Monday, September 1, 2008

Mixed Fruit Jelly

I grew up with this dessert which is served cold and always a good choice after a greasy and heavy meal. My mum is still the one making a plate of jelly at every family gathering back in Malaysia but I believe she is not as fancy as me when all she uses is just coloring and cut into diamond shapes. Regardless, the whole plate is always cleaned up before you can steal a second piece.

Jelly or 'Agar-agar' as we used to call it back in Malaysia is very easy to make. Its main ingredient is the white and translucent strip of Agar agar, which is derived from the gelatinous part of sea algae and seaweed. The strips are first soaked in water to soften it and then cook in simmering water with other ingredients and act as a setting agent. Similar to the uses of gelatin, agar agar is used mostly in Asian cuisines and desserts . Similar to kelps and seaweed, agar agar is a good supply of iodine, calcium and other minerals and a good substitute for gelatin if vegetarian dishes are to be prepared.

These days, I normally reach for the powder form agar agar as it is easier to measure in terms of water requirement and always yield the same texture. Seldom do I use the strip form as my measurement of water is never exact and the texture sometimes turn out to be wobbly and sometimes too firm to be called jelly anymore! Either way, I love the plain translucent color and prefer not to add any colors but opt for extra ingredients instead, as in this Mixed fruit version.

Making these morsels was really easy and quick but unmolding them from the molds was another story. First I ran warm water on the bottom of the molds to create the air contraction inside and slowly push each jelly out with care as not to deform or break its shape. With luck, I got most of them intact but it took me some time to extract each one.
It is better to reduce the water requirement when the jellies are to be molded as it will be easier to release them from the mold if the texture is firmer. Arranging them nicely on a big plate creates a pretty presentation and having a piece is a nice end to a heavy meal as it is light and sweet. Having them for snack time instead of the heavier pudding cups is also a good idea.

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