Feb 9 2015

Suger Plate – Flowers in Candy

“Sugar Candy with Flowers” won the poll last week. Unsurprisingly, I was quite excited to try this twist on traditional candy. Flowers in candy, what could be cooler?

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It called for two unusual ingredients – rose water and flowers.

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Rose water is tricky, but not impossible, to find. Middle Eastern and north African markets will carry it, as it is a staple of southern and eastern Mediterranean cooking. If you have a large international foods section at your local grocery store, it can be found there (you might need to ask customer service where it is, though, so you don’t spend half an hour staring at shelves). I found mine at Whole Foods; I had to ask someone where to find it, but to his credit, he knew immediately where it was.

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Flowers are quite a bit trickier if you do not have your own (pesticide-free) garden! I live in a high-rise and it’s mid-winter, so there are basically zero flowers available to me. I asked the florist in the Whole Foods if their flowers were safe for consumption (I had thought to buy a couple of roses and use those petals). She said no, but they did sell edible flowers. She led me over to the fresh herbs part of the produce section, where a lovely little package of edible flowers was hanging out.

The Process

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Mixing the sugar and rose water together until reasonably well blended. I began to heat the mixture. My apartment already smelled amazing.

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Hotter and hotter! Keep a very close eye on the thermometer; it’s not far from “hard crack” to “caramelization.”

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I definitely played it close to that edge. DO NOT STIR THE MIXTURE AT ALL. Hard crack stage is really fickle and finicky and stirring will basically mess up your candy. I quickly removed the pot the second it hit 305ºF (~151ºC) and set it in a large pan of ice water to stop the heating process.

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I then mixed in the flower petals. I probably could have used half the package instead of all of it, but what was I going to do with half a package of flowers? (The answer should have been “try the recipe again when you inevitably mess it up.)

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The instructions say to pour it onto a lightly floured (with rice flour) marble cutting board. I don’t have a marble cutting board, so I poured it onto a well-floured regular cutting board – missing the instruction to oil the cutting board before flouring. This was a big mistake.

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Unaware that I had messed up, I tried to cut the candy. It did not cut well. I was able to chip some pieces off of it. I tried everything I could to fix it – I put the whole thing in the freezer in the hopes I could break it apart. I tried reheating it a bit from the backside. Nothing worked.

I sadly ate some of the (very tasty) chipped candy pieces I’d managed to break off. They tasted like sugar candy with a bit of rose flavoring, which I found to be very lovely.

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I eventually realized the only way to get the candy off my cutting board was going to be to pour boiling water over it. It took far too long. There was really no hope of getting it off the cutting board in tiny, shattered pieces, let alone whole lozenges.

Final Thoughts

I want to try this recipe again with a few changes. If I were to use a cutting board again, I’d definitely actually oil it. I would also use a flexible cutting board so that if it did end up getting set into the plastic I could at least easily bend it to free the candy, even if it is a bit clumsy.

I think I’d like to try this where I don’t mix the flowers into the pot, where they tend to clump up. Instead, I’d use one of my silicone ice cube/baking trays. I have some deep square ones. I could pour until they’re about 1/3 full and quickly drop a single flower into each one. Silicone trays aren’t properly medieval, I know, but this site is about keeping the recipes as authentic as possible while still updating them for a modern palate… and modern cooking sensibilities. I’ve used a food processor before, rather than my mortar and pestle. This falls into the same category for me.

A quick search of the internet indicates using the silicone molds would work just fine, although several sites recommend using a glass measuring cup (with a spout) to pour the candy mixture into the molds, which makes sense to me (if the candy mix gets too hard in the cup, you can pop it in the microwave for 5-7 seconds to reheat it a bit – something you couldn’t do with your pans!)

Cleanup isn’t too bad – as with any candy mix, you just have to boil water in the pot to clean it up.

The Recipe

from Pleyn Delit, recipe 134

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 oz rosewater
  • optional: red food coloring or edible flower petals (not both!)

Other items:

  • marble stone or well-oiled cutting board
  • rice flour
  • candy thermometer
  • silicone molds (optional)

Mix sugar and water together. Add 2-3 drops of food coloring if you’re going that route. Bring to a boil. If crystals form on the side of the pan, you can use a pastry brush dipped in cold water to move them back down into the mixture. Boil without stirring until it reaches the hard-crack stage (~300ºF/150ºC). Immediately immerse pot in cold water to stop the heating process.

The original recipe calls to add the flowers at this point. You might want to follow my caveats above with regards to how they clump up and how it might work better in silicone molds. 

Pour onto lightly rice-floured marble stone or well-oiled and lightly rice-floured cutting board. Wait five minutes, then cut into diamond shapes with a knife dipped in ice water. Leave another few minutes until hard, then remove from cutting board and break into individual lozenges.

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