Does your dessert wobble?Your mother may have told you never to play with your food, but according to two young British entrepreneurs, if eating isn't fun you must be doing something wrong. Self-proclaimed "jelly mongers" Sam Bompas and Harry Parr—in Great Britain, "jelly" means any dessert made with gelatin—are giving new life to the old-fashioned gelatin dessert: In just two years, they've placed their fun-filled creations on the dessert menu at a savvy London restaurant, constructed St. Paul's Cathedral and other national monuments out of molded fruit gelatin.
Historically, fruit gelatin desserts – made from sugar, water, fruit and gelatin – were layered, molded, and artistically presented. But beginning in the 1930s, with the introduction of instant varieties, gelatin desserts lost their gourmet status and became associated with cafeteria menus.
So it was no surprise that Sam and Harry received a cool reception when they first tried to sell their gelatin desserts in the summer of 2007. "We were told to get lost, which wasn't a promising start," Sam says. Undeterred, the pair set out to test the outer limits of "jelly" molding.
Making a basic gelatin base is simple. Sam and Harry use sheets of gelatin, but you can substitute powdered or granulated forms available in grocery stores. Combine gelatin with simple syrup (equal parts water and C&H® Granulated Pure Cane Sugar, heated on the stovetop until the sugar is dissolved) and you have the basic gelatin base. Use these tips from the Jelly Mongers to turn the base into fantastic desserts:
- Fresh fruit makes the most delicious gelatin desserts, but avoid pineapples because they contain enzymes that break down the gelatin proteins, preventing it from setting.
- For an adult dessert, substitute an alcoholic beverage such as vodka for some of the water. Alcohol actually strengthens the gelatin until you reach 30 percent to 50 percent of the total volume; above that and gelatin will not set.
- Tall gelatin molds require disproportionately more gelatin to keep them standing up.
- Metal molds are easiest to use, but the next best is plastic. Avoid ceramic.
- Be cautious using vintage molds because many are actually cake tins. Be sure to use genuine gelatin molds.
- Gelatin dessert become structurally stronger the longer you keep them refrigerated.
- To release a gelatin dessert from a mold, dip the mold in a bowl of hot water for just a few seconds to melt a film of the gelatin around the mold, then wet the plate slightly so the dessert will slide into its serving position. Carefully invert the mold onto the plate, serve, and enjoy!
We wish them the best of luck… and hope we're invited to help eat that great creation!