Homemade Mixed Peel

Homemade Mixed Peel is so much more flavourful than supermarket bought. It isn’t as bitter and has a more fully rounded flavour that captures the essence of citrus season.

Homemade Mixed Peel

Until recently I didn’t use a lot of mixed peel in my baking. Instead if a recipe called for it I simply swapped in the zest of an orange and lemon or perhaps even a tablespoon of marmalade. That’s because mixed peel is one of the ingredients that Luke abhors. He can taste it a mile away so it has been useless to hide it within my fruit cakes as he would simply reject it upon first bite. He also knows which bakery adds mixed peel to their Eccles Cakes, his favourite treat, and takes his custom elsewhere. So mixed peel had been relegated from all baking in our household and substitutions relied upon instead.

Homemade Mixed Peel

What Is Mixed Peel?

Mixed peel is one of those ingredients that is featured in a lot of British baking, from traditional fruit cakes like Dundee Cake or Christmas Cake to tea time fare like the aforementioned Eccles Cakes or Hot Cross Buns. Mixed peel is basically candied lemon and orange peel. Eighteenth century bakers knew that the most intense flavour of any citrus fruit is derived from the peel. So intent on capturing as much flavour as possible in their recipes and mindful of preserving since fresh fruit was scarce, the peel was candied, dried and stored until needed. These traditional recipes are now the backbone of British baking so mixed peel has been handed down to us in our grandmothers’ and great great grandmothers’ recipes often when dried fruit is called for.

Homemade Mixed Peel

Earlier this month I was recipe testing one of my Auntie Lil’s classic cakes, She was a bit of a baker and her Vinegar Cake, which was her traditional everyday fruit cake, was legendary. I have had the recipe tucked into my recipe file for years now and recently I have been attempting to recreate an authentic gluten-free version of her renowned cake. Auntie Lil’s recipe, like a lot of traditional fruit cakes, calls upon mixed peel as an ingredient. Since I wanted a result as near as the cake she baked for her young family I dutifully added mixed peel from the supermarket along with the other dried fruit it asked for. At first bite I couldn’t work out why the cake tasted so horribly bitter, there was almost a sourness that butted up against the soft plump sultanas and raisins which was distinctly and acidically unpleasant. It soon became apparent that in my enforced abstinence from mixed peel I too had developed a dislike for it.

Homemade Mixed Peel

But how could that be? I love citrus, I love the brightness of intense lemon and orange peel. There should be no reason why mixed peel doesn’t appeal to me too. But the supermarket stuff, when tasted by itself is just not that nice. So I set about making my own. And since I now had dominion over the mixed peel I added grapefruit peel as well to add a third dimension of citrus to the proceedings.

Homemade Mixed Peel

Homemade Mixed Peel

Homemade Mixed Peel

Homemade Mixed Peel

Much like my Homemade Glacé Cherries, when you make it yourself there is absolutely no comparison to the shop bought stuff. You could eat Homemade Mixed Peel by the spoonful. In fact since I made so much Cole and I have been dipping our hands into the jar and taking out small sticky handfuls at snack time as a little treat. Making Homemade Mixed Peel is a labour of love and requires about a week of soaking it in a sugar syrup, draining it from the liquid, boiling the sugar syrup down and re-soaking the peel multiple times. Although the really trying time comes after the mixed peel has been drained of the sugar syrup and then needs to dry in a sterile environment for about a week. I dried mine in my switched off oven but since I use my oven almost every day it has required a lot of patience not to bottle the peel earlier just to get it out of the way. I definitely need to invest in a dehydrator for this purpose. When I do I’ll make the recipe again and let you know how it goes.

Homemade Mixed Peel

Suffice to say that when it came time to recipe testing Auntie Lil’s Vinegar Cake with the Homemade Mixed Peel the results were pretty on the money. Gone was the nasty bitterness, instead the lovely fragrance of sharp citrus permeated the cake and sat comfortably alongside the rest of the ingredients. The recipe has been a triumph and I’ll be sharing it soon, so stay tuned. And as for Luke, he has conceded that if I were to start using Homemade Mixed Peel in my baking then that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Thumbs up indeed.

Homemade Mixed Peel

In the meantime if you are making this Homemade Mixed Peel you will find you have two delicious extra kitchen ingredients leftover from the recipe. You will have copious amounts of citrus flesh from the beginning step once you have peeled the fruit, and also the most beautiful citrus sugar syrup from the end step once you have drained the peel away from its soaking syrup. Do not throw either away. I’ll be posting a recipe for my Triple Citrus Shrub in the next few days to use up that citrus flesh and I’m working on a compendium of recipes to make the most of that delicious citrus sugar syrup which I’ll be sharing soon.

Homemade Mixed Peel

Print Recipe
Homemade Mixed Peel
Homemade Mixed Peel is so much more flavourful than supermarket bought. It isn’t as bitter and has a more fully rounded flavour that captures the essence of citrus season.
Homemade Mixed Peel
Prep Time 1.5 hours
Cook Time 20 minutes
Passive Time 14 days
Servings
800g
Ingredients
  • 4 organic oranges unwaxed if available
  • 4 organic lemons unwaxed if available
  • 1 organic grapefruit unwaxed if available
  • 2300 ml cold water
  • 1350 g granulated sugar
Prep Time 1.5 hours
Cook Time 20 minutes
Passive Time 14 days
Servings
800g
Ingredients
  • 4 organic oranges unwaxed if available
  • 4 organic lemons unwaxed if available
  • 1 organic grapefruit unwaxed if available
  • 2300 ml cold water
  • 1350 g granulated sugar
Homemade Mixed Peel
Instructions
Day 1
  1. If your fruit is waxed then you will need to wash off the wax from the skin of the fruit first by giving it a light scrub. Cut the oranges, lemons and grapefruit into quarters then with very sharp knife remove the skin from the pith and the flesh.
  2. Cut the peel lengthways again. You might need to cut the lemon peel once, the orange peel twice more and the grapefruit peel three times more to get even sized pieces. Then cut widthways into short thin strips.
  3. Weigh the peel, you should have around 450g.
  4. Place the peel into a stainless steel saucepan with the cold water then bring to the boil. Turn the heat low and simmer for 1 hour.
  5. Remove from the heat and set a sieve over a large bowl. Pour the contents of the saucepan through the sieve, set aside the peel for one moment and weigh out the cooking water.
  6. Pour 1140ml of the cooking water back into the saucepan with 900g of the sugar. If you don’t have enough cooking water then just top up with tap water. Bring the sugar and water to a gentle boil and simmer for 10 minutes until the sugar has dissolved.
  7. Pour the sugar syrup over the peel, cover and leave the peel to soak for 24 hours.
Day 2
  1. Strain the syrup into a large saucepan and return the peel to the bowl.
  2. Add the remaining 450g of sugar to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer for a couple of minutes making sure the sugar has completely dissolved.
  3. Pour the syrup back over the peel, cover and leave for another 24 hours.
Day 3
  1. Pour the peel and syrup into a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer for 30 minutes.
  2. Pour everything back into the bowl, cover and leave the peel to soak for four final days.
Day 7
  1. Drain the fruit, place on a fine wire rack and leave in a sterile dry place until no longer sticky, such as a turned-off oven. Although leave a note on the oven that it is not to be used. The mixed peel can take as long as seven days to completely dry. The best way to store the mixed peel afterwards is in sterilised glass jars and should keep for at least a couple of months.
Recipe Notes

Recipe adapted from the Reader's Digest 'The Cook's Scrapbook' Ed. John Palmer

Have you tried Homemade Glacé Cherries yet?

Homemade Glacé Cherries

Picnic Slice

Picnic Slice basically lives up to its name, a perfectly portable treat to slip into your picnic basket for days out. Naturally gluten-free by eschewing all flour and focusing on its coconut macaroon-like tendencies, these are light, packed with fruit and nuts and covered in plenty of chocolate.

Stack of Picnic Slices on a chopping board on a wooden table

When the weather is good, the inclination to picnic is ever so tempting. I have romantic notions of a tartan rug strewn politely across lush grass, an iced bucket housing a chilling fizz, bountiful strawberries, an array of carefully curated salads fresh with herbs and leaves. Perhaps a roasted chicken takes centre stage, with carefully carved slices fanned out on delicate china. I might have been influenced by a little too much Merchant Ivory.

Picnic Slice on a chopping board

The reality of picnics of course, especially in the UK, is laughably different. First off, if you are not dissuaded by the ominous clouds which will no doubt appear as soon as the magic words of picnic are uttered then really you’ve won half the battle. But there are also other little reminders of reality that can dispel your dreamy idyll.

• The rug is always forgotten, meaning a damp bum is inevitable.
• Picnic tables are a much better bet but if you find a free one on a particularly sunny day then it’s probably because it’s covered in bird poo.
• Cutlery always seems an afterthought, I usually end up eating my picnic with Cole’s plastic spoons having been unable to cobble together anything more civilised for the adults.
• There are no highchairs so toddlers are fully able to leap down off picnic benches without eating anything more than a chocolate biscuit and run off to chase the nearest squirrel.
• Or if you’re on the ground the same toddler will happily launch themselves across the rug towards the crisps, splattering houmous everywhere and squashing the sausage rolls.
• Plus on a slightly more personal bugbear picnics are just a little more of a bother if you’re gluten-free since you can’t just throw together an acceptable ham sandwich or do an M&S sweep of mini samosas and pork pies. Usually more time in the kitchen is in order which really puts the kibosh on impromptu picnic experiences.
• And if you really want to quibble with these lazy hazy summer days then fizz in the sun is the surest way to serve up hangovers to accompany the journey home.

Picnic Slice on a chopping board on a wooden table

Still we soldier on as visiting National Trust properties or a day trip to the zoo just isn’t the same without a picnic break. With our picnics I usually keep it simple with my standard Coronation Chicken Salad and of course a generous helping of cake.

I love a portable cake, something you can wrap in foil, tuck into a coolbag and it still look the business when you unwrap it a couple of hours later.

Picnic Slice on a plate on a wooden table

I found this recipe for Picnic Slice in an absolute gem of a cookbook called The Classic 1000 Cake and Bake Recipes. It was given to me as a secret santa gift a million years ago and it has an absolute treasure trove of quick, easy homestyle bakes that can be slammed together in no time. When leafing through it the other day for something fun and easy to make that Cole could get involved with this Picnic Slice caught my eye. I loved the name and was thrilled when I saw that the recipe contained no flour whatsoever so is the perfect naturally gluten-free bake. Although as I write this I can see my fatal error as I didn’t actually cut the cake into slices but bars instead. I’m sure no one will notice.

The finished result was a little bit like a glorified coconut macaroon but with more nuts and dried fruit going on. I added pistachios to the original recipe which was definitely a good idea. It is also pretty excellent for showing off your Homemade Glacé Cherries should you be so inclined. Usually Cole can get a little bored by baking with mummy but the thrill of plucking the odd pistachio and glace cherry out of the bowl kept him entertained the whole time.

Picnic Slice on a chopping board

It was an odd recipe though, requiring you to pour the melted chocolate into the bottom of the cake tin, then dollop the coconut batter on top before baking it in the oven. Usually I wouldn’t put my melted chocolate back in the oven as it messes around with the temper of the chocolate too much and would lead to white streaks across a dull surface. This did kind of happen, especially after I chilled it in the fridge afterwards which I would definitely recommend so they retain a better structure. Plus they are pretty yummy cold.

I debated over changing the method slightly so the melted chocolate is drizzled over after the coconut layer has been baked but I did love the way that the chocolate wraps around and sort of soaks into the coconut layer beneath in the original recipe. Plus if you scatter across enough accoutrements over the surface of the Picnic Slice then the slightly streaky chocolate beneath isn’t a problem.

Picnic Slice on a plate on a wooden table

So here’s to the next picnic, of which our tried and tested Picnic Slice will definitely be a part of. Now we just have to hope for clear skies, a free clean table and a compliant toddler. At least the Picnic Slice doesn’t require cutlery.

Print Recipe
Picnic Slice
Naturally gluten-free, these treats are light, packed with fruit and nuts and covered in plenty of chocolate.
Stack of Picnic Slices on a chopping board on a wooden table
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
12 slices
Ingredients
  • 225 g dark chocolate
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 100 g unsalted butter room temperature
  • 150 g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 100 g desiccated coconut + 1 tablespoon for decoration
  • 75 g pistachios roughly chopped (+ a few roughly chopped for decoration)
  • 75 g sultanas
  • 75 g glace cherries roughly chopped (+ a few roughly for decoration)
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
12 slices
Ingredients
  • 225 g dark chocolate
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 100 g unsalted butter room temperature
  • 150 g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 100 g desiccated coconut + 1 tablespoon for decoration
  • 75 g pistachios roughly chopped (+ a few roughly chopped for decoration)
  • 75 g sultanas
  • 75 g glace cherries roughly chopped (+ a few roughly for decoration)
Stack of Picnic Slices on a chopping board on a wooden table
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 150°C and line and grease an 8 inch square cake tin.
  2. Melt the chocolate with the salt in a bain marie or a glass bowl sitting over simmering water then pour into the bottom of the cake tin. Leave to rest whilst you prepare the batter.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until combined.
  5. Then tip in the coconut, pistachios, sultanas, cherries and again beat until the batter has come together.
  6. Pour the batter evenly over the chocolate.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Leave the Picnic Slice in the tin for 10 minutes to set a little then carefully remove, turn upside down so the chocolate is on the top and set onto a wire rack.
  9. Scatter the extra pistachios, coconut and cherries over the top then leave to cool to room temperature.
  10. Store the Picnic Slice in the for at least 4 hours to completely chill before cutting into bars.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from The Classic 1000 Cake and Bake Recipes, by Wendy Hobson

SHOP THE RECIPE

I see they still stock Classic 1000 Cake & Bake Recipes (Classic 1000 Cookbook) on Amazon which I would really recommend, there are few pictures but lots of little recipes that are so perfect to whip up for bake sales, take to pot lucks or school fetes.

I have had this KitchenCraft MasterClass Non-Stick Deep Square Cake Tin with Loose Base, 20 cm (8″) for years and it’s always served me really well. It has a loose base so ideal for removing more delicate bakes from the tin like this Picnic Slice which doesn’t really properly set until cool. I also use it for all my brownies for the same reason.

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