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How-To

Crystallizing Flowers with Patience and Pride

Fine Cooking Issue 34
Photos: Scott Phillips
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When Toni Elling began crys­tallizing flowers out of her home in upstate New York five years ago, she worried that someone might start mass-producing these enchanting, edible creations. She needn’t have. Though the process is simple—coat the flower with egg white, sprinkle it with superfine sugar, and let it dry—it’s painstaking work that takes the mindset of a true artisan. The delicacy of the work requires that each flower be done by hand, one at a time. In fact, after trying their hand at crystallizing flowers themselves, many of her customers gladly pay $2.50 per flower. “People who do it for themselves become aware of the effort involved,” explains Toni, whose company, Meadowsweets, also sells a flower crystallizing kit, containing pasteurized powdered egg whites, superfine sugar, tweezers, a brush, and a finished flower for inspiration. With a mischievous smile, she adds, “Many of our kit customers then call to place an order for flowers already crystallized.” And their cakes look more beautiful for it.

Toni and her daughter, Elizabeth, who is launching a Meadowsweets on the West Coast, have worked closely together for years. They grow their own flowers to be certain that no harmful pesticides have been used. Some edible flowers include pansies, violas, violets, and apple blossoms. Aside from safety (some flowers themselves are naturally toxic), how a flower will hold its color is an important consideration.
A wash of egg white glistens on delicate petals. Toni uses a brush to paint both sides of the blossom. When coating more resilient flowers, she uses her fingers to rub on the egg white, which speeds the process somewhat.
A dusting of superfine sugar preserves the flowers and makes them sparkle. Holding the trimmed flower with tweezers, Toni is careful to cover all surfaces.
Drying can take up to two days, depending on humidity. Once dried, the flowers can easily shatter, so they must be handled and packed with utmost care.

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