My sister-in-law is a new vegan.
I had a moment of disquiet about this over Thanksgiving, saying to her, “But what are we going to do about mashed potatoes?” We sub-divided them, of course, which was perfectly sensible. But my next question was even more important: what about dessert?!?!?! Thanksgiving without pie? Really? She made a vegan avocado and graham-cracker-crust pie, which we politely nibbled before going back to giant slabs of butter-drenched apple pie and whipped-cream-slathered pumpkin pie. But then she brought out an after-the-feast vegan tea-time treat that blew me right out of the water: Chocolate dipped candied orange peels. They were fragrant and chocolatey, delicately chewy and generally amazing. They make a very good, if labor intensive, cookie substitute for the gluten- and butter-challenged. For the best results use thinner skinned oranges, like Florida juice oranges, rather than thick skinned navel oranges. In fact, Debbie made them from my father-in-law’s after-juice refuse, very cool. Kind of like composting, but much tastier.
RECIPE: Chocolate Dipped Candied Orange Peels
3 to 4 oranges, cut in quarters
½ cup sugar
4 ounces dark chocolate chips
1. Cut the orange away from the peel and use it for something else. Trim the white part off of the peel with a very sharp paring knife.
2. Cut each quarter-orange peel into four strips, so that for one piece of fruit, you end up with 16 strips of orange peel.
3. Lay each strip flat on a cutting board and use your paring knife to scrape off as much of the remaining white pith as you can without ripping the strip apart. This is a good time to practice patient mindfulness. Not my strong point.
4. Once the strips of orange peel are thoroughly scraped, put them in a small sauce pan and cover them with water. Bring them to a boil for five minutes. Drain the peels in a strainer. Do it two more times. Boiling them in clean water three times makes the peels softer and gets rid of any bitterness.
5. Place ½ cup water and ½ cup sugar in the saucepan and stir to dissolve. Add the drained, thrice-boiled peels and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the water evaporates but the sugar does not yet caramelize. Remove from heat.
6.Lay the sugar-coated hot peels out flat on a piece of parchment paper or non-stick aluminum foil. Place them so they don’t touch each other. I found chop sticks to be the right tool to use to place them on the parchment paper. Allow them to cool completely.
7. In a small bowl, melt around 4 ounces of chocolate chips in the microwave. I did this by zapping them on high power for 30 seconds, stirring and repeating twice until they were completely melted.
8. Dip each piece of candied peel in the melted chocolate so that it is covered except for the end you hold for dipping. Lay them back out on the parchment and allow them to cool and harden. Store in an air tight container for up to two weeks- enjoy!