Every family has its own special holiday traditions. Those rituals that bind us together during this festive season, whether trimming the tree with a collection of special ornaments gathered over the years, reading holiday stories while nestled in flannel sheets, or cooking cherished family specialties to share with family and friends. Maybe it's the excitement children feel putting out their shoes for Los Reyes, or the family 'asador' putting on an unbeatable grill-fest.
Whether in the sizzling heat of the southern hemisphere's summer or the bone cold frost of the northern winter, the season brings us closer together, and wherever and whenever we gather, we are bound to break bread.
This is the first holiday season that our son, Esteban, almost five, is really 'into' Christmas. So as we get into the rhythm of having a new addition to the family, I've been trying to solidify those favorite traditions from last year, to create the holiday memories that will be with them a lifetime.
Eating Pan Dulce (aka Panettone) is one of the traditions we most enjoy and hope to pass on--nothing says holiday to me like the smell of fresh pan dulce in the oven, its yeasty, sweet smell mingling with the orange and lemon peel studding the bread. Cutting into one on Christmas morning is a special treat, a gift of its own. The first piece is eaten with a cup of coffee, as we sit bleary-eyed, around the tree opening gifts.
This year, I decided to make my own candied orange and lemon peel for the pan dulce--a simple recipe that can be made up to two months in advance if you're one of those uber-organized folks, or the day before you make the pan dulce if you're not. The flavor is much better in the DIY peel than the store-bought version, plus free of the preservatives and what have you that we would rather avoid.
Candied peel makes a wonderful homemade holiday gift, and can be dipped in dark chocolate, too. It would be a great hostess gift, along with a tag attached with the recipe for pan dulce on it. Pan Dulce is sure to become one of your family's treasured holiday favorites, and even more so with the addition of your own handmade candied peel!
Candied Orange and Lemon Peel
Cáscara de Naranja y Limón Azucarada
This recipe makes enough for 2 panettone, about a cup each of orange and lemon rind, but this recipe is easily doubled or halved as needed. I combined lemon and orange for convenience sake, but they can be made separately if that is your preference. The peel can be made up to 2 months in advance and stored in the freezer, or can be made one week in advance and stored in the refrigerator. For the pan dulce, simply chop the strips of candied rind into small pieces.
3 cups water
4 cups sugar
Using a sharp knife, cut off the ends of each lemon and orange. Score the rind of the fruit in quarters, slicing just through the rind and not into the fruit. Peel off the quarters of rind carefully, then slice into strips about 1/4 inch wide. Put all the peel into a medium sized saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and boil for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the water and replace it with fresh water, and bring to a boil again. Repeat this blanching process two more times to remove any bitterness from the peel. (A total of 3 times.) Drain the water and reserve the peel.
In the same saucepan, combine the water and 3 cups of the sugar and heat over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add in the rind into the sugar and water mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer until the rind is translucent, about 45 minutes. Drain the rind, reserving the simple syrup, if desired, as a citrus simple syrup for cocktails and such.
Remove the rind and spread out evenly on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the remaining sugar. Turn the rind over and sprinkle with the other 1/2 cup of sugar. To dry, either leave the rind in a cool, dry place in the kitchen overnight or bake for one to two hours in a 200 degree oven (checking frequently to be sure that the rind is not cooking, but just drying out).