Have you ever cooked with angelica? Most people haven’t, heck, most people haven’t even heard of the stuff. It’s available though, especially if you garden. More likely is that you’ve seen it sold via fancy French food companies. If you’re a food nerd like me, the first thing you may have thought of is: how do I candy angelica? It took me a while to figure it out, but it’s pretty easy. Essentially it’s the same multi-stage candying technique attributed to the French that you can use for candying plums to chestnuts, and just about anything else.
Just one decent sized angelica plant will give you enough stem to eat up a couple hours of your time preparing this, but after a single taste of the finished product, I never thought twice about dedicating some time to it.
At the Salt Cellar, I serve this by itself after a meal occasionally as it’s a great conversation piece to speak with diners about, but the crystalline shards cut from the candied stem make a beautiful garnish too. My favorite is when I have a dessert that’s fruit based and contains some soft component, like a mousse or buttercream for the shards and leaves to be stuck in so they stand on their own.
If the stem wasn’t cool enough, the leaves can also be candied.The flavor of the leaves is nothing as strong as the stem, but the signature flavor of angelica is still there, just slightly more vegetal. The leaves make a nice garnish stuck in a soft something, like a cake, mousse, etc.
When do you harvest angelica stems for candying?
There are a couple ways you could candy angelica, but there is only one time of the year you can pick it to candy the stems: when they’re young and tender. Angelica gets really woody and firm as the plant begins it’s reproductive cycle and makes it’s flower stalk, so I generally try to get them a month or so after they’ve started to come out of the ground. Don’t get me wrong, you want to pick stalks large enough to get a good yield, but they need to be tender after blanching and peeling.
Proper storage is key
Candying angelica can be a bit of a labor and time sink, especially you’re first time, so you need to know how to store it properly. Kept outside refrigeration, angelica will slowly lose it’s soul, and eventually, will taste like nothing at all. Kept cool in a dry, tightly-sealed container in the fridge, it will keep it’s other-worldy perfume for months to come. Vacuum sealing and refrigerating candied stems is the most dependable way to keep angelica’s aroma.
After you cook the stem pieces in sugar syrup, you have two choices: leave them as is in the syrup, or roll them in sugar and dry. Generally what you see in stores or online will be dried, and it’s what I usually make, too.
- Young angelica stems, trimmed of leaves, as needed
- Sugar and water, equal parts by volume, (for example 2 cups water, 2 cups sugar)
- Extra granulated white sugar, as needed for coating the cooked, peeled stems
Cut the stems into 3-4 inch lengths. Blanch the stems in simmering water for 15 seconds, just enough to wilt and loosen the stems. Remove the stems. When the stems are cool enough to handle, peel carefully with a paring knife. Bring the sugar-water mixture to a boil, then pour over the angelica stems in a bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film and chill for at least 12 hours. Repeat this process 2 more times, then remove the stems and blot dry completely. Dry the stems in a dehydrator on the lowest temp setting, then toss with sugar and refrigerate until needed in a tightly sealed container, preferably glass or in a vacuum sealed package.
Candied Angelica Leaves
Older angelica leaves needs to be blanched to tame some of their flavor and tenderize them. If your leaves are young and soft you can skip the blanching and just dip them in the meringue slurry I describe below. Some poeple find the leaves an acquired taste, and they are. Use only small, tender leaves, and in moderation.
- 2 egg whites
- 1 tablespoons cool water
- Roughly 1 ounce attractive leaves of angelica, the younger the better, washed and dried
- 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
Bring some water to a boil, then blanch the angelica leaves just until wilted, about 10 seconds, then remove the leaves to an ice bath. Remove the leaves and dry. Whisk the egg white with the sugar until fluffy and doubled in volume. Using a pastry brush, coat the leaves with the mixture and lay them out on a nonstick silpat and dry with a fan blowing on them or put them in a dehydrator. If you’re using a dehydrator, make sure to spray the trays with nonstick pan spray or something similar since the leaves get brittle as they dry.