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Impatient for Orange Peels

Microwave Candied Orange PeelTonight is the first night of Chanukah, or as the next generation spells it, Hanukkah, and instead of blogging about latkes, which I’m not making tonight, in favor of a congregational dinner (yay, no cooking, no dishes, no family kvetches), I decided to pick something else I like more. Like candied orange peel, which is outrageously expensive if you buy it at a candy store. Chocolate plus oranges is the flavor of Sabra liqueur, an Israeli elixir from the days of my childhood which I think is now out of production. Of course, so’s my childhood, or at least my first childhood…

But the standard recipe for candied orange peels goes something like: “Boil some water. Blanch the de-pithed orange peel strips from a couple of oranges for two minutes. Throw out the water and do it again. Then simmer the peels in 4 cups of sugar and 4 cups of water for an hour or two. Then drain them. Then toss them separately in a bowl with fresh, dry sugar to coat and spread them out on a cookie tray to dry for another couple of hours.”

In all, that’s about 4 or 5 hours. Oy! My inner second childhood is whining already.

Following up from my microwaved kumquat marmalade experiment, which worked beautifully, I decided I could probably do something similar to candy orange peels. The final result was not perfect-perfect by professional confectioners’ standards and I wouldn’t be surprised if Martha Stewart disapproved, but it looked okay to me, was done in 15 minutes from peeling oranges to dredging-and-drying, and the taste is not bad, not bad at all. Makes you wonder.

The oranges I picked were a bit bland and nonacidic, and tangerine or clementine would be a bit livelier if you can find organic ones, but this is what I had. And as I discovered, the flavor seems to improve as the peels sit after being dredged in sugar and dried.

Microwave-Candied Orange Peel

  • 2 organic navel oranges or other sweet citrus
  • 1.5 c. sugar
  • 1/3 c. water
  • optional (didn’t try but might next time)–squeeze of lemon juice

1. Scrub the oranges well. Even organic oranges are treated with wax or lac-based resin these days. Peel with a very sharp paring knife and try to get mostly just the orange part and not too much of the white pith (although I might try a damn-the-torpedoes version next time with the whole peel, since I like thick-cut marmalade).

2. Shred the peel into long thin strips and place in a pyrex bowl with water to cover. Put a microwaveable lid on the bowl and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Pour off the water–actually, I might skip this step too next time. Or maybe not; it may rid the peel of some of the wax residue. Don’t bother doing it twice–I didn’t.

3. Put 1 c. sugar on top of the orange peels and drizzle on about 1/3 c. water, just enough water for a slurry. Microwave 4 minutes covered. The peels will turn somewhat translucent and may even swell and curl in places. The syrup will be very thick. Let sit a minute or two at will.

4. In a clean dry soup bowl, pour a bit of the other half-cup of sugar. With a fork, scoop out and drain a heap of orange peels over the cooking bowl until they stop dripping, then toss them lightly in the bowl with the dry sugar to coat all over. Sprinkle on a little more sugar if necessary. Scoop out the peels and scatter them on a sheet of tinfoil, and continue draining and dredging orange peels in the soup bowl.

Keep the orange syrup for something else–you might be making marzipan or baklava eventually, you never know, plus you’d hate to throw out a cup of sugar if you don’t have to.

When the orange peel shreds are dry, which in this very thick syrup takes a lot less than 2 hours–I’d say maybe 30 minutes tops, though of course I didn’t wait to try them out–the next obvious thing to do is dip them in melted dark chocolate.

Quick Dark Chocolate Ganache

  • 1/2  to 2/3  c. semisweet chocolate chips or a 3.5 oz bar of good dark chocolate, broken up
  • 1/4 c. half-and-half

Microwave the half-and-half in a mug for 30 s. or until steaming. Pour in the chocolate and let sit covered for a count of 20 or so, then start stirring. The chocolate will start melting and look like little shreds in the cream, then after a minute the whole thing will start to thicken into a dark shiny mass.


Either dip the orange peel shreds halfway and lay them out on foil to dry, or toss them in the chocolate ganache to coat completely and then scoop, drain, and lay them back out on foil, separating them with forks, to cool and solidify.

Save the leftover ganache too–it should solidify as it cools, and if you refrigerate it, you can then scoop it out in small spoonfuls and roll it in cocoa powder for truffles. Or you can sneak into it with a spoon and not let anyone know.

Happy Chanukah! Chag Sameach! B’te’avon! (Eat Nice!)

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