Amateurs

Perhaps the most delightful byproduct of a blog about gelatin is when people tell you they made a recipe you posted. It's happened a few times and I get a kick out of it whenever someone tells me about it. Sometimes they're seasoned cooks who feel comfortable in the kitchen (and with following directions - jello is chemistry after all) and sometimes they're...less so. Amateurs, if you will. But as fickle as jello can be, certain recipes are a lot more forgiving than you might imagine. A few months ago my partner told me he was going to make the infamous jello pretzel salad for a competition with a few friends at school (he's also in graduate school, but we're not in the same program because we like to do things the hard way). There's a group of about six friends who get together every month or so for dinner at someone's house and they call it "Come Dine With Me" after a UK television show, apparently. So each dinner they choose a dish for two challengers to prepare for the next dinner and he chose jello as the theme. When he first told me this I was delighted and then a little leery that he could pull it off without my help. I should point out that my partner is not a total moron and is quite a good cook but a jello amateur is a jello amateur.

But he picked the recipe and we talked through it on the phone and off he went to the grocery store.

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He's British, so we had several conversations about what exactly Cool-Whip is and where to find the cream cheese but he made it home with the proper ingredients and got to work.

There were a few check-in phone calls (particularly pertaining to the "done-ness" of the jello) but the final product looked pretty good (at least in person, next time we'll work on the food photography).

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The competition ended in a draw (which I still find hard to believe, jello pretzel salad is a blue ribbon choice) but I was super impressed. Always a good reminder to have a little more faith in your own and others' abilities when trying something new.

Pip pip, gov'na. 

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Manna from Heaven

I can't recall where I found this recipe but it's a perfect example of an old-school jello mold. I served it at one of my monthly dinner parties and was a nice addition to the other dishes. It's a small recipe which (hopefully) means no leftovers as this one is decidely less tasty the day after. I'd also like to take a minute here to remind you, dear readers, that jello is most often served as a side salad - not dessert. Any questions?

Photo Credit: Paige Pauli

Heavenly Salad

1, 3 oz. package of lime Jell-O

1 cup boiling water

1, 3 oz. package of cream cheese

1, 8 oz. can of crushed pineapple (drained!)

3/4 cup chopped nuts (i.e. pecans, walnuts)

1/2 cup whipping cream or Cool-Whip (usually my go-to)

Still the jello into the boiling water until dissolved. Refrigerate until it's slightly thickened (remember to check back frequently!).

While the jello is in the fridge, mix the cream cheese (slightly softened) with the drained pineapple and nuts. When the jello is ready, fold this mixture in and then fold in the whipped cream last. Pour into your serving dish or jello mold and refrigerate overnight.

Photo Credit: Paige Pauli

Guaranteed to impress.

Happy molding!

Nutella Jello (yes, really)

I've mentioned her before, but my jello-blog idol has a great cookbook called "Hello, Jell-O!" which is chock-full of awesome recipes. They're tried and true recipes that she's put together after extensive experimentation so I've never been disappointed.

I tried this recipe for one of my monthly dinner parties and made not only a larger mold for sharing but also a few individual molds to celebrate a few birthdays in the group.

Photo Credit: Paige Pauli

I usually eat my Nutella with a spoon straight from the jar but made an exception for this recipe (which calls for strawberries but I subbed in raspberries instead).

Berries & Nutella

Adapted from Victoria Belanger's Hello, Jell-O!

First Layer

1 tablespoon (or 1 envelope) Knox Unflavored Gelatin

1/4 cup cold water

1 cup boiling water

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

A few cups of fruit (e.g. sliced strawberries, raspberries)

Second Layer

2 tablespoons (2 envelopes) Knox Unflavored Gelatin

1/2 cup cold water

1 1/2 cups boiling water

1 1/2 cups Nutella

1/2 cup fruit (e.g. sliced strawberries, raspberries)

Start with the first layer. Soak the gelatin in the cold water for a few minutes and then dissolve in the boiling water. Add the sugar and vanilla and stir until dissolved. Refrigerate until it's thickened up a bit (like a gel) while you arrange the fruit in the mold. Spoon in the gelatin and refrigerate until hardened but still sticky to the touch - keep an eye on it because it only takes a few minutes to go from too soft to too firm. And boy is it disappointing when THAT happens.

While that's in the fridge, work on the second layer. Soak the gelatin in the cold water and again dissolve in the boiling water. Whisk in the Nutella and chill until it's thickened like a gel. Stir in the fruit and spoon onto the (still sticky) first layer in the mold. Refrigerate until quite firm (at least four hours but ideally overnight). Unmold and enjoy.

Layering jello is tricky and even those of us (an admittedly small group) who make jello frequently still manage to fudge it up occasionally. The most important thing is to frequently check the layers - once they've crossed the line to too firm there's really no going back. And if one layer is too firm then it won't bond with the next layer and you'll end up with a hot mess when you try to unmold it.

As always, so photogenic.

Photo Credit: Paige Pauli

If you're a Nutella fan, you'll love this recipe. Trust me.

Happy Molding!

Panna Cotta + Coconut Bars = Yes

I'm a modern, working woman and sometimes I just don't have a flexible enough work schedule to allow for me to come home every night and slave away over my jello molds to come up with new jello recipes for you fine folks. So sometimes, I take a shortcut and go with the simplest recipe I can find. Last week's Friday Dinner was one such occasion. I had already made a non-gelatin-related dessert the evening before - a coconut bar recipe from Gourmet Magazine (may it rest it in peace) that I've been meaning to try for forever - but needed something to go with it. I decided to go with a simple panna cotta because the weather had just recently turned and it finally felt like fall (and we all know that fall calls for heavy cream).

I portioned out small, single servings in ramekins and topped them with a bite of coconut bar. The creamy panna cotta went really well with the crunchy and chewy coconut bars but in all honesty, the bars stole the show - let's just say I had NO leftovers. So because they were SO good, I've included both the simple panna cotta recipe and the coconut bar recipe for your enjoyment below.

Ingredients:

2 cups of heavy cream (or half & half)

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 envelope Knox unflavored gelatin

3 tablespoons cold water

This is super easy, ready? Let the gelatin soak in the water while you heat the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan until almost boiling. Then, remove the cream from the heat and stir in the gelatin until fully dissolved. Pour into your serving dishes and refrigerate until firm (at least a few hours or overnight). You can then unmold before serving or just buy cute dishes and serve the panna cotta in them. Done!

The coconut bars are also super simple and the recipe is from 1953 and way old school:

Cream 1/2 cup of butter. Add gradually 1/2 cup brown sugar and beat until smooth. Stir in 1 cup sifted flour and spread batter in the bottom of a 8 inch square cake pan. Bake in a moderate oven (375) for 20 minutes.

Beat 2 eggs and 1 cup light brown sugar until smooth. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 cup chopped walnuts, and 1/2 cup shredded coconut tossed with 2 tablespoons of flour and a pinch of salt. Spread this batter over the baked crust and continue to bake for 20 minutes longer. Cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar and cut into squares or bars.

Happy Molding!

Never Give Up On The Good Times

Bonjour! Did you miss me? Of course you did. Let's get down to business shall we? Since we last spoke I actually won my first ever jello-related contest and was rewarded with a sweet prize. Pretty amazing, right? Let me start at the beginning.

You may or may not be aware of The Jello Mold Mistress of Brooklyn (Victoria Ballanger) but she's basically the Queen of Gelatin on the interwebs and also who I want to be when I grow up. She is not only super awesome (evidence of this here - I have no words) and creative but also an amazing photographer. Her jello creations look WAY better than mine and every time I go to her site I seriously consider investing in an actual camera (for when Paige isn't around of course).

She recently published a JELLO BOOK (I. Know.) and partnered with The Recipe Club to host a jello photo contest to promote it. I, of course, submitted The Most Beautiful Jello Mold I Have Ever Made and miraculously (OK. There were only like, 10 submissions) I won a copy of the book. She even signed it "Stay Jiggly!" which is pretty fabulous.

So all of this is to say that although I love making up my own jello recipes, sometimes it's really nice to let someone else do the experimenting for you. Last month I hosted another one of my Friday Dinners (the one year anniversary!) and since it's now The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (otherwise known as Fall) I was drawn to Victoria's Orange Spice recipe. So yes, if you want really beautiful jello pictures she's your gal. But where else will you get my quirky commentary alongside your gelatin recipes? No where else. Only here.

I was a big fan of this recipe and I know those who tried it (some people just don't like jello - go figure) enjoyed it as well. So, if you're looking to spice up your fall jello routine, this is the recipe for you.

Also, it's important that you listen to this song while preparing it. Trust me.

...

Orange Spice
Orange Spice

Ingredients:

3/4 cup peach syrup from 14 oz. can (or, 3/4 cup peach nectar) 1/4 cup vinegar 1/2 cup sugar 12 whole cloves 1/8 tsp cinnamon 14 oz. can of peaches, chopped (or, 2 cups fresh peaches, peeled and chopped) 1, 6 oz. package of Orange Jell-O 1 1/2 cup boiling water 3/4 cup light rum

In a saucepan, stir together peach syrup, vinegar, sugar, cloves, and cinnamon, and bring to a boil. Add peaches and simmer for 5 minutes. Carefully remove the cloves (this may take a minute!).

Meanwhile, in a bowl, stir boiling water into gelatin until fully dissolved. Slowly stir in the peach mixture and the rum. Allow to cool to room temperature and pour into 6 cup mold (or bowl, or pan) and refrigerate until firm (ideally overnight).

It's officially jello-molding season so I promise to be back soon with more of what you love. I know, you just can't get enough.

Happy Molding!

Chirp, chirp

I hope everyone had a lovely Easter and/or Passover! I'm not sure my Easter weekend could have been any more delightful and a highlight was definitely attending my friend Natasha's amazing brunch on Sunday. She is a dedicated Breaking the Mold blog reader (and commenter) and when she asked me to bring a jello mold for her brunch, I knew I had to step up my game. She also helped me brainstorm what to make and thanks to her inspiration (and color palette suggestions) the result did not disappoint. Natasha is fancy and has lived in France where a popular drink is champagne and sweet vermouth. I happened to have a bottle of super nice sweet red vermouth thanks to my friend Tyson (ahem, who doesn't read my blog, ahem) and a bottle of super low-end Cook's that I was reserving for my next boozey jello mold. When making champagne jello molds, the cheap stuff is actually best because the flavor comes through better and really, just save the good stuff for something else.

Natasha is also an interior designer and has a great eye for color and design. As we were discussing what fruit to put in the mold, she suggested a monochromatic approach that would go well with the other dishes she was planning to serve at the brunch. Yes folks, we sometimes color coordinate our party food. Martha Stewart would be proud.

The mold turned out beautifully and tasted pretty amazing. Some of the brunch guests had never had my jello before and were a little hesitant to give it a go. They didn't seem too traumatized after tasting it though...so, that's a win. Breaking the Mold blog: converting innocent people to jello-lovers (or jello-tolerators) since 2010.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup + 5 tablespoons water

3 envelopes of Knox unflavored gelatin (approx. 7 1/2 teaspoons)

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups champagne

1/4 cup sweet red vermouth

1 drop red food coloring (optional)

About 1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries and pomegranate seeds

Start by soaking the gelatin in the 5 tablespoons of water. Then, dissolve the sugar in the 1/2 cup of water over low heat. Once dissolved, add the two cups of champagne and then whisk in the gelatin until it's also completely dissolved. Add 1 drop of red food coloring and reserve 3/4 cup of the mixture before putting the rest in the fridge until the mixture thickens into a gel (approx. 60-90 minutes depending on...a lot of things - just check back often!). Whisk 1/4 cup of sweet red vermouth into the reserved 3/4 cup of the gelatin mixture and leave out at room temperature.

Once the gelatin mixture in the fridge has thickened into a gel, stir in the fruit and spoon into your mold. Return to the fridge to firm up (maybe another 30 minutes?) but check back frequently. You'll want to pour the final layer when the jello is firm but sticks to your finger when you touch it. Once it's reached that point, you can add a bit more fruit to the vermouth/gelatin mixture and spoon gently into the mold. Return to the fridge for at least another few hours to firm up. Finally, unmold on a pretty plate and impress all your friends.

Paige did a mini-photo shoot of every fabulous thing at this brunch so I've included a few more photos for your viewing pleasure.

Happy Molding!