Originally posted October 29, 2009
Ginger Peach Dessert sounds a little fancy, but it’s really just your basic fruited Jell-O. The base is orange, and the cold liquid is ginger ale. At least, that’s what the recipe calls for, but after my disappointment with the Jellied Ginger Upper, I wanted to go for a stronger ginger flavor, so I used Reed’s Jamaican ginger beer instead. The fruit is, alas, canned peaches.
This sounded like a recipe that would lend itself to being molded, so I decided to use it as a practice run with the hand-shaped mold that was loaned to me for my Halloween party commission work. It struck me that this might be a tricky mold to use, for a number of reasons, the primary one being the extremely irregular shape of the mold. I knew there was no way I could fumble my way out of this one with a knife. Also, the mold is made of plastic, and I hadn’t worked with plastic molds yet, so I didn’t have a feel for how this would work.
The recipe didn’t make quite enough to fill the mold, but it was full enough. The way this mold is formed, the hand sits atop a mitten-shaped platform of Jell-O, and luckily there was at least enough to fill the mold above the outline of the hand where the platform started. I’ve been told that it’s extremely difficult to unmold from this if all you do is fill the hand, and I believe it.
As it turned out, it was difficult to unmold anyway. I blame myself. I forgot to coat the mold with nonstick cooking spray. I filled a baking pan as full as I dared with hot water from the tap, but it wasn’t deep enough to immerse the underside of the mold, and this problem was exacerbated by the irregular shape of the thing. The wrist section is much deeper than the fingers. After what seemed like far too long in the water, I tried turning it out onto the platter. Nothing. So I got out the hairdryer and felt silly blow-drying my mold for a few minutes, with no visible effects. I went back to immersing, then back to the hair dryer, then immersing again, until finally the thing plopped out onto the platter. As you can see in the photo, the unmolding required far too much melting of the Jell-O, so what I ended up with was a diseased looking hand sitting in a pool of orange spooge.
This was not a big hit with the Peanut Gallery. I’m now thinking that this may not have been a good recipe to mold after all, because the Jell-o was closer to “soft set” than it was to “nice and firm.” Bryan didn’t like the texture, and he had to ask me what flavor the Jell-O was. The latter complaint may have had to do with the ginger beer. Reed’s is one of the better ones around, but it’s very sweet and the ginger flavor lacks sharpness. (We used to love another ginger beer, Old Tyme, which was so spicy it made me sneeze, but that appears to have vanished from the marketplace.) I don’t think it worked so well in this recipe because, as is often the case, it just didn’t blend well with the flavor of the Jell-O. I’m not fond of artificial orange flavor, so I didn’t mind it so much, though. The canned peaches were, as usual, a disappointment.
The real bummer here, of course, is that I have not allayed my fear of disappointing our hosts at the Halloween party…
I had not intended to go as much as a week without a post, but the fall semester just started at MIT, which means work went from zero to sixty in about a half a second, tough to adjust to after a too-short summer.
So, it seemed like a good time to reboot a couple of the simplest recipes from the beginning of the book. The New Joys of Jell-O does have a sort of progressive order to it, with the first chapter (“NIce, Easy Things to Do with Jell-O”) gently leading into Jell-O cookery with your basic fruits suspended in Jell-O and, of course, techniques like Cubed Gelatin. That’s probably why I didn’t make notes of the first dozen or so recipes I did when I first started the Project. I think I had originally set out to do them in the order in which they appear in the book, but changed my mind for reasons already discussed elsewhere in the blog.
After an unseasonably cool August, last week saw the return of summer, so I made Melon Cooler. It doesn’t get much simpler than this. The most difficult part of the recipe was selecting the “citrus-based carbonated beverage”, both because I’m not a big fan of citrus-based carbonated beverages and because it’s not possible to buy a single twelve-ounce can, or even a six-pack of twelve-ounce cans, in the supermarket. We seldom have soda (or “tawnic” in the local vernacular) in the house, so it came as a bit of surprise to me that the cans in six-packs are now small, maybe eight ounces, like the ones they have on airplanes where the flight attendant doles out half the can into a plastic cup for you and you feel ripped off even though you’re not being charged extra for it. Twelve-ounce cans now come only in twelve-packs or cases. The most sensible choice available turned out to be in a display of bottled sodas from Mexico – a Fanta piña.
The most time-consuming part of preparing this recipe was making the melon balls. Before I started this recipe, we didn’t actually have a melon baller, and it turned out to be a little tricky to find one. My theory is that melon balls have fallen out of fashion because, okay, it’s time-consuming to make them, but it’s also a really inefficient use of a melon. In fact, the recipe calls for the melon to be diced, but I thought melon balls would look more interesting in a Jell-O mold – and I was right. The odd pieces of melon that didn’t get balled were chopped up and I had honeydew bits for a breakfast for a couple of days, so all’s well that ends well.
Melon Cooler did turn out to be a nice thing to eat on a hot summer evening. The honeydew helped to tone down the heavy sweetness of the orange Jell-O, making the dessert surprisingly refreshing. Unfortunately, the Fanta piña, tasty enough by itself, didn’t really hold its own in the Jell-O, leading Bryan to ask what was the point of it. I have no idea. However, we did at least eat all of it.
Today’s Jell-O was even easier, Quick Fruit Dessert. I made a batch of Jell-O (mango flavored) to which I added a ten-ounce package of frozen fruit (store-brand organic raspberries). The recipe called for this to be served soft-set after chilling for an hour or so (hence “quick”) but I wanted more Jell-O mold practice, so it set up for several hours to be served as dessert after dinner. It was still quick, and I think we actually liked it. The berries definitely dominated. The mango flavor was noticeable, but subtle, and the whole was tart and refreshing.
Sometimes it’s nice to have something quick and simple. Simplicity is seriously underrated these days. A dessert doesn’t have to be complicated and elaborately plated to be satisfying. Likewise, simple things done well can improve our quality of life considerably. It’s worth a few bucks to Jenna Marbles (warning – lots of f-bombs are dropped, but she means well):