The agonizing wait is over! In honor of Mad Men returning this Sunday, here’s a repost of my Don Draper gelatin mold. More Mad Men inspired recipes to come!

See this mold featured on Delicious Links at Apartment Therapy The Kitchn.

I’m a huge fan of the show Mad Men. Not only do I adore the show’s style, acting, and social commentary, I’m fascinated by the cocktail-centric world it depicts. In honor of Mad Men’s 4th season premier, I created the Don Draper gelatin mold.

The Don Draper is based on an old-fashioned, a cocktail consisting of bourbon (Don preferred Canadian Club whisky), sugar, water, dash of bitters, twist of lemon (or orange), and a cherry. It was a challenge to convert an old-fashioned into a gelatin mold, but I think I’m finally figuring out the magic cocktail-to-gelatin formula.

Recipe for 3.5 cups

  • 2 packets knox gelatin
  • ½ cup water (for blooming)
  • ¾ water
  • ½ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • Juice of one lemon (approx. ¼ cup) with zest reserved
  • 1 ¾ cup bourbon
  • 6 dashes of aromatic bitters, or to taste
  • 1 cup strained maraschino cherries

Put ½ cup of water in a medium bowl and sprinkle the 2 packets of gelatin on top.  Set bowl aside. Put water, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add lemon zest. Let stew for 10-minutes. Strain the lemon syrup, and return to saucepan. Reheat the syrup, and pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in bourbon and bitters. Note: if bourbon is cold, it will reduce the amount of time needed before adding cherries.

Put mixture in refrigerator (or freezer) until thickened to a soft gel consistency. It should be easy to stir but thick enough to suspend the cherries. Stir in cherries and spoon mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

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So yeah, like many people with Netflix and a heart, I freaking love the PBS Masterpiece Classic show Downton Abbey. I adore the rich and complicated characters, dramatic plot lines, Edwardian fashions, class struggles, women’s rights, and gelatin molds. Gelatin molds? Gelatin molds! It’s like the fine folks at Masterpiece Classic read my mind and created a television show guaranteed to suck away my time and provoke endless conversations with my girlfriends. Conversations that go like this:

Me: “So how kind and hot and sexy and smart and thoughtful is Matthew? What the hell was Mary thinking?”
Girlfriend: “I don’t care that his penis broke in the war. I’d find a way to work around it.”
Me: “I know, right?”

Or this conversation:

Me: “Did you see that creamy gelatin Daisy unmolded with Mrs. Patmore’s incessant nagging?”
Girlfriend: “No, I missed that.”
Me: “Or what about that red jelly in the first episode, what do you think that was? What would they use for food coloring?”
Girlfriend: “Uh, I don’t know.”
Me: “Didn’t you notice all those copper gelatin molds on the kitchen wall? Where can I buy those? I haven’t seen anything like that in Austin.”
Girlfriend: “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

It’s no secret that foods made with gelatin, or “jellies” as the English say, were popular in Edwardian England. After some research (i.e. 15 minutes with goggle), I came across a myriad of Victorian and Edwardian gelatin recipes – hence my Downton Abbey Jelly Series was born. According to several cookbooks popular during Downton Abbey times, Blancmanges were common gelatin desserts that consisted of milk, sugar, citrus, and an essence of choice. See this recipe from, “The Easiest Way in Housekeeping and Cooking,” published in 1903. Since rose essence was popular in England before the commercialization of vanilla, and in honor of Mr. Molesley’s most worthy prize-winning rose, I decided to create a rose flavored blancmange.

In all honesty here, I was extraordinarily excited about this rose flavored blancmange, but was disappointed in the results. Maybe my American taste buds aren’t accustomed to rose essence, or my creamy-loving taste buds missed the fat inherent in heavy cream that is missing in just whole milk, but I found this recipe lacking in rich lusciousness. But it came out really pretty, right?

Well, this Rose Blancmange is only the first in a series of several Edwardian-era jellies to come – oh, the gelatin possibilities make me almost as excited as seeing Shirley MacLaine as Clara’s mom in season three!

Rose Blancmange Recipe for 2 cups

  • One packet Knox gelatin
  • ½ cup cold whole milk (for blooming gelatin)
  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk (for heating)
  • 2/3 cup sugar (or more to taste)
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • 1 teaspoon rose water (I found rose water on the international food aisle at my local grocery store)
  • 2 tablespoons brandy (optional)
  • Red food-coloring (optional)

Put ½ cup of cold milk in a bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top. Set bowl aside. Over medium heat, heat 1 ¼ cups milk and sugar until sugar dissolves (be careful not to scald the milk). Add lemon zest, and remove from heat for 10-minutes. Strain mixture, and pour hot milk over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Add rose water, brandy, and food coloring (if using), adjusting proportions to your preference. Pour liquid into mold(s) and refrigerate until solid.

To remove gelatin, put mold into a bowl or sink full of warm water for a few seconds. After removing from water, gently shake the mold side to side. If gelatin has not separated from the edges of the mold, run a knife around the edge. Put plate on top of mold and flip over. If gelatin does not come out, try repeating the process.

Decorate with candies rose petal – I used this recipe from Food and Wine. Candied rose petals are easy, lovely, and delicious!

I had fantastic plans for this year’s Valentine’s Day gelatin mold – it was going to be the gelatinous exemplification of my disillusioned feelings towards this holiday, while paying tribute an amazing band that wrote at least 69 of my favorite love songs. However, since the super boozy gelatin of my imagination requires a great deal of work (including my friend Matt’s assistance in using a kitchen floor vacuum former), it will not be completed in time for V-Day. Therefore, I’m re-posting last year’s popular chocolate and strawberry panna cotta instead.

Here are some fun variations for this recipe:

  • If you are not a fan of intense dark chocolate, reduce the baking cocoa to ¼ cup.
  • Add two tablespoons of your favorite liqueur to liven things up. An orange or raspberry liqueur would nicely compliment the chocolate.
  • Replace strawberries with raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries. Orange or tangerine juice would work as well.
  • Instead of adding a fruit layer, make a blackberry syrup or strawberry coulis.
  • Instead of having two layers, add ¼ of pureed and strained berries to the chocolate panna cotta. Reduce heaving whipping cream to 1 ¾ cups.
  • Add a ½ cup of a flavored simple syrup (see chocolate cardamom panna cotta), reduce milk and cream by ¼ cup each.

Strawberry top layer (Recipe for 1 ¾ cups)

  • One packet Knox gelatin
  • ¼ cup water (for blooming)
  • ½ cup water (for boiling)
  • ¼ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 cup pureed strawberries, seeds strained (NOTE: it is very important to strain the seeds! Otherwise, they will sink to the bottom of the mold, and show up on the surface. Not pretty!)

Put ¼ cup of cold water in a medium bowl and sprinkle 1 packet of gelatin on top of the water. Set bowl aside.

Put water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in pureed strawberries. Pour mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until almost set. It should stick to your fingers when slightly touched.

 Chocolate Panna Cotta (Recipe for 2.5 cups)

  • One packet Knox gelatin
  • ½ cup whole milk (for blooming gelatin)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup baking cocoa powder

Sprinkle the packet of gelatin on top of ½ cup cold milk. Set aside for 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan heat up cream and sugar. Add cocoa a little bit at a time and stir thoroughly. If clumps of cocoa remain, strain to remove. Once sugar dissolves, pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Refrigerate until not set, but cool. Pour into mold(s) and refrigerate for 4 hours.

To remove gelatin, put mold into a bowl or sink full of hot water for a few seconds. After removing from hot water, gently shake the mold side to side. Put plate on top of mold and flip over. If gelatin does not come out, try repeating the process.

For the past year, I’ve kept a notebook filled with random ideas for boozy gelatin molds. (Or in this case, non-boozy agar agar molds.) Some of these ideas result in recipes I post, others turn into unfortunate globs of goo, while the majority remain quirky figments of my imagination. Anyway, last week, when looking through my notebook, I decided to knock out three separate ideas in one recipe: herb-infused panna cotta, vegan panna cotta, and coconut milk panna cotta.  Hence, I present the Lemon Basil Vegan Panna Cotta.

I didn’t realize it until after I tasted the final product, but coconut milk, basil, and lemons create a brilliant palette common in Thai cuisine. At once creamy, sweet, and tropical, the hint of basil adds a splash of unexpected herby brightness – typical of many Asian desserts.

If you’re interested in agar agar, a vegan alternative to gelatin, checkout my other agar agar posts: Blood Orange, Blackberry and Tea, Hibiscus Mint, Gelatin Tips and Tricks.

Recipe for 2 cups

  • ¾ teaspoon agar agar
  • 1 ½ cup coconut milk
  • ¼ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • ½ cup water
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 5-7 fresh basil leaves

In a saucepan, bring the coconut milk, water, and sugar to a boil. Take off heat, add lemon zest and basil, and steep for 10-minutes. Strain to remove leaves and zest, and return liquid to the saucepan. Add agar agar, and bring to a low boil for 15-minutes. Pour into molds and let cool.

To remove agar agar, put mold into a bowl or sink full of hot water for a few seconds. Gently shake the mold side to side to loosen, or run a knife around the edge of the mold. Put plate on top of mold and flip over. If gelatin does not come out, try repeating the process.

A few weeks ago my friend Lynda requested a special recipe for her grandmother’s 100th birthday – a vodka tonic. According to Lynda, her grandmother credits her longevity to the daily consumption of this classic cocktail. How great is that?! I credit my occasional poor decision making and sluggish weekend mornings to cocktail consumption. Lynda made this recipe for her grandmother’s 100th birthday party, and it was a hit. I couldn’t be more honored.

In an attempt to try something new, I added candied limes to Grandma’s Vodka Tonic. This recipe for candied lemons from Real Simple magazine inspired me. Unfortunately the results were mixed: Boiling limes turns them brown (not very pretty), but they tasted sweet and limey! Oh, lemons can easily substitute limes in this recipe.

Recipe for 7 cups

  • 4 packets Knox gelatin
  • ¾ cup water (for blooming gelatin)
  • ½ cup water (for syrup)
  • 1 ¼ cup sugar
  • Juice of 1 lime (approx. 1/4 cup) with zest reserved
  • 1 ½ cups tonic water
  • 2 cups vodka
  • Berries of choice, or candied limes

Put ¾ cup of cold water in a large bowl and sprinkle 4 packets of gelatin on top of the water.  Set bowl aside.

Put remaining water and sugar and in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add lime zest. Cover and let stew for 10-minutes. Strain the lime syrup, and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in lime juice, vodka, and tonic.

Put mixture in refrigerator (or freezer) until thickened to a soft gel consistency. It should be easy to stir but thick enough to suspend the berries. (Length of time varies.) Stir in berries (or whatever you’re using) and spoon mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

Berries, herbs, and gin – a match made in my own voluptuary heaven. A few weeks ago I tried a berry rosemary gelato featured at my favorite neighborhood bar, Dolce Vita, and it was ridiculously divine. The addition of savory herbs to desserts may seem objectionable, but in proper proportion, a hint of rosemary, basil, thyme, or sage brings an unexpected brightness to boozy gelatin. Per Dolce Vita bartender Sam’s suggestion, I paired my berry rosemary gelatin with gin. Made from juniper berries and other natural botanicals, gin is perfect for pairing with savory herbs. The resulting gelatin mold was lovely (thanks to the combination of strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries), fruity, herby, and overall yummy.

Check out my previous experiments with herbs: Basil Blueberry Lemonade with Vodka, Rosemary Limeade with Blueberries and Gin, Lemonade with Thyme and Vodka.

Recipe for 5.25 cups

  • 3 packets Knox gelatin
  • ½ cup water (for blooming gelatin)
  • ¾ cup water (for syrup)
  • Juice of one small lemon, zest reserved
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 ½ cups berries, pureed and strained (I used a combination of strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
  • 1 cup gin

Put ½ cup of cold water in a medium bowl and sprinkle 3 packets of gelatin on top of the water.  Set bowl aside.

Put water and sugar over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add lemon zest and rosemary. Let stew for 10-minutes. Strain the syrup, reheat, and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in pureed berries (remember to strain!), lemon juice, and gin. Spoon mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

Before starting my mixology self-education, I associated drinks with “sour” in the name as an efficient way to get sorority girls drunk. I have since learned that not all drinks with sour in the name need to contain cheap booze and dreadful sour mix. Done well, sours offer the delightful combination of booze, sugar, and citrus. One of my favorite cocktails, the bramble, is a basic gin sour with a shot of blackberry liqueur. Hence, a good whiskey sour is made of decent whiskey or bourbon (2 ounces), fresh squeezed lemon juice (1 ounce) and simple syrup (1/2 ounce).

Just a warning to boozy gelatin fans: This recipe is not for the meek. It is strong, strong stuff. I made it for my friend Dave’s birthday party, and even that bourbon-loving crowd commented on the boozy strength.  Consider using shot-sized molds, or cutting the gelatin into tiny squares. Also, to cut down on the sharp boozy taste, substitute some water for the alcohol, or use a higher quality whiskey. A smooth whiskey results in a smooth gelatin mold.

Whiskey Sour (3.5 cups)

  • 2 packets Knox gelatin
  • ½ cup water (for blooming)
  • ¾ water
  • ½ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • Juice of one lemon (approx. ¼ cup) with zest reserved
  • 1 ¾ cup bourbon

Put ½ cup of water in a medium bowl and sprinkle the 2 packets of gelatin on top.  Set bowl aside. Put water, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add lemon zest. Let stew for 10-minutes. Strain the lemon syrup, and return to saucepan. Reheat the syrup, and pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in bourbon. Spoon mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours. Serve with maraschino cherries.

If you want to put cherries in the mold, put mixture in refrigerator (or freezer) until thickened to a soft gel consistency. It should be easy to stir but thick enough to suspend the cherries. Stir in cherries and spoon mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

The holidays offer endless possibilities for gelatin molds – think eggnog, pumpkin, apple cider, and cranberries. Cranberries? Yes please! Delightful and tart, I associate cranberries with turkey and cosmopolitans. This boozy gelatin, based on the classic cosmo, combines 100% cranberry juice with my favorite holiday flavors – ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. And booze. If you’re inclined to mix drinks at home, the ginger-spice simple syrup transforms cocktails into dazzling little liquid celebrations.

Recipe for ginger-spice simple syrup*

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh ginger
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 small whole nutmeg

Combine water with sugar in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. When sugar dissolves, remove from heat and add ginger, cinnamon, anise, and nutmeg. Cover pan and let sit overnight. In the morning, strain the syrup and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Should last a few months.

*Recipe adapted from here (epicurious.com)

Cranberry Ginger-Spice Martini (recipe for 3.5 cups)

  • 2 packets Knox gelatin
  • 1 cup water (for blooming)
  • 3/4 cup cranberry juice (I use 100% cranberry juice, but if using a blend with added sugar, consider adjusting the sugar)
  • 1 cup ginger-spice simple syrup
  • ½ cup vodka (better vodka equals better gelatin mold!)
  • ¼ cup triple sec (I used my new favorite Paula’s Texas Orange Premium Liqueur)

Put 1 cup of cold water in a medium bowl and sprinkle the 2 packets of gelatin on top of the water. Set bowl aside.

Put cranberry juice in small sauce pan, and put on medium heat. Upon almost boiling, remove from heat and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in ginger-spice syrup and alcohol. Pour mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set.

Top layer (optional)

Since I had this seasonal gelatin mold to play with, I added a creamy top layer. Here’s what I used:

  • 1 packet gelatin
  • 1 cup water (½ cup for blooming gelatin, ½ cup for boiling)
  • ¾ cup sweetened condensed milk

Put ½ cup of water in a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Set bowl aside. Bring ½ cup water to boil and remove from heat. Pour hot water over bloomed gelatin, stir until fully dissolved. Stir in sweetened condensed milk. Pour mixture into mold and put in refrigerator. Once creamy layer is almost set, pour in cranberry mixture.

This summer, it’s been devastating to watch wildfires scorch beautiful Bastrop, Texas. The wildfires, located about 30-minutes outside of Austin, have destroyed over 1,500 homes and 95% of the historic Bastrop State Park.

As I sympathize for the people who lost their homes, I also mourn Bastrop State Park. I’ve always had a soft spot for the park, with it’s lost pine trees and New Deal era buildings. About ten years ago I had the honor of staying in one of its lovely vintage cabins. I visited with a friend who was filming a documentary on the federal Civilian Conservation Corps workers of the late 1930s. As part of FDR’s New Deal, the CCC created the state and national parks we love and enjoy. The story of the CCC is truly fascinating, as seen in Ken Burn’s PBS documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. (And no, my friend isn’t Ken Burns. How kickass would that be, though?)

While filming my friend’s documentary, we had the great pleasure of meeting several of the CCC men who built Bastrop State Park. They told us wonderful stories of hard work, conservation, Eleanor Roosevelt, and how the money they received from the CCC literally meant the difference between their families eating or starving. Bastrop State Park is a wonderful example of America, and Texas, at it’s finest. It breaks my heart most of it has been destroyed.

So, I’m more than excited to offer my boozy gelatin molds in support of the Central Texas Wildfire Fund. Austin Bakes for Bastrop is a collection of some amazing Austin food bloggers donating goodies for sale. The sale occurs October 1st all over Austin (see locations below) from 10 AM to 2 PM.

I’ll be selling a few dozen of my individual strawberry margarita gelatin molds (see right) from noon to 2PM at Foreign & Domestic, 306 E. 53rd Street, 78751. I hope to see you there!

Since starting this blog a year ago, the chocolate amaretto panna cotta is my most popular post. This surprises me, especially since I didn’t post a recipe. Instead I linked to one of the only chocolate panna cotta recipes I could find at the time.

Over the past year, I’ve experimented with chocolate panna cottas, and finally settled on my own recipe. No disrespect to the fine folks at William-Sonoma, but I like my recipe more. I’m happy to share it with you!

Chocolate Amaretto Panna Cotta Recipe for 2.5 cups

  • One packet Knox gelatin
  • ½ cup whole milk (for blooming gelatin)
  • 1 ¾ cups heavy cream
  • ¼ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • ½ cup baking cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup amaretto

Sprinkle the packet of gelatin on top of ½ cup cold milk. Set aside for 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan, heat up cream and sugar (do not boil). Add cocoa a little bit at a time and stir thoroughly. Once sugar dissolves, pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves, and add ¼ cup of amaretto. Strain mixture to remove cocoa powder clumps – there will be clumps!  Pour into mold(s) and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Original post:

Panna cottas, like all gelatin desserts, offer a blank slate for flavor experimentations. Here I combined two of my favorite things in the world – chocolate and almonds. The chocolate creaminess and boozy almond sweetness tasted divine. This was my first attempt at a chocolate gelatin mold, and am thrilled by limitless chocolate possibilities. Oh the fun I’m going to have!

To make the chocolate amaretto panna cotta, I adapted this recipe from William-Sonoma (I substituted milk for the mascarpone and added  amaretto). While most panna cotta recipes call for straight heavy cream, I prefer substituting some of the cream with milk. I find it creates a lighter, silky texture.

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