Jell-O always seemed a bit like magic to me. Add water to the brightly colored, sugary powder and in no time it’s solid and giggles like a good belly laugh. The problem is, the stuff in the box tastes like congealed, watered-down kool-aid. There is no actual fruit involved, just artificial color and flavor. Luckily gelatin desserts have earned more respect in the past decade with the popularization of panna cotta and other sophisticated, intense flavors, like wine and espresso. The best part of using gelatin is being able to create sexy shapes out of a liquid. Panna cotta just wouldn’t be the same if it was a puddle of custard on a plate. Knowing how to work with unflavored gelatin properly means you can set a liquid, without having it bounce like a rubber ball. You want to use just enough to keep its shape, but still have a smooth, luscious feel. This dessert is nothing but pure, ripe, sweet strawberries pureed and set with a bit of gelatin in a fun mold. A bowl of perfect strawberries and cream is nice, but when you present this regal dessert to your mom, it will take her breath away and she deserves that.
2 1/2 pounds strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 packets unflavored Knox gelatin (for a vegetarian alternative try using agar-agar)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream
In a saucepan cook the strawberries and 1 cup sugar over medium-low heat. If you are using fresh strawberries you may need to add 2 tablespoons of water. Cook until the fruit is softened. Frozen and VERY ripe fruit will cook faster.
In a small bowl, pour the 3 packets of gelatin over 1/2 cup of water, making sure no dry powder remains. Let the gelatin sit until it “blooms” and absorbs all the water.
Heat the strained puree to a simmer, turn off the heat and add the bloomed gelatin. Stir until the gelatin is melted and evenly distributed in the puree.
Choose a mold that fits at least 5 cups. I used the Lekue Imperial Monarch Mold which is made of silicone.
Fill the mold with 3/4 of the puree. Set the mold in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until a skin is formed on the top.
Pour half the remaining puree into a bowl. Whip the heavy cream with 2 tablespoons sugar and add it to the puree in the bowl.
Gently fold the cream into the puree.
Add the cream/puree mixture to the mold, refrigerate for about 15 minutes, or until it has set slightly. Add the remaining strawberry puree to the top. Set in the refrigerator for about 3 hours or until well set.
To un-mold the jello: fill a large vessel with hot water.
Dip the jello into the hot water, being careful not to get water over the lip of the mold. You may need to use a knife to carefully separate the edge of the mold from the jello. Let the mold sit in the water for about 15 to 30 seconds.
Set the jello on a platter.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Use a thin bladed knife dipped in hot water to cut the jello.
Happy Mother’s Day!