Thursday, June 21, 2007

Peach Gelatin Mousse Mold

Last Father's Day, my wife volunteered us to take a Jell-O salad to a get-together at her parent's house. What this really means is that my darling wife volunteered me to make a Jell-O salad for everyone on her side of the family. She hates cooking so I get volunteered a lot. I ended up making two salads, or rather two different flavors of the same recipe, just to make sure there was enough. They were quite a hit. I'm always glad when people enjoy a dish I've made, it's just that if they like it too much I'll be asked to make it again ... and again ... and again ...

Here's the variant I made on a recipe you used to be able to find at Kraft Foods. (I made that recipe for the get-together, too, in case you were wondering.) It's not the famous green Jell-O with pineapple or grated carrot that's so much a part of Utah Mormon food culture, but I like this one better.

Peach Gelatin Mousse Mold

(If you say that phonetically it sounds, awful, doesn't it? Who wants to eat mold? Okay, if it's in bleu cheese or gorgonzola I'll eat it, but I draw the line at penicillin.)


1 1/2 cups boiling water
2 (4 serving size) packages of Peach flavored gelatin dessert (or one 8 serving size package)
1 cup cold water
2 fresh peaches, peeled, pitted, and chopped.
1 8oz. tub of artificial Whipped Topping


In a large bowl, mix the boiling water and powdered gelatin with a fork until completely dissolved (about two minutes). Stir in the cold water.

Place half the peach pieces in a 6 cup gelatin mold (I used a bunt cake pan). Pour 2 cups of the gelatin mixture into the mold, over the peach pieces, and refrigerate for about 35 minutes. The mixture should be firm, but not fully set. You can use more peaches, if you want. Just don't let it overwhelm the amount of gelatin.

In the meantime, refrigerate the remaining gelatin mixture for about 30 minutes, or until it has the consistency of raw egg whites. (Or, if you have children with head colds, the consistency of their . . . never mind.) Gently stir 2 cups of whipped topping into this mixture, along with the remaining peach pieces, until well blended.

Once the gelatin in the actual mold starts to get firm, pour (or spread) the whipped topping mixture evenly over the top, and refrigerate for about 4 hours, to let it fully set up.


To un-mold the gelatin, plunge the bottom of the mold (not the gelatin inside it), into some warm water for about 5 to 15 seconds, depending on how hot the water is. This melts the thin layer of gelatin that's actually in contact with the mold. Don't do this for to long. You want gelatin, not fruity flavored soup. Place a serving plate on top the mold, face down. Invert the plate and remove the mold. You may need to shake it slightly to get the gelatin to come out.

You can make this recipe with canned peaches as well, but you have to do a little more work. Cut the peaches into small pieces, and then wrap them in paper towels to get as much of the excess canning liquid out of them as you can. You may need to use a couple of paper towels. If you don't get the majority of the liquid out, the gelatin won't set up as well.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Pertaining to Jell-O(r)

It's been a long time coming but, I'm finally ready to start tackling Jell-O. For those who have been living under a rock, Jell-O is General Food's brand of powdered gelatin. It comes in various colors and flavors and is the Holy Grail of Utah Mormon food culture.

Gelatin has been around for a long time. It was quite popular during the Victorian era as part of complex "jelly molds." The base ingredient is derived from collegen taken from pigs and cows. The modern product is processed so exhaustively, however, that it's no longer considered an animal product by the FDA.

Back in 1845, an industrialist and inventor by the name of Peter Cooper (you know, the guy who also invented the first steam locomotive?) obtained the first patent for powdered gelatin dessert. The fact that this was a mere three years after the founding of the Relief Society, a charitable group composed of LDS women, is entirely coincidental.


In 1895, the patent was purchased by Pearl B. Wait, a cough syrup manufacturer from Le Roy, New York. He turned Cooper's gelatin dessert into a prepackaged commercial product. His wife, May David Wait, renamed it "Jell-O." Unfortunately for them, they couldn't sell the darned stuff, so they sold the patent to Frank Woodward, a twenty year old high school drop out, who just happened to already own his own business.

Sales were slow, at first, but the long term marketing efforts paid off for Woodward. By 1906 sales of Jell-O brand gelatin dessert broke the $1 million mark. Woodward's company later merged with the Post Cereal Company and became General foods, which now markets it under their Kraft line.

By the 1930's, a dish known as a "congealed salad" became the fashion in America. People would add all kinds of weird things to gelatin: grated carrot, pineapple, you name it. I've even heard of tomatoes being added. General Foods introduced lime flavored Jell-O at the time; to complement the foods people were sticking in these things. In addition, they started putting out vegetable and savory flavors of Jell-O: celery, seasoned tomato, mixed vegetable, etc. Thank goodness these were eventually removed from the market.

Utahans love Jell-O, and it's become a huge part of Utah Mormon Culture. (If they knew what it was made from I don't think they'd be so thrilled, but you never know.) I don't think it's a coincidence that the boundaries of the Jell-O Belt covers Utah, and the areas outside of Utah, that were generally colonized by the Mormon Pioneers.

Utahans take pride in the fact that, for years, Salt Lake City held the record for the most Jell-O consumed per capita. In 1999 they lost that position to Des Moines, Iowa. It was in response to being relegated to number two, that a grass-roots campaign was started by Scott Blackerby of the Bambara restaurant. He organized a "Take Back the Jell-O Title" Recipe Contest, hoping to help Salt Lake City regain the title. The effort was successful and Salt Lake City once again has No.1 Jell-O eating status. As an additional result of that campaign, Jell-O was declared the state's official snack food in 2001.

The stereotypical Utah "Jell-O salad" or "Jell-O casserole" is lime flavored Jell-O with either pineapple chunks or grated carrot mixed in it. Sometimes people top it with Cool-Whip, or some other brand of artificial whipped topping. My mother would make a weird fruit salad by mixing powdered Jell-O with cottage cheese and canned fruit. I like it, but other people aren't so keen. However you make it, Jell-O is a permanent fixture in the Utah Food landscape.

Jell-O, anyone?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bread Maker Magic

sliced breadI love my breadmaker. It doesn't make the most fantastic bread I've ever had, but it does a pretty good job. The nice part is that I don't have to babysit it. I can set it up before I go to bed, set the timer, and voila! Warm bread for breakfast!

Most of the recipes that came with it are pretty good. One of my friends came up with her own variations that work even better. One my family's favorites, from her list of breadmaker recipes, is for a half-white half-wheat bread. By itself, the recipe makes nice, soft, and tasty bread. I've modified the recipe by adding a couple of "secret ingredients" - wheat gluten and dough conditioner. They don't make the bread any tastier, but they do seem to help it rise a bit better, and more evenly.

Half-Wheat Bread a la Jennifer (as interpreted by the Mormon Foodie)

This recipe will make a nice 1 1/2 pound loaf in your breadmaker. The ingredients are listed in the order suggested by my breadmaker's manufacturer. Check the order recommended for your breadmaker. It does make a difference.

1 cup water
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup white flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 1/2 tsp dry yeast
2 tsp wheat gluten
1 tsp dough conditioner

Use the "wheat" cycle, and set it to make a "light" loaf. (Yes, this recipe is light in the loafers. Ha Ha. Now be quiet.)

After it's done baking, cover it with a kitchen towel and cool it on a wire rack. Make sure you let it cool completely before cutting. That way the warm moisture on the inside of the bread will rise up and soften the crust, not fly out the side and dry out the bread.

What I like doing is making a couple of loaves of 100% whole wheat bread the "old fashioned" way over the weekend, and then supplement that with bread from the breadmaker during the week. That way we can cut down on making all those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches using store bought "air" bread.

Mmmm . . . peanut butter . . .


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Comfort of Bread

There's nothing that takes me back to my childhood faster than the smell of freshly baked bread. I recall my halcyon days of youth, the light steaming through the back window and onto the kitchen counter, lighting up small particles of flour in the air like tiny fireflies. I'd watch my mother in that light, hands and arms dusted in flour, kneading large batches of bread dough, enough to make four or five loaves at a time. I remember watching the dough rise, too, and wondering at the magic behind the yeast, water, and flour that made it so. Then the smell, oh the wonderful warm smell that would fill the kitchen as they baked.

Someone once said, "Cooking is art, baking is science, but bread is magic." Oh, how right they are.

My mother didn't always make bread. She didn't think she made good sandwich bread. At a young age, I'm sure I felt the same way as she did from time to time. But oh, I remember it was the best bread for toast, and even better for French toast, cut thickly and drenched in eggs for frying. Hot slabs of the stuff smothered in home made maple syrup. It was far better than store bought bread ever could be.

I've not always been successful making bread, and my lazy streak makes it a chore. My wife and I got a bread maker from her parents for Christmas one year, however, and I really enjoyed that. We wore it out and had to replace it after the first year or so. The unfortunate part is that my wife, and children, prefer the store bought "air bread" to the richer textures and crispy crusts of the bread I would make, even in the bread maker. So ended up eating more of the bread than they did.

Maybe that's part of why I'm shaped the way I am. Round.

My neighbor gave me some automatic bread maker recipes that she had come up with, and they work every time. I started using them more than the recipes that came with the bread maker. What I wanted to be able to make kept eluding me, though. I wanted to make a really good loaf of 100% whole wheat bread. Preferably in the bread maker (there's that lazy bit kicking in again). My neighbor's recipes included a killer half white / half wheat recipe, but try as I might, I've never been completely satisfied with any of the 100% whole wheat bread maker recipes I've found.

My family certainly has trouble with them. They're too dense and bitter for general sandwich use, and even I get tired of them after a while. So I've always been on a quest to find a really good whole wheat recipe. I thought I'd never find one, until two weeks ago when I discovered the Prepared Panty.

This is the most amazing recipe I've ever found for 100% whole wheat bread. I've contacted them about getting permission to reprint it here for you, but they've not gotten back to me. That’s okay. It’s worth clicking on the link. Trust me. The Prepared Panty website has so many cool things about it, even if you never make this bread, you should go check it out.

This recipe is life changing. I can't make it in my bread maker, but since I started using dough hooks with my hand mixer, it's made the process a lot less painful. It's the strangest recipe I've every found for bread. It takes at least two days to make, counting the rising time, and a good portion of the first rise happens in the refrigerator. How weird is that?

But oh, what bread it makes. Even my wife and children like this one. In fact, the other day after we'd run out of it, my wife said, "I was so disappointed to wake up, go to make breakfast, and not find any of your bread."

Considering this is coming from my "air bread only, please" wife, it really is life changing.

One thing this recipe uses is an ingredient called “dough conditioner.” I’d never heard of it before, and I’ve only picked some up just recently. At first, I added an extra tablespoon of wheat gluten. and it worked wonderfully. This last batch was made with the dough conditioner, but don’t know if made much difference. Some people swear by it but, even without it, this bread is heaven.