There doesn’t seem to be a good page out there on the vast internet universe on how to make vegan sugared flowers, so maybe right now at 3 AM when I’m slightly exhausted but drank half a soy chai 10 hours ago that is still coursing through my body (caffeine and I don’t play well together – my natural excess energy comes from sheer outraged revolutionary zeal, anything additional is too too much) is the time to remedy this.
One night I messed around with a bunch of nasturtiums and pansies from a friend’s farm and got down to the business of what sugared flowers are all about.
Pretty much every recipe for sugared flowers (those that use real flowers, not gum paste) calls for flowers, sugar, and egg whites.
I’m so over egg whites. Everything that most people make with egg whites can be made with either really good vigorous sourdough starter (if the whites are being used to bind, as in batters), cornstarch (as in tempura), or with flax seed egg whites (as in candied flowers and sugared nuts and oatmeal cookies). (If you’re replacing a whole egg, you need to add a little fat to replace the yolk.)
OK, you can’t make meringue or angel food cake or divinity or souffles. But who wants those weirdly textured foods anyway?
What you can make is sugared flowers (also known as crystallized flowers and candied flowers, Googlers!) – don’t let anyone tell you you can’t. In fact it’s easier and safer (look ma, no salmonella!) to make them vegan than not. Here’s a secret – except for societal conditioning which makes everything seem so hard and weird, cooking vegan is much easier than using bizarre things like quasi-abortions.*
There are lots of recipes for flax seed egg whites out there. Google them. Some call for grinding the flax seeds in a spice grinder and mixing them with hot water. Some call for boiling the flax seeds with water. All of them except my nutty friend Selma’s involve straining the resulting liquid. For some reason possibly having to do with being 73 years old, Selma no longer strains them. She’s just fine with crunchy flax seeds in whatever she’s making and more power to her. I use whole seeds and strain mine. Proportions really don’t matter. Boil some flax seeds (say 2 Tbs) in some water (say 3/4 cup). Strain it. It probably won’t strain all that easily if you have a really fine strainer. You could add some hot water and whisk like hell until it’s a little less thick. You could have also started with more water. It really doesn’t matter. It will work.
Then get your organic, local edible flowers. Leafing around, I noticed that most recipes called for brushing the flowers with egg whites with a dainty little brand new paintbrush then dipping them in superfine sugar. In the end, brushing them with flax seed eggs and dipping them in superfine sugar worked best, as I figured it would. But I also tried out every other method I saw for making sugared flowers, because I just roll like that.
As you might guess, dipping the flowers in powdered sugar gave you a powdery, coked-up sugared flower:
I’d like to meet the person who thought that tossing delicate flowers into molten hot sugar was going to produce beautifully sugared flowers, but I had fun trying it. If I had worked on it a bit more, I think I could have made cool bizarre little candies with flower petals trapped inside. The more brightly-colored petals also colored the caramel in neat ways. Oh, and I added some rosewater to the caramel. Predictably, its delicate flavor totally dissipated in the inferno that is clear caramel.
Dipping the flowers into f.s.e. then into regular sugar produced a clumpy sugared flower:
But homemade superfine sugar (just whiz sugar in the food processor – hold a dish towel over the hole in the top or else you will inhale a giant sugar cloud when peeking in) worked just fine.
After my experiments, I found this this utterly brilliant dude who typed everything up so smartly – follow his method but use the flax seed eggs. Not only does he have the genius idea to color the sugar you use (and he uses my same supafine sugar trick!) but he candies individual lilac blossoms, three of which fit on a fingernail. Dude is intense, man.
The next week, my candied flowers (the decent ones, anyway) topped homemade petits fours quite prettily – but that’s another story, one called The Day I Spent Eight Hours Making My First Ever Petits Fours** And Eating Nothing But Cake Scraps.
*I know – calling eggs quasi-abortions is so not nice and not p.c. But one day I got to thinking about what exactly eggs are and I can’t stop thinking of them that way. I know that’s not quite right, but still.
**All 200 of them – nothing gets your energy pumping like making a notoriously delicate French classic dessert for the first time and knowing 20 people are expecting vegan perfection out of it! When I was doing my menu planning I wrote YOU CAN DO IT! In big letters on my schedule for the week, and indeed I did. For eight hours.