And, by that, I mean that I'm not a cookie baking person. I'm DEFINITELY a cookie eating person, but I have no skills when it comes to baking them. They always end up flat or burnt or under-done or just unimpressive. So, when it comes to the holidays and the traditional baking of cookies (Why do we bake so many cookies during the holidays anyway? That's a whole different blog post. I digress ...), I get off easy.
However, I do have some skill when it comes to making candies and sweets. I've been known to make a mean peppermint bark, but my favorite treat to make are my candied orange peels. They are an old-fashioned goody that just embodies "Christmas" for me. It makes me think of the old days (even before I was born!) when an orange was an exotic and special Christmas present and those who received them made use of every part of them. Hence the candied peels. They are actually quite simple to make, and they taste simply amazing. Which, for me, is a perfect combination.
I normally make my candied peels with navel oranges, but this year I tried it with little clementines. The results are mixed. They are a more flimsy candy, but they have a sweeter taste (much like a clementine is sweeter than a navel). They also aren't as pretty and uniform as navel peels are. But who cares how pretty they are when they taste so good.
Interested? Here's the recipe ...
Candied Orange Peels with Dark Chocolate Drizzle
(Chocolate drizzle is optional)
About a dozen navel oranges, peeled (You'll just need the peel, so be sure to use the oranges for another recipe. Or you can just keep them in the fridge in a covered bowl for easy snacking.
4 c. sugar (plus an additional 1/2 c. for finishing) I prefer turbinado sugar here.
1 c. water
6 oz. dark chocolate (optional)
After peeling your oranges (use a knife for more uniform slices), carefully remove the pith (the bitter white stuff that covers the inside of the peel). The pith will make your peels bitter, so you want to remove as much as possible. Try to get your peels to be just orange with minimal white. I then like to slice them into nice, uniform 1/4" strips.
(Some recipes recommend blanching your peels in boiling water 2-3 times to remove bitterness, but I've never done that. I've also never thought that the finished peels were bitter. Feel free to do this if you are sensitive to bitter flavors.)
Combine your water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar solution is boiling, reduce the heat to a low simmer and add your orange peels. Keep on a low simmer until the peels start to turn transparent, stirring occasionally (approximately 30 minutes or so).
Once your peels are uniformly transparent, remove from the heat, drain, and rinse.
Roll candied peels in granulated suger and let them dry on a wire rack. They will stiffen and harden to a gel consistency (about 2-4 hours).
Store in an airtight container and eat within 14 days. Of course, I'm sure that part will be the easiest. :)
When peels are dried and complete, melt dark chocolate and dip them. (In all honesty, I prefer them without the chocolate because they are good enough without it!)