Memory Lane: Coffee Cream Dessert
And here we are, back to Memory Lane, or, in this case, Lack-of-Memory Lane. Coffee Cream Dessert was not at all memorable. Neither the photo nor my notes ring any bells, recollection-wise, and they didn’t inspire me to remake this one, either.
I gave myself a relatively easy Jell-O week, because I knew I’d be attending the March for Science on April 22. The Boston march was more of a rally, after the Women’s March in January showed that funneling a demonstration on the Common out to a march on the streets of Boston is a tricky and time-consuming proposition. Instead, community groups, mainly at the universities, marched to the Common for the rally. This time, Bryan and I weren’t with a group, so we just ambled over the Charles in our own time, and Bryan enjoyed the marching band that played before the speakers started at 2:00. (I myself am neutral on marching bands.)
As if to underscore one of the points of the rally, the weather we had yesterday was colder and considerably less pleasant than the weather at the January march. It rained as the Common filled up with rally-goers, and temperatures in the mid-40s Fahrenheit (mid-single-digits celcius) made for perfect Reynaud’s conditions. I’m glad we went, but I had to leave early when I couldn’t feel my hands anymore.
It’s been great seeing all the pictures from the marches around the world, but at the same time it’s a little disheartening that so many of us feel it’s necessary to do this. Also, it feels a bit quixotic, since the world leaders making non-fact-based policy decisions don’t seem to care.
At least this week’s Jell-O is an Orange Boycott recipe, so I’ll be sending a few shekels to the International Rescue Committee and Planned Parenthood, and hopefully that will do some good.
My notes on Coffee Cream Dessert use the word “weird” repeatedly, which makes sense. The base of this one is orange Jell-O, but it’s prepared like a “frappe” rather than a standard gelatin dessert. The gelatin powder is combined in a blender with scalded milk, sugar, and instant coffee granules until the gelatin is dissolved, and then ice and vanilla extract are added and blended until the ice is melted. It needs only a short time to set before serving, so the whole thing can be made quickly, which seems to be the chief virtue of this recipe.
The instant coffee (the book recommends Maxwell House, Sanka, or Yuban) posed a bit of a problem, since we at Freak Mountain look down our collective nose at instant coffee (except for instant espresso, which is handy for baking, and a brilliant addition to brownies). I wanted to use Maxwell House, but Bryan couldn’t find a small jar of it. I didn’t indicate what I did use, so I’m guessing it was probably instant espresso.
Anyway, the combination of orange Jell-O and coffee seems to have been sub-optimal, creating an odd flavor and aftertaste. Do coffee and orange ever go together? A quick Google search suggests that this is, indeed, a done thing – although given that one of the top hits is this cocktail recipe from Sandra Lee‘s “Semi-Homemade Cooking” program on Food Network, I’m seriously doubting the credibility of the concept.
This is another of those recipes that make me want to try to do a proper coffee jelly. I know I keep saying that, so I guess the pressure is mounting. Looking at my editorial calendar, I think I may be able to get to it in the summer. For the time being, I’m still trying to make a habit of practicing the guitar. After all, I’m going to need something to do when I’m done cooking through The New Joys of Jell-O – and I will, at some point in the foreseeable future, be done with it…
Memory Lane: Topaz Parfait
Well, we’re back to that weedy, rutted path known as Memory Lane.
I do have a vague recollection of Topaz Parfait, because it’s one of those recipes where the flavor of the Jell-O clashes rather badly with the additional ingredients. Appearing in the third chapter of The New Joys of Jell-O (“Bring on the Super Desserts”), Topaz Parfait gives the cook a chance to use the cubed gelatin technique while going on a little flavor adventure – and I mean “adventure” in the “bad planning” sense.
The adventure starts with a cup of strong coffee. Now, making coffee at Freak Mountain is always a bit of a production, because Bryan only buys whole beans, which have to be weighed on the kitchen scale and ground in the fancy-pants Italian burr grinder, to the right degree of coarseness or fineness, just before brewing. Our three main coffee-making options are French press, Chemex (I think we might have a reusable cotton filter somewhere), or a basic pour-over dripping into a thermal carafe. For this recipe, I used instant espresso.
The coffee is heated to boiling (always a bad idea with coffee), and lemon Jell-O and sugar are dissolved in it. Then cold water and brandy are added. I think you see where this is going. The Jell-O is poured into a square pan to chill until firm so that it can be cut into cubes, which are then layered with Dream Whip that’s been prepared with the addition of a little brown sugar and brandy. The Dream Whip, at least, is improved by this treatment.
Apparently the first major problem with this recipe was the smell. I don’t remember this specifically, but I can believe it. Even the nice Jell-O recipes can make the fridge smell a little funky. According to my notes, it “[made] the fridge smell like someone spilled a bottle of stout and didn’t clean it up”. I do like stout, but for drinking, not as an air freshener. Of course, the real culprit here was the brandy, which is something I don’t really like anyway, but the combination of brandy, coffee, and lemon Jell-O just doesn’t work well.
Since I’m at least a somewhat nice person, I let Bryan have the smaller dish of Topaz Parfait and took the tall one for myself. I finished it off, but only because Bryan said I couldn’t and I’m a sucker for a thrown-down gauntlet. It seems the aftertaste was quite something, and called for a palate cleanser of miniature marshmallows. We gave it three nasties, which puts it on the same level as Winter Fruit Mold (a/k/a Jell-O Fruitcake), Salmon Dill Mousse and Spanish Tuna Salad.
The thing about this recipe, and a couple of others, is that it made me want to do a proper coffee jelly, and I keep meaning to do it but haven’t gotten around to it yet. What I’d really like to do is a jelly version of Thai iced coffee, which I think would be really good, but I haven’t been able to find a satisfactory recipe for Thai coffee. I’d like to make it replicating the sweetened condensed milk that floats on top of the coffee at first and slowly swirls down into the coffee, combining with it in a sort of Brownian motion that’s intriguing to watch if you can resist drinking the coffee long enough.
A few months ago, after hunting around a bit at our local H-Mart, I found something called “instant Thai coffee drink” that I thought might be just the ticket, but it turned out to be instant coffee with sugar and, I’m guessing, powdered non-dairy creamer. (I’m enjoying some right now in my “Alien Caffeine Espresso Bar” souvenir mug from the UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico.) Back to the drawing board, I guess.
So we’ve got some new recipes coming up for the next couple of weeks, and then I’m going to be taking a weekend off to participate in the Ladies Rock Camp Boston fundraiser for the Girls Rock Campaign Boston. It’s basically a weekend-long rock bootcamp culminating in a showcase, possibly at a very cool local club – and I won’t lie, I’m nervous as hell about it. I’ve scarcely picked up a guitar in years, but probably someone will stick an open-tuned guitar in my hands and tell me where on the fretboard I should be holding down all the strings with my index finger to play a song. I’ve heard some distortion pedal lessons might be involved. I guess if worse comes to worst they can always take me off of guitar and put me on cowbell.
I need to start getting into a more musical mindset. Maybe I should be listening to more Chuck Berry… (R.I.P.)
And while I’m R.I.P.ing, I really should say a few words about Robert Osborne. He was a writer and film historian, best known to me and many others as the host of the Turner Classic Movies cable channel (which is, in my not-so-humble opinion, one of the few worthwhile channels left on cable, thanks largely to Osborne). Before discovering TCM I had loved classic film, but Robert Osborne always had something to say that added to my appreciation. The breadth and depth of his knowledge about film were enormous, as was his enthusiasm, and he was generous with both in his work at TCM. He was also warm and kind, and, judging by the tribute programming they’ve been running on TCM this weekend, beloved by everyone who met him. He was the best of good eggs, and we were fortunate to have him share the planet with us. He died on March 6, and my heart goes out to the many, many people who share my sorrow.