Monday, November 12, 2007

Dessert Haiku: Lychee Pear Gelatin

Next to ice, gelatin is the simplest and most easily understood form of suspension in the world of flavor. Elements in suspension bend the notion of time and gelatin preserves food in its earthly state while foreshadowing its inevitable consumption. In truth, gelatin is dessert haiku; it is a visual medium for the experience of taste which has been spared from complicated presentation.

Gelée is a term commonly found on restaurant menus and is used to call out finely cubed gelatin garnishes. Beet, carrot, cucumber and tomato gelées are typically found alongside meat or vegetable dishes. Champagne or wine gelées appear in sweet and savory dishes. A gelatin dessert made from scratch can be created utilizing fruit juice or dessert wine (Sauterne, ice wine, etc.). The addition of complimentary or contrasting fruits builds flavor and entices the eyes, resulting in an experience that surpasses the exaggerated tastes and colors of pre-flavored gelatin.

Plain gelatin can be taken to intense or sublime flavor heights, but a gentle application of flavor serves this medium best. If you decide to experiment with dessert wine, use fruits that reflect aromas inherent in the drink. For instance, there are floral apricot notes in Sauterne, so transposing lightly sweetened apricots would do nicely here. Pineapple, kiwi, gingerroot, papaya, figs and guava will prevent gelatin from setting and should be not be used in juice or fruit form.

Lychee Pear Gelatin
Recipe by Michelle Krell Kydd
(Serves 6-8)

· 4 envelopes of Knox® unflavored gelatin
· 1 liter of Ceres® Lychee Juice, refrigerated overnight*
· 1 ½ cups diced pears in light syrup (fruit only, separate from juice)
· ¼ tsp. ground green cardamom
· Whipped cream

· Heat 3 cups of juice and cardamom to a boil.
· Mix 1 cup of cold juice with four packets of gelatin in a large metal bowl.
· Add hot juice to cold and mix for five minutes, making sure the gelatin is completely dissolved.
· Add diced pears.
· Ladle the gelatin mixture into a 13x9x2 inch pan.
· Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for three hours (or until firm).
· Cut into squares and serve with whipped cream and a pinch of cardamom.


The artwork which accompanies this post is from Mira calligraphiæ monumenta, a Sixteenth-century Calligraphic Manuscript by Georg Bocskay and Joris Hoefnagel.

In the Sweet Kitchen: The Definitive Baker’s Companion by Megan Daly contains a section on complementary flavors, which is indispensable as it applies to baking and cooking.

*Ceres® brand juice is sold at Whole Foods, A&P and select gourmet food shops.