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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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
Of all the berries I know, blackberries are my favorite. I adore their dark, rich, and sweet taste. This mold was inspired by the yummy blackberry and orange gelato made at my favorite hang out, Dolce Vita.
The merger of blackberries and oranges creates a clean and crisp flavor, while the addition of sweetened condensed milk and rum completes the citrus, berry, creamy, boozy experience.
To create this mold, I dissolved bloomed gelatin into heated water and freshly squeezed orange juice, then stirred in fresh puréed blackberries (seeds strained), rum, sweetened condensed milk, and a touch of vanilla.
This gelatin mold is based on my new favorite cocktail of the same name. I first learned of the Bramble in The New York Times Style Magazine article written by Toby Cecchini (the object of my latest foodie crush). Cecchini describes my ideal cocktail – gin, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and a blackberry liqueur called crème de mûre. Oh yum…
The Bramble, popular in England, is relatively unknown in the states. Especially Austin. My continual attempts of ordering it result in well-intended blank stares. I resigned to purchasing crème de mûre and making it myself when mixologist Alfonso started working at my neighborhood bar, the fantastic Dolce Vita. Alfonso (pictured right) not only knows how to make the Bramble, he adds a few twists like a dash of soda and the occasional coating of the glass with absinthe. (I’ve yet to develop a taste for absinthe, but my friend Monti claims it’s a worthy addition.) Needless to say, Alfonso’s version reins as my favorite summer cocktail.
To transfer the Bramble to a gelatin mold, I created a simple syrup of water, sugar, lemon juice, and stewed lemon zest. After blooming the gelatin in water and dissolving it in the hot syrup, I added gin, club soda, and crème de framboise. (My usually well-stocked liquor store does not carry crème de mûre, so I went with the raspberry equivalent.) The resulting taste competed with the cocktail – but I need to tinker with ingredient proportions before it’s truly berrytastic.
This mold may not be the prettiest I’ve made, but it was definitely the tastiest. Inspired by this mold, my ingredients included 100% pomegranate juice, vodka, sugar, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. I worried the combination would demonstrate too tart, but the sugar and berries nicely balanced the pomegranate and vodka.
Recipe for 3.5-cup mold
- 2 cups 100% pomegranate juice (If using a juice blend or one with added sugar, you may want to reduce sugar in the recipe)
- 1-cup sugar (or to taste)
- 2 packets gelatin
- ¾ cup cold water
- ¾ cup cold vodka
- 1 1/2-cup berries of choice (thoroughly washed and dried)
Put pomegranate juice and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil. Once sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and add gelatin. Stir until gelatin is fully dissolved (approx. 2 minutes). Transfer liquid to a bowl and stir in the cold water and vodka.
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. Stir in berries, and spoon mixture into mold. Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.
Based on my friend Monti’s favorite “girls night” cocktail, the French Bohemia is made with sparking wine, St. Germain (elderflower liqueur), and blackberries. Since St. Germain is quite expensive, I substituted it with elderflower flavoring syrup. The sparkling wine (I used prosecco) gives a light sparkling texture while the elderflower syrup provides a subdued and floral sweetness.
French Bohemia (recipe for 3.5 cups)
- 2 packets Knox gelatin
- ¼ cup water (for blooming)
- 2 ½ cups sparking wine
- ¾ cup Elderflower Syrup (or St. Germain)
- ½ cup blackberries (or other berry of choice)
Put ¼ cup of cold water in a medium bowl and sprinkle 2 packets of gelatin on top of the water. Set bowl aside.
Put Elderflower syrup or St. Germain over medium heat and bring to a low boil. Remove from heat add to gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in sparkling wine.
Put mixture in refrigerator (or freezer) until thickened to a soft gel consistency. It should be easy to stir but thick enough to hold the blackberries. Stir in blackberries and spoon mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.