When I was planning my Valentine’s Day menu, dessert was not on my radar. I knew the dumplings were going to take up most of my time and I didn’t want to stress myself out by planning elaborate dessert. I was just going to do something simple like fresh berries with a little Grand Marnier (one of my parents’ go-to desserts). But a recipe for tangerine sorbet by David Lebovitz came into my inbox the Friday before Valentine’s Day and I thought, “This looks easy enough, tangerines are in season, it’ll go nicely with my menu, and I’m working from home today. I have time to do this.” So I took a mid-morning break from work and walked to my local produce market to pick up some minneola tangelos (though any tangerine or mandarin orange varietal would have worked, too).
This recipe does require planning ahead (which for once I successfully did!). You have to juice the fruit, add sugar, some zest, and a little Grand Marnier, and let it chill overnight. Since I was working from home and didn’t have to take my 45 minute commute home, I was able to start on this right at 5 pm, perfect for stress-free prep, i.e. I am not juicing fruit at 9:30 at night. I busted out the juicer and juiced about 8 tangelos, enough to get 4 cups. The juicer is a pain to clean, so if you have a large citrus squeezer or a hand juicer, I recommend going that route. I have neither, so the juicer it was. I ended up with a little more than 4 cups of juice so I used the extra to make screwdrivers for happy hour. Another plus for starting this project at 5 pm.
The next day I took the juice from the fridge and put it in the freezer. Taking instructions from Lebovitz on how to make ice cream without a machine, I took the juice out of the freezer every half hour, for a couple of hours, and blended it with my stick blender (you can also mix with a hand mixer or with a spatula by hand). This allows for a smooth, consistent texture as it slowly freezes. Otherwise you’ll just have a big bowl of popsicle. While it would still be delicious, it would prove a bit difficult to eat.
Lebovitz also candied the peels of the fruit to serve alongside the sorbet. I thought that was a great way to minimize food waste, and decided to do the same. So I peeled the tangelos before juicing to candy later. However, Lebovitz’s recipe for candied orange peels is not available online, so I had to do some research for a recipe. To candy a citrus peel, you basically boil it in sugar water. But I found many methods to do this, with a variety of sugar to water ratios, boiling times, etc. Considering my history of candying fruit and trouble with boiling liquids with a high sugar content, I wanted to be careful about what recipe I chose. I didn’t want to make a sauce-pan full of hard candy.
What most recipes agreed on was cutting the peels of whatever citrus fruit you’re using (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, or a mix) into 1/4 inch strips.
But that is where the recipes diverge. Some recipes blanch the peels a number of times to remove the bitterness, like Jacques Pepin does in his recipe (this video of his is also helpful). Others boil the strips once for 10-15 minutes, like Martha Stewart. I decided to go the multiple blanch route because that’s what I saw people do more often. After blanching, you boil the peels in sugar water for about 8-10 minutes, until they are translucent. Martha Stewart uses a 1:1 ratio of water and sugar. But Jacques Pepin uses a 2:1 ratio. I randomly decided that Jacques has more authority in this matter and went with the 2:1 ratio. I was also afraid of the 1:1 sugar to water ratio, reasons of which I stated previously.
After the peels have been boiled, you toss them in sugar to coat. Martha’s recipe recommends letting them dry out for about an hour before coating. Jacques doesn’t. I went with Jacques’ method again, but found that the sugar clumped together more than I would have liked. Even after being left to dry for an hour, they were still pretty wet. Martha may have been on to something with her drying instructions.
Although the peels turned out very tasty, I was not 100% satisfied with how these came out, and I am going to keep playing around with the recipe. I think a lot of the trouble has to do with how much peel you have and knowing how to scale the sugar to water ratio accordingly. Because you’re not always going to have 8 oranges worth of peel. Clearly, I do not have my magic method for candied orange peels yet, but my adapted recipe for this particular batch of peels is below.
I leave you with the final outcome of the sorbet, garnished and everything. Another good way to server it would be to chop the candied peel and sprinkle it on top so that you can have little bits of candied peel in each bite.
Candied Orange Peels (adapted from Jacques Pepin)
- 2 cups orange peels (or any mix of citrus peels), cut into 1/4 inch strips
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup sugar (plus 1/3 cup for coating)
- Peel the zest of oranges, leaving off as much of the white pith as possible. Julienne the peels into 1/4 inch strips.
- In a saucepan, cover the strips in water and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 seconds. Drain peels in a strainer and rinse with cold water. Repeat one more time.
- Return the peels to the saucepan with 1 cup sugar and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, until the mixture starts to thicken and the peels turn translucent, about 8-10 minutes, though it took a little longer for me, probably becuase I simmered rather than boiled. I was scared of making hard candy. (This is the step where I need to make the most adjustments, perhaps in sugar to water ratio or cooking temperature.)
- Strain the peels, saving the syrup for another use (like cocktails or to sweeten tea).
- Spread 1/3 cup of sugar on a tray or medium sized bowl. Add the peels and toss, separating the pieces so that each strip is coated with sugar. Transfer the strips to a cooling rack and let stand for at least an hour, until dry. (Again, my peels didn’t really dry, so I will try letting them dry a bit before tossing in sugar.)
- Store in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid. You can refrigerate or let it stand at room temperature.