Almond “Jello”

Dessert, anyone? It’s very rare to have dessert with a meal in China (at least something that fits the conventional American definition of dessert), but you’ll often find fresh fruit to round out the meal. I’m guessing that this dish was probably invented to appease the American demand for a sweet at the end of a meal, and as far as desserts go, it can be pretty healthy.

This is a deliciously cool summer dessert that can be served with any type of fruit – hopefully NOT the canned fruit cocktail you see it with in restaurants!

the “jello”
1 pkg unflavored gelatin (would love to hear your suggestions for alternative thickeners!)
1/3 c cold water
2/3 c boiling water
1/4 c sugar (I generally make an exception and use white can sugar in place of my usual brown or raw here)
2/3 c low or non-fat milk
1 tsp almond extract (the real stuff is always better, but imitation will do in a pinch)
the fruit
4 c cut up seasonal fruit: stone fruits such as peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries, pineapple, orange sections (without the membrane is best), mandarin orange sections, grapes….
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c water
1/4 tsp almond extract

Soften the gelatin in the cold water in a saucepan.
Turn heat on to low, and stir until gelatin is dissolved.
Add the boiling water and 1/4 c sugar.
Stir until sugar is dissolved.
Add the milk and almond extract.
Stir well, then pour into an 8x8x2 pan or a loaf pan, and chill until firm. (3-4 h)
In the meantime, make a simple syrup by combining the 1/4 c sugar with 1/4 c water in a saucepan.
Bring just to a boil, turn off the heat, and add the 1/4 tsp extract. Cool to room temperature.
Combine the syrup with the cut up fruit and chill, along with the serving bowls.
When the “jello” is firm, cut it into 1/2″ cubes, carefully remove the cubes to serving bowls.
Top with fruit mixture, and serve.

do ahead:
The “jello” and fruit can be made and chilled up to 24 h before serving. Be sure to cover the “jello” with a plate or plastic wrap to keep it from getting rubbery.

some substitutions:
Almond milk can be used in place of the milk, but you will need to play with the amount of sugar and extract you add, as many almond milks are sweetened. Use your instinct – taste and adjust!

In the summer, when fruits are sweet, you can play with the amount of simple syrup you add or leave it out altogether.

Try adding a hint of mint, basil, or cilantro – just a bit of chopped herbs steeped in the simple syrup as it cools. You can then leave it in or strain it out.

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2 Responses

  1. Use agar agar instead of the gelatin. I’ve never used it myself, so I don’t know the proportions, but I’m sure you can figure it out with a web search.

  2. This sounds similar to Japanese mitsumame, which uses kanten (agar-agar).

    The easiest form of agar-agar is the packets of powder. The stick form, which looks like a whitish sponge with large holes, makes a gelatin that is a bit softer and clearer. I’ve been experimenting with kanten and various juices—cucumber, carrot, blueberry were my favorites.

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