Damn, I love blackberries. Seriously. I can’t imagine a more deliciously sexy and complicated fruit. (Well, except maybe the mango. I don’t use fresh mangos in gelatin molds because some ridiculous acid inherent in mangos prevents gelatin from setting. This is a crying shame.) Anyway, this recipe was created to lament the end of another glorious blackberry season.

While the pairing of blackberries and earl gray tea may seem random – trust me on this – it’s not. The essence of bergamot oranges from the tea offers a subtle citrus punch that enhances and compliments the blackberries. I wish I can take credit for this brilliant union, but I got the idea from Annie Bell’s lovely cookbook, Gorgeous Desserts. While Annie’s recipe calls for gelatin, I decided to substitute agar agar for a few reasons. First, I have a compulsive urge to change any recipe I come across. Second, many people stumble across my blog when searching for agar agar recipes. And since I’ve noticed a paucity of homemade (and yummy) agar agar recipes online, I decided to help fill that void.

 

If you’re interested in agar agar, checkout my other agar agar posts: Blood Orange Agar Agar, Hibiscus Mint, Gelatin Tips and Tricks.

Recipe for 4-cups

  • 3 cups water
  • 3 earl gray tea bags
  • ½ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons agar agar
  • 1 cup puréed fresh blackberries – approx 2 cups whole berries (seeds strained)

In a saucepan, bring 3 cups of water to a boil, and take off heat. Add tea bags and steep 5-minutes, remove tea bags. In the same saucepan over medium heat, combine the brewed tea with sugar and agar agar. Boil for 15-minutes. Stir in blackberry purée. Pour into shallow pan to cool. Once set, cut into cubes.

I’m crazy about Conan. In honor of his new show starting tonight on TBS, I created the Conan O’Brien gelatin mold. Inspired by a traditional Irish Coffee, the Conan involves a cream layer on top of a coffee and Jameson’s Irish Whiskey base. I wasn’t sure how the coffee/whiskey base would taste in gelatinous form, but it was surprisingly delicious. And boozy. If whiskey isn’t your thing, you can substitute it with various liquors such as Bailey’s Irish Cream, Amaretto, Frangelico, Grand Marnier, or brandy.

Recipe for 3.5 cups

Top layer

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

Bottom layer

  • 1 packet Knox gelatin
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup freshly brewed coffee
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
  • ¼ cup Jameson’s Irish Whiskey

Top layer:

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(s) and put in refrigerator.

Bottom layer:

Put ¼ cup water in bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Set bowl aside. Put freshly brewed coffee in a sauce pan over low heat, and stir in sugar. Once sugar is dissolved, add coffee over the bloomed gelatin and stir until gelatin is dissolved. Stir in whiskey.

When the cream layer is almost set – some gelatin should stick to your fingers when lightly touched – pour the coffee layer into the mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

Needless to say, Halloween is a fantastic time of year for gelatin molds. My goal was to create tasty (but disgusting looking) desserts from scratch using no food coloring. Overwhelmed with yummy/revolting possibilities, I only had time and money to pull off a few. Except for the Bloody Mary heart (which tasted bland), these were a hit at parties. I can’t wait for next year…

Raspberry Cream with Cognac and Raspberry Syrup

Recipe for 5.25 cups

  • 3 packets Knox gelatin
  • 1 cup water (for blooming gelatin)
  • 1 ½ cup water (for boiling)
  • 1 cup puréed fresh raspberries, seeds strained (approx. 2 cup whole)
  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • ¼ cup cognac

Put 1 cup of water in a large bowl and sprinkle  gelatin on top.  Set aside. Put water in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil. Remove from heat and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in raspberry purée, sweetened condensed milk, and cognac. Pour into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

Raspberry Syrup (adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman)

  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cornstarch
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water

Combine raspberries, cornstarch, sugar, and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until syrup thickens. Strain. Spoon over set gelatin mold.

Zombie Matt (artist and future gelatin mold collaborator) enjoyed the boozy brains.

Here is the first installment of my Halloween gelatin molds – I’m having way too much fun! I found these great Halloween molds on ebay

Bloody Mary Heart

Recipe for 2 cups

  • 1 packet Knox gelatin
  • ¼ cup water
  • Juice of ½ lemon (zest reserved)
  • 1 ¼ cups tomato juice
  • ½ cup vodka
  • 1 ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 dashes tabasco sauce

Put 1/2 cup of vodka in a small bowl and sprinkle the packet of gelatin on top. Set bowl aside. Put water and lemon juice a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil. Remove from heat and add lemon zest. Let stew for 10-minutes. Strain and add to the vodka and gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce and tabasco sauce. Pour into mold(s). Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

Riga Mortis Hand – Blackberry and cream with crème de mûre

Recipe for 4 cups

  • 2 and ¼ packets Knox gelatin
  • ½ cup water (for blooming gelatin)
  • 1 cup water
  • ¾ cup puréed fresh blackberries, seeds strained (approx. 1 ½ cup whole)
  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • ¼ cup crème de mûre
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla

For blooming, put ½ cup of water in a large bowl and sprinkle  gelatin on top.  Set bowl aside. Put water in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil. Remove from heat and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in blackberry purée, sweetened condensed milk, crème de mûre, and vanilla. Pour into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours

Like many pop-culture junkies of my generation, I never get tired of watching “The Big Lebowski.” The 1998 Ethan and Joel Coen film has spawned multiple books, an annual festival, academic works, and even a religion called “dudeism.” The main character in the movie (“The Dude”) drinks White Russians, so when I made this White Russian gelatin mold for our friend Lynn’s birthday, the name seemed obvious.

White Russians consist of coffee-flavored liqueur, vodka, and cream. To create this gelatin mold, I used my basic panna cotta recipe (minus vanilla bean) and added vodka and Kahlúa. I also created a version with sweetened condensed milk (see below). Personally, I preferred the less sweet panna cotta version, but several of my friends liked the sweetened condensed milk more. Both versions tasted like a White Russian ordered at a bar.

The molds seen here are especially fantastic. I purchased the star mold at my favorite Austin vintage store (Room Service Vintage), and my friend Christie purchased the flower mold at a Tulsa estate sale.

Recipe (panna cotta version) approx 3 cups

  • 1 packet Knox gelatin
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup Kahlúa
  • ½ cup vodka

Sprinkle the packet of gelatin on top of ¼ cup milk. Set aside for 5 minutes. In a small saucepan heat up cream and sugar (do not boil). Once sugar dissolves, pour cream over the bloomed gelatin and milk. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in Kahlúa and vodka, and spoon into mold(s). Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

Recipe (sweetened condensed milk version) 5.25 cups

  • 3 packets Knox gelatin
  • 1 cup water (for blooming)
  • ¾ cup water (for heating)
  • 1 cup vodka
  • ½ cup Kahlúa
  • 2 cups sweetened condensed milk

Sprinkle the gelatin on top of 1 cup of water. Set aside for 5 minutes. In a small saucepan heat up ¾ cup of water and vodka (do not boil). Once heated, pour water and vodka over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in sweetened condensed milk and Kahlúa, and spoon into mold(s). Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

Saffron, one of the world’s most precious spices, provides a fragrant elegance to panna cottas. Combined with lemon zest (and no booze), this yellow-hued creamy fantasticness reminded me of the many Indian desserts I’ve enjoyed over the years. Here I paired the panna cotta with a blackberry syrup I adapted from my personal cooking bible, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. As much as my friends and I enjoyed the saffron panna cotta, we relished in the blackberry syrup. I served it on my morning bowl of oatmeal for a week.

Recipe for 2.5 cups

Adpated from this recipe by Gina DePalma

  • 1 packet Knox gelatin
  • ¼ cup milk (for blooming gelatin)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon saffron threads
  • Zest of ½ lemon

Sprinkle the packet of gelatin on top of ¼ cup milk. Set aside. In a small saucepan heat up cream, sugar, saffron, and lemon zest. Once sugar dissolves, set aside pan and let the saffron and lemon zest steep for 10-minutes. Strain the cream mixture to remove saffron and zest, and reheat until warm. Once warm, pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

Blackberry Syrup (adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman)

  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cornstarch
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water

Combine blackberries, cornstarch, sugar, and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until syrup thickens. Strain, if desired. Spoon over set panna cotta.

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.

Panna cotta, Italian for cooked cream, is an ancient dessert similar to the blancmange. Modern day panna cottas typically contain cream, milk, sugar, gelatin, and a vanilla bean with fruit syrup or sauce drizzled on top. This deceptively simple combination of ingredients can result in rich and creamy delightfulness.

The panna cotta seen here consists of heavy cream, whole milk, one vanilla bean, bloomed gelatin, and Lemoncello. The raspberry sauce has fresh raspberries, powdered sugar, and lemon juice. The cream and vanilla bean merged into an ivory yumminess I’ve only experienced in fine ice creams, while the lemoncello and raspberry sauce tempered the creamy richness.

Recipe for 2.5 cups

  • 1 packet Knox gelatin
  • ½ cup milk (for blooming gelatin)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds removed
  • 2 tablespoons lemoncello (or other fruit liqueur)
  • Raspberry Sauce:
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries, puréed, seeds strained
  • Powered sugar, to taste
  • Lemon juice, to taste

Sprinkle the packet of gelatin on top of ½ cup milk. Set aside for 5 minutes. In a small saucepan heat up cream, sugar, and vanilla seeds (do not boil). Once sugar dissolves, pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in lemoncello, and spoon into mold(s). Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

For raspberry sauce, combine pureed raspberries with seeds strained with sugar and lemon juice. Spoon over the set panna cotta.

Blancmange, meaning white food or white dish, is a European stiff pudding dating back to the Middle Ages. Originally made with cream, almond milk, and shredded meat, the blancmange eventually became a popular dessert with the European aristocracy. Typically white or pink in color, blancmanges were thickened with gelatin or cornstarch and set in elaborate molds.

I based this blancmange on an English recipe I came across in a used bookstore. The recipe called for fresh puréed raspberries (seeds strained), heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and gelatin. I adjusted the ingredient proportions and added cognac for flavor. The fresh raspberries were tart and sweet, and the whipping cream tasted rich and creamy. I served this mold (see picture right – yup I’m wearing pearls!) at a French Dinner Night I hosted with my friend Monti.

This Raspberry and Cognac Blancmange lacked the lush, smooth texture of molds made with sweetened condensed milk – but that may be because I used too much gelatin. I need to experiment more with heavy cream-to-gelatin proportions. I will continue this experimentation when I start my boozy panna cotta series.

Lambrusco, an Italian wine from the Emilia-Romagna region, is a lovely summer wine. While wine connoisseurs often snub Lambrusco, it has regained a small popularity in recent years (check out this article). Personally, I enjoy its soft berry sweetness and slight effervescence. Served with a few ice cubes, Lambrusco is perfect for blistering hot Texas cookouts.

Translating Lambrusco into a gelatin mold involved adding water, a little sugar, and bloomed gelatin to 3-cups of wine. In addition to using the grape mold seen above, I flaked the gelatin and added blackberries and mandarin oranges (see picture right). “Flaking” involves breaking the gelatin into tiny pieces with a ricer, colander, or fork. My attempt of flaking was not very successful – as you can see the gelatin turned into mush – but the Lambrusco tasted great with the blackberries and mandarin oranges!

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