Mum always starts early on her Christmas baking; plum puddings, shortbread and rich fruit cakes might be made from about July onwards, so bags of candied orange peel, used also in her Genova cake and other regulars, can generally be found in her pantry year round. Being a lover of such sweet sticky delights I know just which old tin to open, digging my hand in around amongst fat raisins and sultanas to find the citrusy cubes of orange peel. In Italy fruit and nut vendors sell lovely canditi in large whole pieces, ready to be cut and added to a plethora of festive treats. This year I have decided to make my own, in that waste not want not way I have conserved thick substantial and untreated orange rinds from the breakfast juicing, carefully peeling out the inner pith and cutting off some of the rind, then following the somewhat laborious ritual of boiling and reboiling the rind in water to release the bitterness before cooking them in sugar syrup.
The home made orange peel came out quite well, and on a blog called Non Solo Piccante I found a recipe for these mishapen and slightly rock like little biscuits called Cavallucci di Siena, spicy, packed with candied orange and walnuts and served at Christmas time. I also used the canditi to make Panforte, but that’s another story.If you feel like the going through the very worthwhile rigmarole of the home candied peel I think my friend Rachel’s description of how to do it is very good.
Cavallucci di Siena, adapted from the recipe from Non Solo Piccante
Makes 20 + biscuits
300g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
40 mixed peel, orange or otherwise
100 g roughly chopped and lightly toasted walnuts
Zest of half an orange
15 g aniseed seeds (didn’t have any so left these out)
40 g honey
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1 heaped tsp ground cloves
200 g caster sugar
100 ml water
In a large bowl combine the flour, spices, chopped nuts and mixed peel and pinch of salt.
Make a light sugar syrup by dissolving the sugar in water and cooking for a while. Keep the liquid clear, don’t let it caramelize. Let the sugar syrup cool a little and add the honey and stir well.
Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in syrup, mixing well so that the mixture amalgamates well. The mixture should have the consistency of shortcrust pastry, if it is too soft add more flour. Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface and knead it a little, then cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
Roll the pastry out into long sausages and chop into pieces roughly 3 x 3 cm. Roll into rough balls and lay on a being sheet lined with baking paper.
Bake in a 150/160 C oven for 10 – 15 minutes. They will not brown much, don’t overcook in the hope that they will. Dust with a little icing sugar to serve.