Q. What is the best way to crystallize rose petals for a wedding cake?

--Liza Deras, Rancho Cucamonga, California

Crystallized edible rose petals make a beautiful garnish for a wedding cake, and the process is very simple. It's important that you always use organically grown roses; those that have been sprayed with pesticides (as most roses at florists' shops have been) should never be eaten.

The best way to crystallize rose petals is to work with the individual petals. When you try to sugar an entire flower, it's difficult to cover all the nooks and crannies. Wait for a dry day to start this project, and work in an air-conditioned room; if the air is humid, the sugar will clump. Place the petals in water so they'll stay fresh. Then, dilute an egg white with a few drops of water. If you'll be serving crystallized rose petals to pregnant women, young children, the elderly, or anyone whose health is compromised, be sure to use powdered egg whites.

Holding a petal with tweezers, gently brush both sides of the petal with egg whites, and sprinkle each side with superfine sugar. Shake off the excess sugar, and place the petal face-up on a parchment or waxed-paper-lined cookie sheet. Set the flowers in a cool place to dry for at least eight hours, moving them slightly as they dry so they won't stick to the paper. Petals and flowers can be stored in an airtight container for up to a year. Line the container with a soft padding, such as Excelsior, and lay a piece of tulle on top. Store at room temperature.


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