Tuesday, May 20, 2014
In this year's second installment of preserved flowers: candied lilac blossoms. I never realized you could candy lilacs; honestly, I always thought they were poisonous! But then I saw Chelsea's post about infusing drinking water with lilac blossoms, and that got me thinking. A little digging turned up plenty of recipes for candied lilacs - and the process was the same as one uses to candy other flower blossoms or petals: a dip in egg, and a dip in sugar, then allow to dry.
A few tips for the lilacs:
I did go out and buy dried egg whites to make these. Dried egg whites will be a bit less gelatinous when you mix them up, and that's ideal when coating delicate flower blossoms - you just want the thinnest coating of egg white. I also read that using dried egg whites eliminates any risk of salmonella, so that's a nice bonus. I found a little tub of powdered egg white at the home cake decorating store near my house for $13; it was a bit more than I'd been expecting, but oh well!
I also made superfine sugar for this, by running regular sugar through my coffee grinder for a few seconds. I think this step is important, too: just like the powdered egg whites, finer sugar means you can get a smoother coating of the blossoms (so that the shape and color of the blossoms won't be overwhelmed by a coating of thick crystals).
Otherwise, it's very simple to candy lilacs, though it's time consuming (I must have spent about 7 hours candying two and a half pans of lilacs over two days): rinse and pat your blossoms dry and remove blossoms from the stems/bunches. Using a pair of clean tweezers, dunk a lilac bloom into lightly beaten egg white (or reconstituted powdered egg whites). Tap the blossom lightly on a paper towel, twice, to remove excess egg white. Next, tap your blossom (face down) into a bowl of superfine sugar 3 or 4 times. Sprinkle sugar over the back of the bloom, then pick it up again (still using your tweezers). Tap your tweezers against the side of the bowl about three times, with some pressure, to shake excess sugar loose from the bloom. Place on a tray or pan lined with paper towels, face down, to dry overnight. A heavier coating of egg white will require an extra day to dry.
Once dry, carefully remove the blooms from the paper towel - they may stick a bit; gently work them loose, being careful not to break the petals (if you do break one, you must eat it! Darn!). Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place (exposing the blooms to light will cause their fragrance to fade faster). They will last for some months, though the scent and flavor will fade over time - so, ideally, use them soon after making them!
How do they taste? They taste just like lilacs smell. It's marvelous! Cass says they taste a bit like peeps, with a floral finish. (I've never had one of those marshmallowy treats, so I can't vouch for this, but two of our friends exclaimed he was right, so there might be something to that observation!) They're delightful, and delicate. Imagine them sprinkled over a cake with other flowers - or cupcakes, or floating atop a floral cocktail, or garnishing a panna cotta (this is what I want to do with them!). =)