Better Living Through Gelatin

The aspic from Dinner at 8, George Cukor’s 1933 film. It was Pre-Code
Hollywood. Any suggestive associations are those of the beholder alone.
We’re running a clean website here, one worthy of Will Hays.

Silicone has become such a part of our lives. It’s in our kitchen utensils, in our breasts, and in our personal lubricants. So much so that this year the First Annual (and many are hoping, last annual) Summer of Silicone Fun was held at Chez 55 Laguna.

Pandemic Netflix binging led me down several strange paths including the 11th season of the Great British Bake Off. I was awestruck by the episode called Desserts whose showstopper segment was a jelly art design cake.

Many of the gelatin domes were so crystal clear and contained such intricate designs they were reminiscent of Venetian millefiori paperweights. Being the impressionable bloke that I am, I was personally challenged to master this newly discovered technique.

I temporarily halted my bible study reading of Ezekiel to scour the internet for information on molding gelatin. I bought a few silicone bowls and rounds. Then I did a prototype with my favorite summer pudding to see if I could unmold it. It was kind of okay. The prelims out of the way, sights were set on a true jelly dome with fruit.

My first attempt at silicone molding was a strawberry-rhubarb mousse.
The result was amorphous, mushy and semi-firm.
I get enough of that in the bedroom, I don’t need it in the kitchen too.

With my friend Eric’s help, methods and ingredients were tested. The first lesson learned was forget Knox gelatin, it’s crap. Gelatin is rated by its bloom (basically, strength) that can be as high as 325. The better grades hover around 300 and the American standard is 250. Knox is 225.

The second thing I learned was watch the sugar. Although it helps to strengthen gelatin, using my higher grade stash I made a test batch with no sugar at all and it turned out fine. But one cup to four cups of water? Pancreatic cancer anyone? Please! 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup is more than sufficient. Especially if coupled with delicious seasonal fruits. Give those berries a fighting chance and don’t anesthetize the taste buds with glucose.

As for the citric acid, order it from Amazon. And go light on it. It’s foul tasting but seems to be a necessary component in the equation. Three days were spent being the urban warrior hunting and gathering locally for the precious powder. All for naught. It can’t be avoided any longer: just render unto Bezos what is Bezos’.

Is there any more satisfying summer trip than the one from the
garden to the silicone kitchen molds? Probably not.

My first jelly design was a carrot cake with nectarines, raspberries, and blueberries. In my zeal to make it sparkle I coated the blueberries with a glittery food coloring. The coating immediately melted when the berries touched the gelatin and bleed throughout the crystalline dome.

The biggest hurdle was dealing with the huge expanse of nothingness that tasted like nothing. Sure you’d eventually get to the good stuff, the fruit, but there was all that blank space in between to chow on. I tried to make it appealing with the clear flavorings of ginger extract and anise. (I was living dangerously because ginger along with kiwi and pineapple have elements that can destroy gelatin’s protein. My novenas were answered, however, I achieved a perfect gel.)

Here’s to the ladies who lunch.

My next jelly was more of a traditional aspic, a tomato base with a crabmeat dome. The red bottom needed no adjustment but for the clear crabmeat capitol I added cucumber and onion as the flavors. I spent a half hour squeezing those two vegetables through cheese cloth to extract as much juice as possible. It clouded the aspic so badly you couldn’t see anything.

Highlighting the stunning detail for my guests.

As I worked with the clear gelatin I sampled it. It tasted like dishwater. But when I served my guests they raved about the vegetable flavors that came shining through. Who knew? One man’s Dawn is another’s Lafitte-Rothschild.

Molding gelatin/molding genital. What’s in a mold.
Bloody Mary penises (made from yellow heirlooms)
that were suspended in the cloudy aspic. Don’t be afraid to
mix a healthy diet with your favorite adult themes.

My final foray of the summer jelly season was another cake with fruit. Eric advised me to use a pyrex bowl instead of silicone to get the glassy surface. But the kids on Bake Off used silicone so I had to try it one time. It turned out pock marked. Eric was right.

I’m starting to get the hang of it. Which should serve as fair warning to those who invite me to their next pot luck dinner.

Three Mile Island revisited: a cherry-berry-jelly sponge that
put the kum back in the quat.

2 thoughts on “Better Living Through Gelatin

  1. As a lucky attendee of the First Annual Summer Silicone of Fun, I can attest to the enjoyment of your aspic and the description of the event and your journey to that point. Thanks Chris!

  2. I thought making homemade ice cream was pretty exciting. Never imagined the heights you’ve ascended to!

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