Bringing Aromatics to the Dessert Table


As a lover of plants, a lover of art, and a total foodie (with a sometimes unfortunate sweet tooth!), making candied rose petals tops my “to make” list in the summer time. The processes is fairly simple, and the result is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the pallet. I can be easily excitable when it comes to this type of thing, it’s true, so I suppose it’s not surprising that making candied flowers and then adorning a homemade dessert with them brings me impressive measures of both exuberance and contentment. I’m also confident that I’m not the only one who’d well up with such joy in the throes of this fanciful yet simple treat, so I’m here to share the process with you.   

But first, a little culinary context for the use of these dainty, aromatic gems.

In the kitchen, my approach to summer is generally to prepare things simply and let their robust, seasonal flavors speak for themselves. I often accent with a single, fresh herb whose aromatic qualities elevate and inspire the dish. The same technique applies to sweet treats as applies to savory dishes.  Imagine sliced grilled peaches lightly brushed with vanilla or brandy, topped with a dollop of crème fraiche and a splash of Thai basil chiffonade:  simple, colorful, and incredibly flavorful!

Candied rose petals are particularly fun as an accent because they are a bit of a novelty, plus their delicate flavor and subtly crisp texture are unique.  Not to mention, rose is rose, an adored and mythic flower whose scent, and therefore flavor, is captivating and intoxicating (yet not overbearing).   You’ll light up as you work carefully with its petals in preparation, and your guests will feel particularly special and cared for when you present it atop their dessert.

Ready to make your own candied rose petals?  All you need are roses, egg whites, a small paintbrush and a bowl of sugar (I generally avoid refined sugar, but in this case white sugar gives the best visual effect).  As for the roses, freshly picked rosa rugosa, or beach rose, works great.  Long stemmed roses from the store work as well- in this case, look for non-sprayed, equal exchange.

Once you’ve gathered these, here’s what to do:

  • Pull the petals from your roses, taking care not to rip them in the process.  Dispose of any browning or wilting petals.
  • Paint a light coat of egg white on the entire surface of the petal.
  • Dip the painted rose petal into the bowl of sugar, turning to coat both sides.  I often take a pinch of sugar and sprinkle as well to ensure full and even coverage.
  • Lightly shake the rose petal over the bowl to avoid clumping and remove any excess sugar.
  • Place the petal on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Once you’ve completed all of the rose petals, put them in the fridge uncovered for 18-24 hours, until they are dried through and crispy.
  • Now put them to good use!

    The candied petals can be stored in a jar for nibbling or garnishing. My favorite way to use them is as a cake garnish or with fresh berries and whipped cream.  The rose petals are also great with ice cream. Try them atop berry ice cream with chocolate sauce, and whipped cream, with lemon sorbet and whipped cream or simply added to a bowl of your favorite vanilla ice cream.

    In this case, I made a barely sweetened (with maple) gluten-free corn cake slathered in mascarpone whipped cream and piled high with fresh blueberries.  It turned out to be a perfect complement of flavor, color and texture that elicited many smiles from the table of girlfriends it was devoured by.    

    Note that you can follow this same process for other herbs and flowers. Candied violets are a special delicacy in the spring. And candied rosemary is lovely atop lemon cake or ice cream. Think of these fanciful little treats as permission to get creative!

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