Orangette Is A Slice Of Sunshine In Candied Form

The first time I tasted orangette - after making a batch out of curiosity and kind of expecting to hate it - my tongue perked up in recognition. It was like a gourmet version of those sugared gummy orange "slices" except way better. Orangette, or candied orange peel, is now my go-to giftable sweet.

Orangette is fancy but not fussy. You'll spend a few hours making it, but you're never a slave to the thermometer or the clock. It also only has two ingredients: Navel oranges and granulated sugar. (You will also need wire cooling racks.)

Start by buying as many navel oranges as you can imagine yourself peeling without beginning to hate your life. I've built up a tolerance over the years - and I know just how good orangette tastes and how special it looks in gift boxes - so I buy 4.5kg of oranges. Feel free to make do with less.

This video shows my peeling and slicing technique, but fair warning, it was filmed by a child who was holding the camera in one hand and eating a cookie with the other. I slice off the top and bottom of the orange, run the knife tip around the top of the pith, and then quarter the orange. I then use my thumb to separate the peel from the juicy part. Feel free to eat or juice the orange flesh; it isn't part of this recipe at all. I slice the peel into strips about the width of McDonald's fries.

Right now, those of you who are familiar with citrus zest are probably thinking, "But you have to remove the white pith, right? Pith is bitter!" This is true but totally irrelevant. Do not scrape off the pith. It provides the pectin for that gummy texture, and we have a plan for dealing with its bitterness:

  1. Boil the orange peel slices, and then dump out the water.
  2. Boil the orange peel slices, and then dump out the water.
  3. One last time! Boil the orange peel slices, and then dump out the water.

Like this.

The bitterness is now almost gone, and what remains will be hidden by the vast mountains of sugar you are about to add. Go get your mountains of sugar now. I've seen recipes calling for two cups of sugar for four oranges, and for four cups of sugar for two oranges. I don't believe it matters, as long as it makes you go, "Wow, that's a lot." For my 4.5kg of oranges, I use about 900g of sugar. Dump it in to the pot of peels with enough fresh water to cover, and stir to dissolve while you bring the mixture to a boil.

Simmer for about an hour, until the peels are soft and the liquid has boiled down to a syrupy goo. It does not matter what temperature this goo boils at, or what it does when you drop it into cold water. Your oranges have been cooking in sugar for an hour so there's really no way you could have messed this up.

Now comes the most time consuming part: You're going to get out some wire cooling racks, and lay each individual orange peel slice down to dry. This takes a while - about half an hour for my 4.5kg of oranges. Put on some music and sing along to pass the time. If the goo is hot enough to burn your fingers, use chopsticks.

(If you do not have and cannot get wire cooling racks, you can lay the peels out on baking paper, and then once the top side is dry flip them over so the bottom side gets a chance to dry. I don't recommend this technique, but I did it for years before I finally caved and bought three large racks. My life has since improved.)

The orange peels will be wet with goo when you lay them out, but by the next day they will be dry and sticky to the touch. Do not proceed if they are still wet. You will be sorry. This is not a recipe to rush.

The last step is a good one to get kids involved in, if they have been whining about how they want to "help". Fill a bowl (any bowl) with sugar, and have them drop the sticky orange peels into the sugar and roll them around until they are coated. Now you have finished orangette! You can store the pieces on end in a cute little mason jar (or, you know, dump them into a giant Tupperware) with some extra sugar for good measure.

If you want to get a little fancy, you can skip the sugar and dip them into tempered dark chocolate. Or chop them up and add them to recipes. (I roll them in sugar even if I intend to chop them, so the pieces won't stick together.) A milk or dark chocolate bark with almonds, orangette and candied ginger is amazing.


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