Everything’s better dipped in chocolate
I recently had an experience at a friend’s open studio that reminded me that the desire to create daring, exotic chocolate delicacies lies deep within the heart of a few of us chocolate lovers. We look for ways to use chocolate to create unusual desserts and tasty treats.
Liza Dalby, author of Geisha and Tale of Murasaki, had brought a plate of homemade delicacies to share. Liza’s years-long immersion into Japanese culture no doubt primed her for aesthetic food presentations. At first glance I wasn’t sure what they were. A closer look revealed colorful, chocolate-dipped orange peels…stunning squiggles on a green plate…a real taste-bud adventure.
Liza remembers them only as decorations on the table during the holidays. The combination of tart and sweet didn’t appeal to her as a child. But years later some friends brought some over, and she thought to herself, “What an intense little nibble!”
Her memory flashed back to those hand-dipped, homemade, tart treats from her childhood…and she knew she had to recreate them. And let’s face it — dipping almost anything in chocolate makes it fabulous!
Citrus rinds by themselves are usually used for punctuation — like the “twist” on a cocktail or the “zest” in orange bread. Pairing a pomelo or orange rind with chocolate is something that would only occur to a daring few. But boil them in a sugar syrup, and the bitterness that we associate with these colorful outer skins fades away, leaving a tangy sweetness which, when dipped in dark chocolate, exposes the taste-buds to a heavenly experience.
Liza shared her recipe with me, chuckling that I had asked her for it rather than either of her two “foodie” daughters who typically hold the limelight in the kitchen.
Chocolate-Dipped Orange Peels
2. Meanwhile cut 4 navel oranges nose and tail; then cut into quarters and remove orange meat; cut rind into strips.
4. Cook 5-10 minutes, strain, and discard water.
5. Put boiled rinds into the bubbling syrup.
6. Cook 15-20 minutes; remove rinds and put into a Ziplock bag with sugar, mango powder, ginger, and rosemary; and shake well. [NOTE: We made several spice variations as well, such as cinnamon & cardamom, lavender, ginger & mace, and clove & allspice.]
[VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: If you plan to give your chocolate-dipped orange slices as gifts or serve them to others, you must temper your chocolate as you heat it. Otherwise, the cooled chocolate will develop “bloom,” white-ish markings that resemble blooming flowers, but are not as attractive as they sound. Tempering the chocolate will make it nice and shiny.]
Whoever thought of dipping sweetened citrus rinds in chocolate had to have been a culinary dare devil. But the combination — like pepper and strawberries — is oddly pleasing and worth a try.
Chocolate transcends all worlds. My work in the world of arts management is certainly not exempt, and I consider chocolate a saving grace when the going gets tough. There could be no greater joy for me than seeking out, tasting, and reviewing chocolate with my tai chi friends -- and sharing our discoveries!