Beautiful magazines that promote lovely living frequently feature sugared flowers and the instructions for making them. Each spring when my violets and pansies are blooming, I think about how nice it would be to have sugared flowers. The instructions always say to take some egg white, mix with a little water, paint on petals, dip in ultra-fine sugar, and allow to dry. They also give the classic warning about the potential for salmonella, as the egg whites are only dried and not cooked. Food safety is important to me and I don't want to make anything that might cause anyone to get sick. Even though the petals are used mostly for decor, the risk is still too great. I know not everyone will agree with me, and that's alright. I've just dreamed about sugared flowers and tried to think of an alternative way to achieve the same results. Commercial egg white products are available at craft and cake decorating stores that have been pasteurized and are safe for use, but it was challenging and fun for me to find a plant-based, vegan alternative.
Both egg whites and egg yolks carry risk for this illness. Here's information from the Centers for Disease Control regarding salmonella and egg whites: www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/salment_g.htm
Sugared Flowers with Flax Seed Gel
Here are my instructions for making 'food safe' sugared flowers. Be sure to use non-toxic flowers for sugaring.
1. Bring 1/4 cup flax seed and 1 cup water to a boil. Stir occasionally and allow to cook for 3 - 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool. The liquid portion of this mixture will turn thick and have a similar consistency to egg whites.
2. Don't worry about straining out the flax seeds. I tried and it's too difficult and unnecessary for this application.
3. Use a soft paintbrush and gently wash each petal in flax seed gel. Only paint the top side. If the gel is too thick, stir in a small amount of water. Tweezers are needed to hold the petal without damaging the flower.
4. Once petal is painted, gently sprinkle ultra-fine sugar over the petals. Not much sugar is needed. I thought that about 1/2 the sugar would fall off when the flower dried, so added a little more sugar than really necessary. The sugar did not dry and fall off as expected! About 99% of the sugar stayed on the petals! Flax seed gel is very 'binding'.
5. Set flowers on parchment paper or a hard, flat surface. Do not touch. Allow to dry completely.
6. When ready to use, take a small, sharp object and/or tweezers and gently remove the blossom and place on cupcakes, cookies, or brownies. A lovely garnish!
7. Next time --- I will sugar a few leaves as well. I left a short stem on each blossom for ease in handling with tweezers. I will probably shorten them next time, although they snipped off easily with a pair of small scissors after blossoms dried.
8. Sugared flowers made by this method keep very well. Store in a small container in a dry place. Mine kept for months.