Monday, 11 November 2013

the ultimate guide to oven dried orange slices

 I've spent the past few weeks perfecting my oven dried orange slices and hope this will encourage you to try it out at home. Doesn't the words "I made them" sound so much better than "I paid x amount of cash for these".  Making dried orange slices is one of the easiest decorations you can ever make.

Here are a few ideas for using your dried orange slices -

I use different methods (plain, icing sugar and gelatine powder), which all give beautiful results.

You will need
 oranges (very important ), any size will do.
sharp knife & chopping board
tea towel or kitchen paper
wire rack
most importantly, an oven, preheated to 225F, 110C  or Gas 1/4
(even lower if your oven allows)
My oven is gas. Other appliances may vary
Drying time in oven, approx 2-3 hours (possibly longer)
Placing finished slices on a radiator will also help to complete the dying process.
optional - fork, icing sugar, powdered gelatine, whole cloves

 Let's start with the basic 'plain' method.

Oven Dried Orange Slices
Using your sharpest knife, cut oranges into thin slices, but no more than 1cm thick. 
The thinner the slice, the quicker it will dry and the more opaque it will become. 
I usually insert a fork at one end of the orange, because I love my fingers very much.
  Place orange slices between two tea towels or kitchen paper to blot out excess juice.
The more juice you remove, the better they will dry! 
Place directly onto a wire rack (add any orange scraps as these can be used for potpourri) and leave to dry out in the oven for around 2-3 hours. Timing will depend on your oven and thickness of the slices.
I tried placing slices onto greaseproof paper, but they took much longer to dry out.
Turn often to prevent slices sticking to the rack and enjoy the aroma every time you open the oven.
Slices will shrink and darken in colour. When ready, remove from oven, cool and use to decorate your home.

 Please note: Slices may still be slightly sticky, but they are usable and should not go mouldy.

Oven Dried Orange Slices with Cloves
 If your slices are thick enough, make small holes in the skin with a cocktail stick and insert whole cloves. Do this before you put them into the oven. This can be a little fiddly, but the end result is so pretty. As the slices are thicker it will take longer to dry out.
Any scraps of oranges can also be dried and used as potpourri, add cloves to any thick pieces.
Oven Dried Orange Slices using Icing Sugar 
Generously sprinkle icing sugar onto both sides of the slices. The thinner the slice, the better. 
The sugar gives a shiny candied effect as the slices dry.
The slices may stick (mine didn't), so do turn every now and then, just in case.

 Frosty Oven Dried Orange Slices
Generously sprinkle gelatine powder onto both sides of the slices. 
This gives them a very pretty frosty effect when dry.
These will need to be turned often as they are likely to stick. 
I turned mine every twenty minutes or so, gently prising them off the rack with a spatula, but it' really worth it. When ready, remove from oven, cool on the rack and use to decorate your home.
The orange slices may still be moist or sticky, but will eventually dry out. I recommend trying a small batch first, to see how you go. Remember gelatin powder is not vegetarian. 
  Leave on a tea towel (not a fluffy one) or on the radiator.
Aging Dried Orange Slices
Going clockwise you can see how the slices continue to dry out and darken over time. The lightest coloured slices (top right) are fresh from the oven, bottom right are a week old, bottom left, around three weeks old and top left were made last year. I love the mix up of shades!
Please note: Slices may still be slightly sticky, but they are usable and should not go mouldy.

 Useful Tips
 I stored last years decorations in a sealed food bag and they were fine. Other sources have recommended storing in paper bags or a towel. This year I will store mine in different ways to find the best method for storage.
 Update: November 2014
I stored some slices in a paper bag and some in a plastic bag, both with cinnamon and cloves.
Some still had a slight stickiness to them, but ALL were mould free! 

Dry scrap pieces of oranges, including peelings, to use in Potpourri.
add clove, dried cranberries and cinnamon sticks to the mix.
 Here are a few more ideas for using you orange slices -

The 'Plain' and 'Icing Sugar' methods are both edible, so don't worry too much if the children try to bite into those.

If you are vegetarian you may not wish to use gelatin. I'm not sure if you can get a vegetarian option or whether it would have the same effect. Here's your chance to experiment.

Try using lemon and grapefruit slices to jazz things up a bit. Sliced lemons look great in potpourri, especially if they still have their seeds.
dried lemon
Apparently the acid may discolour the metal rack, but mine are already discoloured so I'm not bothered, but if you're bothered then use old ones.

Always use a clean rack for each batch, you wouldn't want any brown bits on your slices.
Soak metal racks in hot water using washing powder and give them a good scrub.

Hope this guide has been useful!
Any questions, do ask and I'll try my best to answer them.

Barrina xx