well and see if I can detect a difference. I will say that my editor at the Washington Post said they were the best candied orange peels she had ever tasted. Thanks for stopping by and adding to our conversation.

  9. elisa March 10, 2017 at 10:38 am #

    Yes, Domenica, I have few favorite pairings, with a firm Brie, New York white Cheddar, Gorgonzola, Mascarpone….and not with cheese but I especially I like to dip the candied orange strips in Nutella….

    • Domenica Marchetti March 10, 2017 at 1:09 pm #

      All of those sound wonderful. My son comes home for spring break today, and I have a feeling he is going to LOVE that nutella suggestion.

  10. Frank Fariello March 11, 2017 at 9:08 am #

    These look so good… I could eat them just as is. In fact, I’m one of those odd people who eats oranges with the peel still on, so I can just imagine how much I’d like them simmered in sugar.

  11. pblevitt March 11, 2017 at 10:57 am #

    No comparison between the store bought and homemade candied citrus peel. I love the way you described bitting into a canollo with “crunch & shatter” – this is without a doubt the sensory experience that defines a properly made shell.

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