This Christmas will be a bit different for my family. My sister and I are both staying in the UK for the holidays, Hilary with her boyfriend’s family, and me with mine. Though some customs will be gladly put aside for a year (think airport queues, jet lag and the stress of tying to visit every single friend and family member in one short week), we wanted to keep certain holiday traditions alive, including the annual making of our Christmas Stollen. We figured that this German sweet bread could just as easily be made here as in our parents’ house, so got to work setting a baking date, gathering ingredients and trying to extract the recipe from our parents.
Once our Dad finally figured out how to use his scanner (after several emails with subjects like “Did it work?” and “Hope it works this time”), we got our recipe, and another alongside it. My Mum insisted that a homemade citrus peel would make all the difference to our holiday baking.
At first, we dismissed this as a ludicrous idea of the type that our mother is apt to come out with from time to time (sorry, Mum). Hil and I don’t even like peel and generally leave it out of our Stollen, preferring to stick with a mixture of dried fruits and currants. But in the end my curiosity won out, and in the interest of featuring an uncommon holiday recipe on the blog, I decided that candy peel, l would.
As is often sometimes the case, my Mum knows what she’s talking about. Crispy and sweet with a strong citrus taste, this is nothing like the store-bought stuff. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Fine, all very well- but what do I do with it?”
Well, you could make our delicious Christmas Stollen, for starters. Christmas fruit cake, mince pies and Florentine cookies are all good options too. I’m going to dip the rest of mine in some melted dark chocolate for a sophisticated Christmas candy. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new holiday tradition?
- Candied Peel
- from Homebaking by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
- 6-12 citrus fruits (6 if larger like grapefruit/oranges, 12 if smaller like lemons/clementines), unwaxed and preferably organic
2 cups caster sugar
1 cup water
- 1. First, to peel the fruit: cut off the stem end and make 4-5 downward cuts with a sharp paring knife. Peel these “wedges” of peel away from the fruit. Remove any string-like membranes that remain on the peel, but leave the white pith intact. (You can keep the naked fruit in ziplock bags or tupperware in the fridge, to be used for their juice in the future.)
2. Place the peels in a large pot and cover with about 3 inches of cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, until the peels are soft and pliable. (This will take longer for lemons and thick-skinned oranges, but shorter for clementines. If using a mixture, simply start with the thicker-skinned peel and add the thinner one after 10-20 minutes.)
3. After the first boiling, drain the peel, cover again with cold water and bring to the boil; this time, cook for 15-20 minutes.
4. As soon as you start the peels on their second boiling, begin making the sugar syrup. Put the sugar and water in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and simmer until peels are ready.
5. After their second simmering, remove the peels from the water with a slotted spoon, and immediately add to the sugar syrup. Simmer gently for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally to ensure that all the peels get a good coating of syrup. Keep the heat very low and watch to make sure nothing sticks or burns- you may need to add a splash or two of water from the kettle.
6. Line some baking sheets or trays with parchment paper, and remove the saucepan from the heat. Using some silicone tongs, grab an individual peel by its end and allow the excess syrup to drain off; I found it helpful to “scrape” each side against the rim of the pot. Lay the peels side by side (peel side up is prettier) on the paper and continue until they’ve all been removed. (If the syrup cools and becomes too thick to scrape from the peel, simply return it to a low heat for a few minutes.)
7. Allow the peel to dry for 1-3 days; it will be entirely hard and not at all sticky when ready.