Gelatin is an odourless, tasteless and colourless protein made of animal collagen. Gelatin powder is created when the protein is dried out to create individual grains.
The history of gelatin in desserts
Gelatin was used in cooking as far back as ancient Egypt. The first recipes with gelatin were for savoury dishes and date back to the 1400s. Sweetened gelatin was used only at the end of the medieval period.
Gelatin was being produced on an industrial scale by the 1700s. However, it was rarely used in desserts because it left a meaty aftertaste. Gelatin as we know it was invented in 1890 when Charles Knox developed a method of granulating gelatin to make it easy for day-to-day use. This flavourless, odourless product revolutionized the tedious procedure of manually making gelatin from animal parts.
When is gelatin used in desserts?
Gelatin is extremely useful in desserts as a setting and thickening agent. Due to the versatility of this ingredient, it can be used in a wide range of desserts: mousses, soufflés, jelly and even ice cream! It is often the secret behind the silky-smooth texture of a mousse or a panna cotta.
How to use gelatin in desserts
Here are a few invaluable tips on how to use gelatin to create dreamy desserts.
- Blooming beauty - The consistency of gelatin powder makes it easy for the gelatin to disperse throughout any mixture. Gelatin powder needs to be rehydrated before use. This process is known as “blooming”. The powdered gelatin is sprinkled over a specified amount of liquid, causing each granule to enlarge. The blooming process is vital to ensure the finished product has a smooth texture. Once the gelatin has bloomed, it will dissolve evenly when the mixture is heated. So, just like your favourite flowers, your desserts will bloom into something beautiful!
Gelatin powder can bloom using almost any liquid. However, make sure to avoid using fresh juice from tropical fruits like kiwi, mango, papaya and pineapple because they contain an enzyme, bromelain, that breaks down gelatin. Frozen or canned juices are okay because the pasteurizing process destroys the enzyme. Heating the fruit well before juicing can also kill the enzyme.
- Too hot to handle! - The temperature of the liquid used plays a huge role in the setting and consistency of gelatin. Boiling destroys gelatin’s setting ability. It is best to use cool liquids because gelatin cannot soften properly with warm or hot liquids. When hot water is used, the gelatin particles swell on the outside, preventing water from reaching the centre of the grains. This leaves the dessert with a grainy texture. Think of it like trying to survive an Indian summer without an air conditioner- the results won’t be pretty!
- Ready-set-go! - Another useful tip is to sprinkle the gelatin powder evenly over the liquid’s surface to avoid forming lumps. Make sure the gelatin is completely dissolved for a uniformly set mould. For the perfect consistency, it is best to set gelatin for 24 hours, or a minimum of 8 hours. Gelatin won’t set any further beyond 24 hours. To speed up the setting process, place the mould in the freezer to chill before use. Another method is to place the finished liquid in a metal bowl over an ice bath. Stir the mixture constantly until it begins to set. Then, pour the mix into the mould and place it in the fridge to finish the setting process.
Where can I source gelatin powder from?
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