food: making crystalized flowers

There was a small article in Victoria magazine this month about a company who makes crystalized flowers to put atop wedding cakes and for special celebrations like that, and since I am tentatively planning a garden party for the little kids before the big kids are out of school, I thought I would try my hand at making some.

I used the recipe at wikihow, but it’s pretty straightforward and no tips. So allow me to add some tips.

Gather up your pretty flowers NOW, and prepare to work in small batches (unless you have a HUGE garden), because most of the flowers have some element to mar their perfection. Here is a photo of my average bunch of violas. From which I can extract two or three perfect flowers.

To start, you need superfine sugar. I have never even looked for this in the grocery store, so I don’t know if it is hard to find. I used my mini food processor, good for chopping about a cup and a half of anything. Pulse a half cup of regular granulated sugar for about half a minute, and it becomes superfine sugar. I didn’t notice it becoming much smaller, but it did seem shinier.

Tip: when it comes time to dip the flower in the sugar, just put a fine layer on a plate and don’t use all that you’ve pulsed. That way you can tip the leftover back into the sugar jar, instead of wondering if you’ve spoiled it all in a bowl like I did.

I did not wash my flowers, because I thought they might wilt. I guess I could have tested it with one, but wasn’t overly concerned.

Separate the yolk from one egg white, discard the yolk or use in something else. Whip up the white with a few drops of water. Next time I will try slightly more than a few drops, and will whip until frothy. My egg white remained much too viscous, and clung too thickly to my flower, or did not cling at all. Dip your whole flower into the bowl of egg white, shake off the excess, and then dip the flower front and back into your superfine sugar. Lay the flower onto a sheet of waxed paper to dry. Voile!

The alternative to dipping each flower, is to paint each with egg white using a paint brush. I found my fluid too thick to cling to a brush and then be passed on to the flower (this is why I think I need a little more water, and a frothy mixing). But next time, I don’t think I would dip at all, except for flowers with a lot of crevasses like those lilacs.  The mint leaves worked fine dipping, for some reason, although you can see the sugar looks gloppy (photo above).

Here are a few flowers after drying overnight. You can see I had not entirely coated the petals, and these shrank and wilted and didn’t work at all.

For my effort, I produced one perfect flower. I am sure I painted this one, and did not dip it.

So pretty for a cupcake or sugar cookie, right?

The mint worked okay, and the lilac is passable although unpaletteable — much too bitter, even with the sugar. Pretty on top of a wedding cake, though!

Gloppy, like I said, but passable.

Tip: do your own research into edible flowers, and remember that people on the internet do lie. And that people use other people on the internet as their only source.

I am left wondering whether the egg yolk is free of E. coli germs, or whichever one of those things raw eggs pass on. Do the germs die when the egg white dries out? I don’t know.  

I would make several batches of these flowers well in advance of an event (garden party, family reunion, bachelorette party). They are quick, but the failure rate is pretty high at first. Why not go and give these a practice whirl right now???

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