So many recipes and cooking shows use gelatine, mainly leaf gelatine. With its gorgeous gold colouring who does not want to get a pack and start making some simply delicious dishes, especially the ubiquitous Panna Cotta.
Gelatine is odourless and tasteless that is used as a thickening agent that forms a firm gel when combined with various liquids. An interesting feature is that you can reverse the setting process once it is heated above its melting point, also called “Theromreversibility”. This is fantastic especially if you need to adjust the recipe either for sweetness or texture, re-cooling to set the dish perfectly.
It is a little confronting when you first discover where gelatine comes from, but it is not something that should turn you off its use. Created from collagen which is a naturally occurring protein produced from the bones, cartilage, tendons, etc of edible animals. The gelatine that we use in cooking and food manufacture today is a result of the processing of Pigs and Beef Cattle. Gelatine can also be produced in your own home kitchen for products such as aspics by boiling bones for extended periods and cooling until a firm gel forms.
There are so many foods today that contain gelatine such as cream-based molded desserts, thickened cold soups, marshmallows, and supermarket confectionery. Gelatine, in food manufacturing is also used as a stabilizer and a thickener in foods such as jams, yogurt and cream cheese. It is more often than not added to reduced-fat foods to simulate the feel of full fat, while creating volume without the calories.
As gelatine comes directly from animal bone, tendons, etc there are problems with regard to its kosher and vegetarian status, and as such there are very suitable alternative choices available, including agar-agar, guar gum, xanthan gum, and even pectin. These ingredients are commonly found on most Molecular Gastronomy websites.
Professional cooks and chefs often use leaf gelatine as it gives a clearer product with a much finer flavour. Many chefs also prefer the sheets as they are easier to use and gives a clearer finish. When it comes to measuring the amount to use, it is safer to count sheets and not worrying about any left-over undissolved granules left in the finished dish.
If you wish to use leaf instead of powdered, you can substitute leaf gelatine for powdered by using this simple formula:
1 (0.25 oz.) pack powdered gelatine = 1 Tbs powdered gelatine = 3 sheets leaf gelatine.
Here are the basic steps for using gelatine leaf:
- Soak the required number of sheets in a bowl of cold water for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Once they are soft, remove the sheets from the water.
- Squeeze gently to remove any excess water.
- Add sheets to room temperature liquid you are using for the dish, such as cream, alcohol or cooked fruit juice based. Heat the mixture, stirring until the gelatine is completely dissolved.
- Never boil the mixture as it will destroy the gelatine and the final product will not set.
Using gelatine in its many forms should not be something to run away from. Just following a few simple rules, your next dinner party or gathering will result in some or the finest and most spectacular creations that will have your guests talking for years.