Saturday, June 27, 2009

Candied Things

The Altitude Adjustment Section
Candied things are fun to make and a great garnish for sweets. In the winter, I make candied grapefruit and other citrus fruit peels. I have also done candied rose petals as a cupcake garnish. But I wanted to try candied mint leaves and then I remembered my pal Quinn told me a chef he knew used to use candied cilantro leaves so I went to one of my favorite cookbooks, Better than Store-Bought, and of course the process was in the book. It’s super simple, but the technique requires patience and waiting. That’s usually my problem.

Freshly picked mint leaves (or large cilantro or sage leaves)
1 room temperature egg white
few drops of water as needed
extra fine granulated sugar (which you can make in your food processor)

Pull or clip leaves from their stalk, leaving if possible a short stem on each leaf. It's best to use your garden mint, ideally gathered several hours a rain shower so it is clean but dry. With a fork, beat the egg white till it is spreadable, that’s where the drops of water come in. You don’t want it too viscous. Have at hand a plate on which to paint the leaves, a plate of extra fine sugar, a cake rack covered with wax paper for the drying process, and a pair of tweezers to move stuff around. Using a small paint brush, Cover every surface of the leaf with a thin layer of egg white and then lay it on the sugar and then sprinkle more sugar on top. Now pick up carefully with your tweezers and move to the wax paper covered cookie rack for drying. Set the rack of leaves in a warm dry place, like your oven if it’s heated with a pilot light. When the leaves are superficially dry, they will still be moist inside, transfer them to an uncovered rack and let them continue to dry until no moisture shows up when you crack open a leaf. This will take several days, grasshopper. Store dried leaves separated with wax paper in a cardboard box and they will keep for several months. The process is exactly the same for cilantro or sage leaves.