So today I thought I would attempt to make some candied orange slices, as I love the slightly bitter rich citrus flavour they have – my aunt saw these for sale in Croatia and exclaimed ‘why would you want to eat a load of pith?!’ which tickled me. (And not just because pith is a silly word). Pith.
However, these delicious glistening candied orange slices are not bitter bits of pith. They are chewy, sweet and tangy all at once. Use them to decorate cupcakes or un-iced rich sticky fruit cakes – I saw a beautiful plain white wedding cake decorated with a cascade of these down one side, simple but oh-so gorgeous. Or just dip them in melted chocolate and scoff them all! And they are made of fruit so they must be good for you…
The below recipe makes about 50 slices, enough to cover two baking trays, it takes a while so I always make it in big batches – it will keep for about a month in the fridge.
I have read so many very different recipes for candied orange slices. The recipes people seemed to have the most trouble with appeared to be those that involved repeatedly blanching the oranges then pre-heating the sugar syrup to a boil and adding the oranges. People had burnt oranges, raw oranges, crystallized sugar, burnt sugar…and some poor guy said his had formed a giant toffee-like mass that took forever to scrub off the kitchen surfaces! I decided to take a slower route, with less chance of these mishaps.
I must admit my recipe does take time, but time is flavour and you can leave them to do their own thing for the majority of the time! First up, you really need to get your hands on fresh, unwaxed organic oranges – so you know they are not coated in pesticides and other nasty chemicals. You want oranges with a darker colour which feel a little heavy (so full of juice) not pale dull looking ones.
When slicing you want the oranges pieces to be quite thin, I used this Kitchen Devils knife – a godsend for slicing slippery or delicate foods neatly and thinly, like tomatoes! The biggest problem with this recipe is that all ovens and hobs are not the same temperature, I know that the oven at my old flat on its lowest temperature was much hotter than on the one I currently use. If you know your oven and/or hobs are quite powerful and make food bubble even on the lowest setting then you will need to keep a much closer eye on your orange slices, and I would advise checking them every 15 mins or so and reducing the timings as needed.
When you cover the orange slices with water, don’t over fill the pan – I did this the first time and my syrup was really thin (See the recipe below for how to re-thicken a thin syrup). You need to overlap the orange slices and pour over just enough water to cover them, it doesn’t matter if a few edges are sticking out, just give the pan a swirl every now and again.
Important – it is so so tempting, but you must not stir the sugar and oranges or the sugar may crystallize!
I used my lovely cast iron pan (a much loved Christmas present from my mum) – however being iron it takes ages to warm up, so I gave it an initial warm over a medium hob for a few minutes then reduced the heat to low, otherwise the candied orange slices would have been cooking for hours! You don’t need a cast iron pan but a sturdy heavy bottomed pan is essential, a thin based pan may easily allow the orange slices to burn.
I found that heating the oranges so low for an hour added a lot more flavour than the blanching and fast cook method, you want the oranges to bubble very slowly for this hour. When it comes to turning up the heat afterwards you want the oranges to bubble gently, so turn it up a little at a time – if you suddenly crank the heat up high you may get burnt oranges and you don’t want that!
When it comes to drying out the slices, they need to be a sticky slightly tacky texture – not wet! And they will harden a little as they cool so don’t worry if they are quite soft. I heated mine in the oven at 80’C for about 30 minutes on each side. I did have to change the baking paper when I flipped them over as it had become quite sticky.
I then left them in the switched off oven overnight, just to cool and dry out further. I store my candied orange slices in a lined airtight container in the fridge – dusting any really sticky ones with a little caster sugar. If you find your orange slices a bit bitter for your taste, dip them all in caster sugar. I love mine dipped in melted dark chocolate. Seriously good!!
Candied orange slices: Leftover syrup
When the candied orange slices are lifted onto baking trays you will probably be left with some lovely sweet candied orange syrup sitting in your pan. Don’t throw this away, it is really yummy and you can use it for all sorts of things! I have used it in cocktails, and you could use it drizzled over a cake or even over ice cream! Let me know if you find any tasty ways to use up the leftover syrup – other then just eating it by the spoonful…
The syrup should keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.
- About 850g of Organic Unwaxed Oranges
- 350g of Caster Sugar
- Cold Water
- Wash the oranges and drain. Cut into thin slices, discarding the two end pieces.
- In a wide, heavy based pan sprinkle some of the caster sugar across the base, and layer with sliced oranges.
- Repeat, layering the oranges so the all overlap each other, sprinkling them with sugar.
- Pour any remaining sugar on the top, then pour over enough cold water to just cover the oranges (don't worry if there are a few pieces poking out at the top).
- Cover tightly with foil and heat on low for an hour. (Reduce this time by 15 - 20 mins if your lowest setting is quite hot, as hobs vary quite a lot)
- Turn up the heat after an hour to a low medium, keeping the oranges covered (you may want to sneak a peak before doing this, to check they are all coated in syrup and give the pan a swirl - Do not stir!!)
- Keep over a low medium heat for about half an hour, do not let them boil or bubble hard.
- Then carefully remove the foil and keep on a medium heat and bubbling gently for a further 30mins, or until the oranges are opaque and the syrup is glossy and slightly golden.
- If your syrup is quite thin: Using a metal spatula, transfer each orange slice onto a large plate. turn the heat up a little under the syrup heat until gently bubbling, for about 10 minutes or so until it reduces a little and thickens, then gently re-coat the oranges in the thicker syrup.
- Place a sheet of baking paper onto two baking trays.
- Place them in the oven, and heat to 80'C, and bake/dry them for about 30 mins. Take them out, and turn them over (you may need fresh baking paper) and repeat for the other side.
- Once the oranges have a tacky sticky texture, and are not gloopy or wet, turn off the oven and leave the oranges to dry out overnight in there.
- Remove in the morning and store in an airtight container in the fridge - if they are sticky, dust them with a little caster sugar or line a tin with baking paper.
- These will keep for up to a month.