Edible gold leaf is a luxury garnish; it may be used to cover confectionary items. Sugar candy may be covered entirely in gold, or it may be flecked lightly with genuine gold leaf to enhance the appearance as well as to convey a sense of luxury.
Genuine gold leaf garnishes do not add or take away from the taste of the dish at all; they are used entirely for their visual appeal.
Using gold leaf in luxury gourmet preparations
> Luxury confectionary items such as special-occasion cakes and desserts also make use of edible gold leaf garnishes. The gold leaf used in these needs to be genuine and unalloyed, unlike that used in jewelry or other decorative, non-edible purposes.
> Edible gold leaf garnishes are increasingly being utilized by experienced chefs as well as relative novices at cooking and bakery. As is the case with most specialized ingredients, gold leaf too needs to be used with some skill and expertise.
> Edible gold leaf consists of highly purified gold metal brought down to the thickness of a few microns across. A single careless or mistaken touch is all that it needs to be displaced or get lost on the user's skin or stick to an unintended place on your gourmet dish or confection or candy.
> Edible gold leaf is also available in flake form. But the sheet form is more useful when covering larger surface areas. The flake form may come in more useful when decorating eating surfaces with bits and flakes of gold, or to give an overall shimmer. Special-occasion drinks such as champagne and specialty wines or desserts may be flecked with edible gold flakes.
> Because it is made of genuine gold metal, edible leaf preparations are best used as garnishes. A garnish is usually the last decorative touch given to a dish, before it is served. This rule works for gold leaf as well, because though it is an inert metal, devices such as microwave ovens may react to its shimmering surface if food using edible metal leaf is cooked in it.
Ingesting gold leaf
Gold leaf is a non-reactive addition because gold is an inert metal. But to be used in edible preparations, it has to be as purified as possible. For this reason, gold of a high carat value is usually used in edible leaf preparations. Gold of carat value of 22 to 24 is considered pure enough to be used for edible purposes.
In this case, it is ingested by the body harmlessly. It may be impossible to identify genuine gold leaf just by looking at it. Since touching edible gold or silver leaf is next to impossible since it will stick to your fingers, the next best thing to do is to buy it from a trusted source.
If you are catering to a diverse guest list, you may want to ensure that the edible gold leaf you are buying is kosher or halal certified as well. You may find gold leaf sheet packaged in the form of several sheets within a leaflet. Sizes may vary, but usually, edible leaf will be around or even less than 0.13 microns in breadth.