I spied the Buddha’s Hand sitting on my friend Andrew’s counter. Amid the happy cacophony of food bloggers sprawled out in his house and front patio, I caught the words, “take one.” He didn’t have to say it twice. Off I went to survey the boxes of buddha’s hands brought by Melissa’s. Eschewing those with fingers extended, I found a single gnarled citrus that would be travel-friendly. Irvin said it looked like the buddha’s hand was shooting me the bird. I finagled it into my bag shortly before heading to the airport. There was no surprise that security pulled my bag aside to pilfer its depths as I said, “you’re looking for the buddha’s hand.”
That first buddha’s hand sucked me in and made me a fan with its intoxicating aroma similar to a lemongrass candle that burns in Mama’s kitchen. On to buddha’s hand two and three and our house has been smelling pretty great as of late. This citrus is primarily pith, that white fibrous material that clings to the peel. Unlike oranges, lemons and numerous other citrus, there is no fruit inside. You can zest it and substitute for lemon zest or you can make marmalade using Karen Solomon’s recipe or the one in the Blue Chair Jam book.
And you can candy it… which led me to think of my favorite Parisian treat that Olga introduced me to many years ago. Wrapped in a sophisticated hot pink and black lacquered box and under gold wrapping, matchsticks of candied orange rind enrobed in dark chocolate waited. Oh Fauchon, you fool with my affections! I’ve tried other orangettes and they just don’t taste quite right. I think part of it includes the stroll up la Rue des Capucines and basking in the history of La Madeleine. Ambience plus exclusivity result in such a delicacy.
In my kitchen, I’m not usually a stickler for perfection. With making these buddhettes, you really do want to use matchstick shaped buddha’s hand peel. Don’t throw away the oddly shaped bits of buddha’s hand though. We are going to use them too. Set them aside until after you’ve finished dipping your buddhettes and then we can tackle them there in the note following the buddhette recipe. So hang with me and we’ll use as much of the fragrant citrus as we can. Waste not, want not, right?
- 1 buddha’s hand
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup good quality bittersweet chocolate
Carefully with a knife, cut the fingers off of the buddha’s hand making it easier to cut off the peel from the white pith. It’s okay if you cut off some pith with the peel since you can trim it later. As you’re cutting off the peel from the buddha’s hand, try as much as possible to cut long strips. Once you’ve cut off all the peel from the buddha’s hand, cut the long strips into matchsticks.
Let strips rest in a bowl of water on your counter overnight.
The next day, add buddha’s hand to water and let boil for 10 minutes, making sure the water is covering the citrus sticks. Drain in a colander. Let dry.
In a heavy pot, heat 1 cup sugar and ½ cup water until the sugar is dissolved. Then add the buddha’s hand matchsticks and set to simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove the matchsticks and let dry. Set out a sheet of wax paper onto a countertop. Set liquid aside for the simple syrup recipe below.
In a double boiler, add in chopped bittersweet chocolate and stir until completely melted. Take off the top of the double boiler and set the bowl of melted chocolate by your candied matchstick peels and wax paper.
Dip and swirl the buddha’s hand peels into the chocolate until completely coated and then place on wax paper. Repeat until all buddha’s hand matchsticks are enrobed in chocolate. Let cool.
Keep in a tightly sealed container and in a cool location. They should keep for a week if you don’t find yourself sneaking one or a few of them at a time.
Buddha’s Hand Candied Ginger Simple Syrup
NOTE: Those bits of buddha’s hand odds and ends that you saved above? Chop them up. Take about an inch of ginger and then skin it and mince it. Add an additional cup of sugar and 1/2 cup water to the simple syrup leftover from simmering the buddha’s hand matchsticks above. Stir and cook over low heat until sugar disappears. Then add your newly chopped ginger and buddha’s hand to the pot and simmer and stir for 15 minutes. Begin scooping out the newly candied ginger and chopped buddha’s hand onto a plate with a paper towel, letting them dry.
For the last remaining bits use a lemon juicer as a way to save the candied bits and contain the simple syrup easily. If you don’t have an apparatus like this, you can use a vegetable steamer in a bowl. Store the simple syrup in a covered container for up to a week in the fridge.
As for those newly candied pieces of minced ginger and buddha’s hand, use them in this recipe for Gingerbread or mixed into homemade scones. Go crazy and stick them in your homemade Stöllen or fruitcake. I have a hunch you’ll find this ginger / buddha’s hand combo equal parts festive and fragrant.