If you've happened upon my other Instructables related to food, perhaps you've noticed a theme - when life gives me lemons, it gives me hundreds of lemons. I moved to a place with many fruit trees and frequently find myself with an abundance of a certain kind of produce which joyfully leads me to Instructables looking for inspiration on what to do with (in this case) 120 fresh oranges.
This year, we made a dreamsicle pie, froze orange juice cubes in our ice cube tray, marmalade, and ate all the orange wedges we could but our new go-to is this luxurious treat that so many folks can enjoy.
Made from just orange peel, water, sugar, and dark chocolate we find this is a great dessert option to have on hand because it's naturally vegan (depending on the type of chocolate you use), gluten free, and so concentrated in flavor that it's satisfying after just a few pieces.
It takes two days to make for the peels to dry out in between stages but I find that's kinda perfect for making part one day and finishing up the next day (or even two days later) rather than needing a bigger chunk of time all at once.
Note: when originally looking for my how-tos, I found this recipe from Smitten Kitchen followed the process I wanted to take. I've adapted it, but credit where credit is due!
Step 1: Gather Ingredients
This is such a simple recipe that you might have everything in your kitchen already. (Aren't those the best kind?)
- 2 oranges
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water (more on hand as needed)
- 6 oz good quality dark chocolate
...and that's it!
For equipment, you'll want to have on hand:
- Medium saucepan
- Double boiler (or, if you want to be scrappy like me, a heat resistant bowl that fits into a small pot)
- Cooling rack
- Parchment paper
- 2 forks
Step 2: Prep Your Oranges
The goal of this step is to make small orange peel slats, which you can do however you like.
I personally like this method for the ease of separating the peel from the wedge without tearing the peel. This is important when you go to slice the peel into even slats.
- Cut off the top and bottom of the orange
- Divide the orange up into quarters
- With your hand, slip your thumb in between the peel and orange flesh gently
- With the orange peel and flesh separated, cut just the peel into even slats
- Snack on the orange quarters while you get ready for the next step :-)
Step 3: Blanch the Peels Twice
Using a medium size pot, drop the peel slats into boiling water and blanch them for a few minutes - 2 or 3 is enough here. Drain the water, rinse the peels in cool water, and repeat this process a second time.
Blanching the peels removes bitterness. I made these once without blanching and found them almost inedible, but a friend of mine loved them more than the normal kind so play around with what you like.
Step 4: Make a Simple Syrup and Simply Simmer
Make a simple syrup by adding your cup of water and 8 oz of sugar in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar completely.
Note: I like to use Baker's Sugar for this because it dissolves faster, but it's not necessary.
Simmer your simple syrup and drop all the cut peels in for an hour. This is a long time, and your final product will benefit from patience here. A nice hour in a simple syrup hot tub will make the orangette soft to bite through, while the simple syrup will harden to given it some satisfying resistance combined with the chocolate. If you shorten the time, the peels are likely to be tough and chewy so do try it with the full hour of cooking.
That said, you're likely to need more water as you go to make it the whole hour simmering away on the stove. You'll notice the water evaporates and the thickness of the liquid mixture goes up suddenly - this is shown in my version above with the two photos of peels. In the second, if I was at 30 minutes, I'd add another 1/4 cup of water and stir to integrate throughout.
If you aren't careful, all the water will evaporate and you'll come back to a burnt caramel lacquer and orange peels that are no longer edible, so keep an eye on this every few minutes for the first few times you make them.
At the end of the step, you do want that nice thick coat so don't go overboard with the water! Start with a cup and add little by little as needed.
Step 5: Cool and Dry
Once you're done simmering, place the peels on a cooling rack overnight.
When they are first placed on the rack, the peels will have a high gloss to them that overnight will turn to matte but more importantly, you'll be able to pick up the peel pieces without getting sticky fingers if you wait. I find this also makes for a better chocolate finish so a second time in this recipe, patience pays off.
Try sampling a few after they've dried. You might prefer them like this - great! I'll go over how to dip them in chocolate so you have options.
Step 6: Dip in Chocolate
If you have a double boiler, this is its time to shine! Bust it out, put some water in the bottom, and prep your chocolate.
For the rest of us, this is a time to get a little scrappy. I found these lovely glass mixing bowls fit stunningly perfectly into my smallest kitchen pot which creates a double boiler. The idea here is just to not have the chocolate directly on the heat source but there are lots of ways to do this.
So onto the chocolate melting.
Start with good, dark chocolate. Break it up into small pieces and place it in an empty bowl over the boiling water. The chocolate will melt and you can toss in your dried orange slices. I find I can do between 6-10 in a 'batch' before it becomes too cluttered to work in the bowl.
If I'm honest, this is always the part of the process that feels like it can go on forever. I now feel like it's a form of meditation but give yourself ~30 minutes to work through 2 oranges worth of orange peel.
After experimenting with many kitchen utensils, I've landed on my favorite method which is two forks used in tandem. I fish out a single piece with one fork and volley it back and forth to let the excess chocolate drip back into the bowl before placing it onto the parchment paper.
Note from other Instructablers: a great comment was made below about not overheating the chocolate at this stage as well as tempering the chocolate. Both are great refinements to this stage - thanks for making this Instructable even better:
"You might want to add warnings about not overheating the chocolate (ALWAYS under 120 deg F). My niece tried a chocolate candy (I wasn't around) andlet it get too hot: the result was grainy and ... not nice. Also, taking the time to temper the chocolate will give you a glossier product that is less likely to melt in your fingers as you're nibbling."
Step 7: Let the Chocolate Cool
Place the pieces one-by-one on a flat surface lined with parchment paper. I like to make rows but do whatever floats your orange-dipped boat. I just recommend they don't touch so they can cool and dry nicely.
As they cool, you can see in my photos the glossy sheen turns to matte here as well. It'll still be a little while before you can pick them up without leaving finger prints on the chocolate, but this is a great sign the chocolate finish will be good.
Step 8: Enjoy Your Orangette!
You can eat them straight away after the chocolate has cooled. The favorite in our house is to keep them in a container in the fridge to get that extra snap when biting into one.
Like I mentioned, this is a great dessert option to have on hand for when company comes over that can't have dairy (again, depending on which chocolate you used) or gluten and they keep for a very long time (if you can resist eating them by the handful) so it's a perfect go-to when you're craving a sweet treat that's satisfying and at the same time, a little on the lighter side.
Next time you find yourself with a few extra oranges, give it a go and tell me what you think! I'd love to see your creations and adaptions of this family favorite.
Runner Up in the
Sweet Treats Challenge