|Unless you can set aside a couple of days for boiling calf's feet, you're going to need to rely on prepared gelatins. Now sheet gelatin is preferred by 4 out of 5 pastry professionals because it's, well, easy to measure. A sheet's a sheet. And a lot of classical recipes are formulated to use this. The problem is unless you've got a local Pastry Pros-R-Us, you're going to have a hard time finding it. Powdered gelatin on the other hand is readily available, easy to use, always comes in the same size package, and when properly handled produces a jewel-clear gel. Next we need a liquid.||
today's adventures in science will create tomorrow's America
|Now lucky for us almost any water-based fluid will do from soda-pop to wine to mixed drinks to fruit juices with the exception of fruit juices taken from fresh fruits such as pineapple, mango, papaya and kiwi, okay? All of these juices contain a protein-munching enzyme which likes to eat gelatin for lunch. Now heat deactivates this enzyme so canned and pasteurized juices are okay as are the canned versions of the fruits themselves but that's for later.||
Now for the next scene, Herr Director wants me turn an unfortunate spaceman's face into goo. It sounds like a lot of fun to me. I think I've got a surprise for him. A nice bottle of ginger ale. The real McCoy. The stuff that will put a hurtin' on ya. "Ginger" ale. Tastes kind of like it has alcohol in it but it doesn't. Now I only need about a cup of this, okay? This is just to get the gelatin started. So just pour one cup, 8 ounces.
1 Cup Ginger Ale
|Now on to this we are going to sprinkle 2 packets, that's 4 teaspoons, of powdered gelatin. Now why bother with this kind of step? Well basically this is priming or blooming the gelatin granules, okay. It's going to make it dissolve much more evenly once we put the heat to it. If you were to skip this step, in fact, you'd probably end up with clumpy, lumpy, uneven, or at least foggy gelatin. Definitely not good eats. Three minutes at least. Five would be better.||
2 Packets = 4 tsp
Always bloom gelatin in cold liquid.
GUEST: W, Mold Mistress
Most recipes call for dissolving gelatin in boiling liquid, which is kind of strange because that kind of heat can actually damage the gelatin's ability to gel. I never go with anything more than 150 degrees because 150 degrees is enough. And I do like the microwave to do this job. Microwave this on high for about 3 minutes but stop once a minute to give it a gentle stir and take its temperature. Remember, you're looking for 150 degrees, no higher.
For a firm mold use one packet of powdered gelatin
per cup of liquid. For a softer set use 1/2 a packet
|Hmm. Now that the gelatin is completely dissolved, we can go ahead and add the remainder of the liquid. A cup of champagne is going to add a certain yeastiness, it's going to temper the sweetness of the ginger, and of course it's going to cool things down so that we can get this into the refrigerator faster.||
1 Cup Of Champagne Or Other Sparkling Wine
|Now it's important that you pour the cold into the warm and that you do it very, very slowly. Try to stir or swirl the whole time. If you this the other way around, you're going to end up with nasty gel that's going to have a bunch of clumpy, little, nasty, wormy things in it. And I'm not talking about the good kind, either.||
Now this could go straight into a mold but I want time to consider other modifications. I'm going to refrigerate this for about an hour until it reaches the consistency of raw egg whites. Now speaking of molds, she's back there, isn't she? [moves a jar out of the way and we can see W in the distance].
AB: You're late.
W: If you had any imagination you wouldn't need a mold. Anything can be a gelatin mold.
AB: Oh yeah? A tennis racket?
W: Any clean, non-porous, airtight form.
AB: Well that pretty much rules out 'anything', doesn't it?
W: Today, most molds are made from spun or extruded aluminum ...
W: ... so they can double as cake pans.
AB: Cake pan.
W: This design was taken from a Victorian mold originally made from copper, iron or pewter.
AB: You know, I'm the first to admit that Victoriana is really creepy but I think I need something a little more intense.
W: Mmm. Then we have the newer, less traditional molds. Vacuum formed from food-grade plastic. Here you go tin-man. [slides him a mold of a heart]
AB: Wow. A heart. Who would of thought you would have had one of these?
W: And who would have thought you had one of these [brain shaped molds]?
AB: Aww, what's the gray matter? Don't you like me anymore? You know it's nice but what the director really wants is ...
W: [slides him a face shaped mold]
AB: ... a human head. Wow. Old boyfriend?
W: Old boss.
[voice over] W's face mold was a 6 cupper so I had to make 4 more cups of my champagne-ginger gelatin. And I added a few extras.
|[camera pans around gelatin head]||
MD: Cut. Passable. Get ready for the heart surgery scene.
Nothing's going to break your heart quicker than showing up to fill your brand new human heart mold with cinnamon gelatin than figuring out you don't have enough gelatin. So do yourself a favor. Every time you get a new mold, fill it right up to the top with tap water and then pour that off into a measuring cup and see exactly what it is you're dealing with. Two cups. Perfect. It just so happens I've got two cups of this stuff. Oh by the way, I'm going to write a big two on the side of this so I'll never forget.
|Remember, always bring the mold all the way to the refrigerator before you pour in the gelatin. If you wonder why, try this experiment. Pour just about a tablespoon of liquid gelatin on the bottom of your refrigerator. Wait 30 seconds then come back and try to clean it up. You'll get the point really fast.||
|Now at this point we've got a few choices to make. If we were to just pour in a gelatin freshly ... freshly mixed, it would set up nice and clear, kind of like this [gelatin mold]. Jewel-clear and solid. If we waited until it reached an egg-white consistency—which is about what we have here—we'd have more options. For instance we could put this inside a blender along with a, say, a tablespoon or two of sour cream or whipped cream, turn it on, and it would literally hold all of that in suspension along with zillions and zillions of little, bitty bubbles. So it would be completely opaque once the mold set.||
1 Cup Of Gelatin Mix
Now if you want to suspend big chunks into gelatin but you want the gelatin itself to be
clear, then you want to wait until it sets to what's called "slightly thickened." Now slightly thickened gelatin will support a plastic
knife, but when you pull out said implement you'll notice the hole completely closes up. And at this point you could use a whisk and beat in large
bubbles, or you could suspend pieces of fruit like blueberries or anything that didn't contain those enzymes that we were talking about.
At this point I think I'm going to go with the light and frothy heart. So the set is here and pour it in. And then the last thing you do is make sure that it is level by using the aluminum foil [which is around the form as a base set inside a larger bow] you can make small adjustments. Now push this into the back of the refrigerator. You want it as far away from the door as possible.
Use crumpled aluminum foil to support irregularly shaped molds.
That is what I call a dandy set. Indeed, you could bounce a quarter on it. Of course, now
we've got to get it out of there. And to do that I like to give this a quick dip in hot water. [approaches sink
full of dirty pots and pans] You know, maybe hot water's not such a good idea. After all, it would dissolve some of the fine detail
which you often find on this kind of mold. Of course, since this is plastic it's flexible. So maybe we can get away without it.
Generally what I like to do is—using a clean hand—put right on top of the mold and kind of wiggle it around as you pull the
mold away from the sides of the plastic. Then start letting gravity do some of the work for you. Let it pull out half one way then turn it around
and repeat. Now I'm betting that will pop right out of there.
The thing about the plate. Let's consider the landing zone. You know once this gelatin hits the plate, it's not going to want to move around because things kind of don't like to move around on plates. So just so you've got a little adjustability, give it a quick spritz with a little bit of water. That'll change the traction, so to speak. Okay. Plate on top and flip the mold. Just slowly peel it off. Aww. There, see. If you wanted to move it around, you could move it around all day long.
MD: [over walkie-talkie] The director needs a heart on the set right away.
AB: Don't have a coronary. I'm on the way.
Coronary ... heh.
"Gelatin" comes from the Latin "gelatus" meaning stiff.
Let's say you wanted a yummy dessert that actually resembled a human brain. And hey, who wouldn't. Well, you'd need something opaque. And that reminds me of a favorite dessert of mine: panacotta. That's Italy-speak for cooked cream. Which may not sound very creepy to you but remember, it's traditionally gelled with colla di pesce, that's gelatin extracted from the air bladders of sturgeon. Mmm.
|First we need to bloom and that's going to require liquid. Now since our recipe calls for evaporated milk, I don't see any reason not to bloom in it, so a 12 ounce can. As for the amount of gelatin, our brain's got a volume of 6 cups—a little skimpy if I remember my medical school days. Anyway, we would normally use a packet per cup, a very nice firm set, but panacotta needs to be softer and creamier. So I'm going to go with just four packages. That's a total of 8 teaspoons. Just kind of jiggle that on and leave that to soak.||
12 oz Can of Evaporated Milk
4 Packets = 8 tsp
|In the meantime, combine three quarters of a cup of sugar and half a vanilla bean, split. Now you could scrape this if you want but I rarely bother. Another two 12 ounce cans of evaporated milk—not condensed, that's another show—and a cup and a half of heavy cream. [a blood pressure cuff is thrust at him] A blood pressure cuff. You know, it's not like you're going to be eating a panacotta brain everyday. And if you'd like, a jigger of bourbon although, you don't have to.||
3/4 Cup Sugar
Anyway, bring this to a bare simmer over medium heat stirring to distribute the vanilla and melt the sugar. Oh by the way, that's a really great carry of flavor so you could add a crushed sprig of mint or basil or both and it would be a very nice thing indeed.
1 Sprig of Mint Or Basil, Crushed
As soon as you see bubbles, time to evacuate the heat. Just take this straight over and strain
it into the blooming gelatin mixture. Now since we bloomed this, it is probably going to dissolve very, very quickly and easily. But, just to be on
the safe side, once we've got this in, I'm going to give it a little bit of a stir just to make sure that everything is taken care of. It's going to
look a little lumpy but don't worry. That's going to go away very, very quickly.
Now I can't help but notice that this looks just a little bit white, brains aren't. No problem. We've got science. We also have food coloring. I'm think I'm going to go with maybe two drops of red food coloring and, I don't know, what do you say, maybe, three of green? One. Two. Three. We'll see how that looks. Hmmm. One more of green just to be safe. Ahh. Now if that's not delicious gray I don't know what is. Let this sit for about an hour until it cools to room temperature and then straight into the refrigerator ... in the mold, of course.
Gelatin is used in everything from pharmaceutical
capsules to photographic supplies.
GUESTS: 6 Stage Crew Members
Mmmm. Brainy, yes. But lacking in 'ick', wouldn't you say? No problem. Bloom one package of plain gelatin in half a cup of cranberry juice for 10 minutes and then dissolve that with an extra cup of cranberry juice heated just off the boil. Darken with a little blue food coloring and cool to room temperature.
Bloom for 10 minutes 1 packet of powdered gelatin in 1/2 cup cranberry juice dissolve in 1 cup cranberry juice, just off the boil.
AB: Brains up.
MD: You idiot. That's supposed to be 8 feet across, not 8 inches. You're fired.
AB: Come and get it, fellows.
STAG CREW: [a la zombies] Uuhhhmmmm.
|This show business doesn't make any sense. But luckily, gelatin does. Let's review, shall we? For a firm gel go with one packet of dried powdered gelatin—that's 2 teaspoons—per cup of flavorful liquid. If you want a softer set, go with 1 teaspoon per cup.||
|And remember, there are 4 degrees of gel set. There's "egg white consistency", good for adding to layered molds, beating into opaque gels or for adding mayo or cream. There's "thickened", which will support a plastic knife as well as fruit, say berries, in suspension. "Soft set" is perfect for building layers onto. And then, of course, there's "firm set" which is ready for un-molding.||
4 Degrees Of Gel Set
By the way, speaking of layers ...
AB: Roll it!
Want the layered look? Here's how.
I'm going to go with this Victorian mold. I know it's kind of spooky looking,
but I still kind of like it. It holds six cups and I'd like to have 6 layers. So I'm going to make a little more than a cup of each flavor. Now
I like to start with light colors first. That way when the mold is turned out, prospective dinners can gaze longingly down through the mold
before they dig into it. I also want to make sure that this top layer is jewel-clear, okay? So I'm going to pour it in while the mixture is
still relatively warm. Warm means loose and loose means no bubbles. Those'll clear up before I get to the refrigerator. Now as soon as this
layer starts to set, we'll start working on the next one.
Have a look at this. It looks set but when you touch the surface, you see it sticks to your fingers. And if it sticks to your fingers you know that it'll stick to other things, too. This is called soft-set consistency and now is the time to add other things. What kind of things? Well, let's say layers of fruit for instance. Just take pieces of, say, apple—which I have here—and just lay them right on the surface of the gelatin. Now the only thing you've got to do is make sure that there's plenty of room open around the fruit pieces so that the next layer of gelatin can get in there and stick. If you don't do that, you're going to end up with a sandwich that's just going to fall apart on you when you try to un-mold.
There. Now speaking of the next layer of gelatin, it's got to be egg-white consistency. Which I guess that's actually more motor-oil consistency. The point is is that it can't be hot, obviously, or it's just going to melt the layer beneath it. If it's too cold it's just going to fall out in clumps. So when you first pour it, be kind of careful that you don't dislodge any of your fruit. Once it's covered, you can be a little more aggressive with it.
Now you can repeat this as many times as you want. You can make as many layers into a single mold as you want. But you've got to be really careful and remember to check them. The thinner the layer is, the faster it is going to set. And if sets all the way, it's not going to stick to anything.
When it comes to un-molding, plastic molds can be manhandled but metal molds need a little coercing. Skip the traditional hot water routine and simply turn your mold over, place it on the target platter and hit it with a hair dryer. As long as you've left a quarter of an inch of head room at the top of the mold, it's going to fall right out.
Well, it looks like any way you cut it, homemade gelatin is definitely good eats. Speaking of cutting ...
[music dies and stops]
Proof Reading help from Jon Loonin and Sue Libretti
Last Edited on 08/27/2010