The disappearance of Angelica

10 Dec

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Over the last couple of days I’ve been investigating a disappearance.  It all started last Sunday when I met Mark at the Fort York real mince pie workshop.  He had been experimenting with trifles and having spoken to his mother was keen to make her one decorated with glace cherries and candied angelica as she used to make herself.  His problem was that he couldn’t find any angelica in Toronto.  No, problem I said, I’ll get Mr Kim to pick some up when he’s next back in the UK.

In my mind’s eye I could see the little tub of glace angelica sitting on the shelf in the supermarket.  The angelica I can remember is the candied stem of the plant Angelica Archangelica.  With its heavenly name and seasonal colour it seems a particularly appropriate baking ingredient for the Christmas season.  Its emerald green strips are a vivid memory from my childhood where appreciation of their jewel-like quality as they decorated cakes in neat diamond forms was always accompanied by a slight disappointment at their lack of flavour.   Glace angelica always seemed to look much better than it tasted.  Nevertheless its intense green was cheerful and eye catching and perfectly suited to forming leaves, stalks and other elements for cake decoration.

It seems however, that candied angelica has not found favour in the modern culinary world and is something of an endangered baking ingredient.  Mr Kim’s supermarket foray this week met with no success.  I told my story to my friend in Florida who took me to a number of grocery stores to try and locate the elusive angelica but with no success.  So I took to the internet.  There I found and read with empathy Vicki Woods’ article from last year about searching for angelica to make her favourite Joseceline Dimbleby cake.  The very best angelica, as Vicki Woods points out, comes from France, where there’s still a small area that grows it specifically for making the candied angelica.

My online investigations led to some particularly frustrating results.  Many of my searches suggested that I had maybe typed in the word wrongly and perhaps I was looking for angels? There are a couple of UK online stores that do seem to sell angelica.  These are Wilton Wholefoods  and The Craft Company.  There’s also a US online store Market Store Foods which some very pale angelica.

However, both Waitrose and Tesco have online pages referring to angelica but are not offering it for sale.  The Tesco page is especially annoying.  It has a picture of the Dr Oetker 40g tub of angelica (though the angelica illustrated on the side of the tub looks suspiciously anaemic) but next to the image in authoritative red letters it reads ‘Sorry, this product is currently unavailable

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The BBC recipe website also probably needs a bit of updating.  After informing the reader that locating fresh angelica in case you fancy candying your own is ‘almost impossible’ and that ‘fresh angelica is very difficult to source’ it optimistically tells hopeful cooks ‘candied angelica is widely available’. I would suggest to them that while this statement might have been true ten or even five years back finding angelica is now definitely an exercise in determination.

I find this disappearance of angelica all the more surprising given the recent interest in nostalgic baking.  While pre-1970s cookbooks might have languished for some years, ever since the arrival of the cupcake recipe books, cafes and stores seem to have gone into a retro inspired baking over drive; surely with all this demand for afternoon tea, finger cakes and doyleys there’s a place for angelica?

So, I’m putting out an SOS call for angelica.  If anyone has had any recent sightings of angelica, whether as lurking on the shelf of secret treasure trove of a baking store or hiding amongst other candied fruits in a fruit or sponge cake I’d love to hear from you.  Help me to find out if angelica has been truly consigned to the culinary scrapheap or if somewhere this Christmas there’s a small twinkle of emerald gracing a seasonal sweetmeat.

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9 Responses to “The disappearance of Angelica”

  1. mixitupandmakeitnice December 10, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    Having the same problem – we use it every year to make green holly leaves (with glacé cherry as the berries) on our Christmas truffles!

    • jh December 23, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

      Thank you, Alex, for another fascinating tale. I too was frustrated by no angelica when I wanted to make florentines; the recipe (Delia Smith) helpfully said in parenthesis, ‘if you can’t find angelica, use green glace cherries’. As if one could find green glace cherries in the big supermarket down the road! 🙂 It’s reassuring to hear it’s not only me…

  2. Mark December 13, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

    I enjoyed reading your post, and as the old adage goes, “you never miss the water until the well runs dry”, I’m now even more anxious locate some of this increasingly precious commodity. I look forward to hearing more about your angelica sleuthing. Best of luck.

  3. ButterSugarFlowers June 3, 2013 at 4:44 am #

    I just found your lovely blog when I googled “angelica” after seeing it in a nearby favorite gourmet store (Market Hall in Oakland, California). I loved reading your post about it here. The kind I found is probably imported from France and is much more pale than the photo above. (I wonder if they dye it to be darker green, or if it’s not supposed to be pale?) Anyway, thanks for sharing!

  4. Sara January 23, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

    Try http://www.britishcornershop.co.uk under Homebaking, decorations.
    /Sara

  5. jerry December 7, 2014 at 10:22 pm #

    What is it. I hav a German receipe 4 Dresdner Stollen with angelica?

    • maplesyrupandcastersugar December 10, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

      It is a green root, which has been crystalized and has traditionally been used for cake decoration; it looks very Christmassy which is no doubt why it is suggested for the Stollen.

      • Claude Rouget March 13, 2015 at 10:56 pm #

        It is not a root it is a stem.True angelica is not green but a golden colour.You can grow it from seeds and candy it through three “glacage”.The main centre of production is in Niort but even there I had problems to find it.There is an excellent angelica liquor.I have a small bottle…half empty.I dare not to touch it>\!

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