Are you sitting, people? My first ever feature post.
please be kind.
SO, here we go!
combined here are two of my favorite things: sweets and gardening. i've always been curious about candied edible flowers and how they're made. i can't say i've done extensive research, but i'll share what i know so far.
nasturtiums are absolutely one of my fave flowers. in order for a flower to qualify as a favorite, i must love the look of the leaf as much as the flower, since the blooms aren't always around, but the leaves are. and the nasturtium has the prettiest lilypad-like leaves. LOVE.
cocktail party trivia: did you know that nasturtiums are often planted in vegetable gardens because they attract aphids and other pests away from the vegetables?
AND nasturtiums are edible! the leaves are also edible and great added to salads. they have a peppery, mustard-y taste.
how can the nasturtium not be a favorite with all these plusses??
the nasturtiums i plant from seed every spring are still going strong, and a big rain was forecast the next day, so i decided i'd finally try to preserve them with sugar. traditionally this is done using egg whites, but i thought i'd also try meringue powder so they're absolutely safe.
enter (a not so controlled) experiment with two test groups:
1. the egg white group
2. the meringue powder group
then the research phase abruptly ended because i was too excited to start. what can i say? sometimes i lack discipline.
i went out to the garden with my shears and snipped 12 blossoms. i kept about ½" of stem, thinking that may help me handle them better when they're wet.
NOTE: later, during the candying process, i realized it's best to select younger blooms that are not quite completely open because they're sturdier and will hold up better to the process. i found that fully open blooms were more fragile.
i didn't think to take many photos of the process. ok, i lied....i did. But, i was so darn impatient to see if this would actually work. and my fingers were extremely slimy. and my phone was charging.
So, all i have for you is the above really bad screenshot of a really really bad insta story video.
• sheet pan with a silicone mat. i use Silpat. you can also use parchment or waxed paper,
• a food-safe, super-soft paintbrush
• 1-2 dozen freshly-picked, edible pesticide-free flowers
• granulated sugar. superfine, if you have it. (i didn't...)
egg white solution:
• one egg white, room temperature
• 1 tsp water, room temperature
meringue powder solution:
• 1 tsp meringue powder. i use Wilton.
• 1 tbsp water, room temperature
1. mix up the solution of your choice.
2. paint a thin layer of the solution on all sides of the blossom. i will say here that this wasn't easy, so out of frustration, i dipped the blossoms into the solution, and gently shook off the excess. this seems to have worked, but caused more delicate petals to collapse. Noelle Carter recommends using a spray bottle, which i plan to try next time.
3. sprinkle all sides of the flower completely with sugar.
4. place on the prepared sheet pan to dry for 1-2 days, until hardened.
5. gently turn them over after 24 hours, so the backside can dry completely.
6. once dry, i snipped off the stems and long pointy tails at the back of the flowers to give a neater appearance. not necessary, though.
7. use as edible decorations!
8. store any leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature, in a cool dark place.
results and observations:
flavor: totally delicious! the peppery taste of the flower combined with the sweet crunchy sugar. YUM.
texture: the egg white solution hardened up more—and was therefore sturdier—than the meringue powder solution. but they both worked just fine and had a nice snappy texture. so if there are any food safety concerns, go for the meringue powder option.
color: the bright orange flower color faded the most. it turned a rust color (see pics), which is pretty in its own way, but certainly not the electric orange nasturtium we know and love. the yellow and peach-colored flowers retained their original hues much better. Noelle Carter recommends adding food color to the sugar to help pump up the resulting color. i may try that next, although i'd like to see how long the natural color lasts on its own.
it's only been a day that they're dry, so now i plan to observe how they do over time in terms of color, texture, and taste. unless they get eaten too soon!
So, please ask any questions...and do let me know if you give it a whirl!
recovering apparel designer turned cookie designer.