Catholic Recipe: Crystallized Primroses and Violets
- freshly picked, primroses and sweet-smelling violets
- egg white
- caster sugar*
- a child’s unused paint brush
Prep Time: 1 hour
Difficulty: • • • •
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The art of crystallizing edible flowers and leaves shared by Darina Allen.
*Caster sugar is finer than granulated sugar, but not the same as confectioner's sugar which contains cornstarch. To make your own caster sugar, add granulated sugar in the food processor and grind until a superfine consistency, but not powdered. The sugar may scratch the plastic of the processor, so another option is to use a spice grinder or coffee mill.
The art of crystallizing flowers simply takes patience and a meticulous nature – the sort of job that drives some people around the bend, but which others adore. If it appeals to you, the work will be well rewarded, as they look and taste divine and are perfect to embellish a celebration cake.
Properly done, they will last for months. We store ours in a pottery jar or a tin box interleaved with silicone paper.
We also crystallize lots of leaves as well as flowers so one can make attractive arrangements. Use fairly strong textured leaves – e.g. mint, lemon balm, lemon verbena, sweet cicely, wild strawberry, rose geranium, salad burnet or marguerite daisy leaves. Smaller flowers are more attractive when crystallized eg. primroses, violets, apple blossom, violas, rose petals...and of course they must be edible!
Your caster sugar needs to be absolutely dry, so for extra protection, sieve it onto a Swiss roll tin and place in the oven at 225°F for about 30 minutes. Break up the egg white slightly with a fork, but don’t beat it much; it doesn’t need to be fluffy. Using a clean paintbrush, brush the egg white very carefully and sparingly over each petal and into every crevice. Then gently pour some caster sugar over the violet so that every part is coated with a thin, sugary coating. Arrange the flower carefully on a greaseproof paper-lined tray, and continue with the remaining flowers. Allow to dry overnight in a warm dry place.Recipe Source: Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen, Kyle Books, 2009
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