My absolute favorite garnishes for desserts are sugared violets. They're easy to make and candying the flowers actually preserves them so they last up to three months after you make them. I hit up my local nursery as soon as violets appear and make a big batch of 80 or so. These last me through an entire spring of potlucks, desserts and entertaining. You can definitely make a smaller batch, you'll just have more leftover egg wash and sugar.
Start by choosing the violets. You might see them in hanging baskets or arrangements at various stores, but your best option is to look for the planter packs in a nursery. They may be labeled violets or violas. You can even use pansies, but I find these to be a little big. Make sure to ask if the violets were treated with pesticides, letting the nursery worker know that you plan to eat them.
Choose violets with beautiful petals that are free from dirt. You don't need the extra steps of washing and drying the flowers.
When you snip the flowers from the stems, try to cut them right at the top of the stem, as close to the green base holding the petals together. Once you've cut your blooms off, you can plant the violet plants in your garden to get another crop.
The two main components of sugared flowers are an egg wash, made from egg whites and water, and ultrafine baker's sugar. This is different from granulated or powdered sugar, but in a pinch you can pulse some granulated sugar in a food processor to get a similar consistency.
For the prettiest results, use a paintbrush to coat the flowers in egg wash, front and back. Dipping the flowers can cause the petals to collapse.
Once each petal is coated in the egg whites, it's time for the sugar. Hold the flower over your bowl of sugar, and use a spoon to lightly sprinkle it all over each petal. You might find that tweezers help in holding the delicate flowers while you work. Make sure to rotate the flower so you get the front, back and in between each petal.
Once the flower is coated, place it on a piece of parchment paper (or waxed paper) to dry at least 12 hours.
To store the candied violets, place a single layer in an airtight container. Top them with a sheet of parchment or waxed paper and lay down another layer. Repeat with the remaining flowers.
I love using sugared violets to dress up simple sugar cookies, coconut cakes or cheesecakes. They can even make a fruit platter seem incredibly fancy. What other ideas do you have for using sugared violets?
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