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In the two years since starting this blog, I’ve felt ridiculous guilt for not appeasing my beer-drinking friends. At every party I bring a boozy gelatin mold to, some bearded dude asks the inevitable – where’s the beer?

Being a beer liker (not a beer lover), I couldn’t begin to imagine a beer gelatin mold. My limited beer appreciation involves the following: (a) Budweiser, which my parents let the adolescent me drink on special occasions, (b) Guinness, which I drank a lot of in the late 90’s to impress an Irish-phile I was unrequitedly in love with; and my favorite, (c) Austin local brew Fireman’s #4, which I gift to beer-loving friends and order at every Alamo Drafthouse movie I see.

About a year ago, my bearded friend Kerim mentioned how he enjoys an occasional Shandy, and I finally had an idea for a beer gelatin mold. Interestingly, the word Shandy can mean many different cocktails, but usually refers to mixing beer with something sweet. The first time I heard the word Shandy was at Dim Sum with my dear friend Bindiya. For Bindiya, a South Asian raised in Singapore/London and now residing in Texas, a Shandy consists of a light beer combined with equal parts Sprite. Now I love my dear friend like a sister, but I personally couldn’t imagine a less appetizing cocktail.  However, when my friend Kerim mentioned a Shandy as beer combined with lemonade, a light went off in my head. Hence, the Shandy gelatin mold was born.

It took several trials to perfect this recipe. Due to the high carbonation of beer, it was difficult to find a balance that kept the effervescence but still held shape. See the picture at the left – this is what happens when you attempt to float cherries in a high-carbonation gelatin. As my high school friend Kelli said, it looked like brains.

So several trials later, I finally created a solid Shandy gelatin mold for my good friend Matt’s birthday. I’m very happy with this recipe, seen here with candied lemons. I hope you can enjoy it as well.

Recipe for 5 cups

  • 3 packets Knox gelatin
  • 1 cup water (for blooming gelatin)
  • ¾ cup water (for syrup)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup strained lemon juice, with zest reserved
  • 2 cups wheat beer (I used Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat)

Put 1 cup of cold water in a large bowl and sprinkle 3 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 lemon zest. Cover and let stew for 10-minutes. Strain the lemon syrup, and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in strained lemon juice and beer. Spoon mixture into mold(s), and put in refrigerator until set (at least 4 hours).

To remove gelatin, put mold(s) into a bowl or sink full of warm water for a few seconds. After removing from water, gently shake the mold side to side. When the gelatin jiggles away from the edges of the mold, put plate on top of mold and flip over. If gelatin does not come out, try repeating the process or run a knife around the edge. Be careful not to melt the mold in the process.

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Joan, in all her fantastic competence and intelligence, is one of the few characters on Mad Men I actually like. Mad Men characters are generally fascinating and dynamic, but rarely likable. Really, how likable is sexism, racism, infidelity, self-absorption, lying, denial, and substance abuse?

Joan has been guilty of all of those things, but in Joan we witness an inner strength and tenacity that other characters lack. Because of that strength, and because Joan is good at everything she does, we watch her grow and change in positive ways. Hurray for leaving her doofus rapist husband! Hurray for recognizing that, while she loves her son, she also loves her job! Hurray for changing her mind on her, “marriage is everything and the end goal of all women” attitude! Hurray for seeing Roger as the man-child he is!

Unlike Don, Betty, and Roger, Joan doesn’t have a signature cocktail. I resigned myself to the task of re-watching previous seasons to see what she orders, then Episode 4: Mystery Date aired. During the dinner scene when Joan realizes what a doofus her idiot husband is, she orders a gin fizz. Hence, the Joan Holloway gelatin mold is a gin fizz with candied lemons. And it tastes lovely – I enjoyed eating the candied lemons suspended in the gelatin, but it’s optional.

Recipe for 5.25 cups

Candied Lemons (optional), I used the slices of three lemons, and this recipe from Real Simple magazine

  • 3 packets Knox gelatin
  • 1 cup water (for blooming)
  • ½ cup water (for boiling)
  • ¾ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • ½ cup lemon juice, strained, with zest reserved
  • 1 ¾ cups gin
  • 1 cup club soda
  • Candied lemon slices (optional)

Put 1 cup of water in a medium bowl and sprinkle the 3 packets of gelatin on top.  Set bowl aside. Put ½ cup 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 gin and club soda.

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 candied lemons. Place candied lemons into mixture, and the mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

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. When the gelatin jiggles away from the edges of the mold, put plate on top of mold and flip over. If gelatin does not come out, try repeating the process or run a knife around the edge. Be careful not to melt the mold in the process.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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