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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.
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.
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.
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.
I love figs and I love cardamon, but I never thought of combining them until I read this fantastic article about simple syrups by Addie Broyles in the Austin American Statesmen. The article describes perking up summer drinks with simple syrups, but I immediately transferred the concept to gelatin molds. This mold was made with sweetened condensed milk, rum, and fig and cardamom syrup. Fruity, spicy, and boozy – this may be my favorite gelatinous experiment to date. My friends enjoyed pouring additional fig and cardamom syrup on the creamy mold – yum! We also enjoyed eating the cardamom and sugar soaked figs.
To make a fig and cardamom simple syrup, combine 1-cup water with 1-cup sugar in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. When the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and add 1-cup dried figs and 2-Tbsp. whole cardamom pods. Cover pan and let sit overnight. In the morning strain the syrup and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
Recipe for 3.5 cups
- 2 packets Knox gelatin
- ½ cup water (for blooming)
- ¼ cup fig and cardamom syrup (see above)
- ¼ cup rum (I used white rum, but any would do)
- 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
Sprinkle two packets of gelatin on top of ½ cup water. Set aside for 5 minutes.
In a small saucepan heat up rum and the previously prepared fig and cardamom syrup, but do not boil. Once heated, pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in sweetened condensed milk, and then spoon into mold(s). Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.
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.