Jel-it-in is a vegetarian alternative to gelatine. Because gelatine is, by definition, made from animal products (you know how really good stocks set into a jelly? It’s thanks to gelatine!), many vegetarians cannot eat it. Imagine life without jelly! Well, besides agar agar as an alternative, which set much harder and more brittle than gelatine and so gives you a different effect, Jell-it-in is made from Carrageenan, which is extracted from seaweed, and locust bean gum, which is a thickener. The reason why it’s a mixture (I think), is because the carrageenan sets slightly harder than gelatine and the thickener gives it a slightly softer finish.
And if you’re not into the science, then I’ve got a tangible experiment to show you!
So. I’ve got two recipes that I’ve tried with Jel-it-in this post: Panna Cotta, and Chocolate mousse. I made a Jel-it-in version and gelatine version and put it side by side. I’m especially excited about the Chocolate Mousse recipe, which I got from a Harvard Lecture by Bill Yosses, executive pastry chef to the White House.
Panna Cotta (makes 3):
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup cream
1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 cup sugar
4g powdered gelatine (or 4g Jel-it-in)
Bring the milk and the cream slowly to the boil. Open up the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the pot, and chuck the pod in to infuse. You need a couple of tablespoons of boiling water to dissolve the gels, and the Jel-it-in actually needs a larger amount of liquid than gelatine and a minimum of about 70C to dissolve. In the case of the Jel-it-in, you might want to heat the milk and dissolve it separately (milk boils at about 90C). Then simply remove the vanilla pods and place into 125ml lightly oiled dariole moulds and set in the fridge. When you’re ready to serve, simply unmould it by inserting a thin knife down the side of the mould to create an air pocket, and tip out the panna cotta.
Chocolate Mousse (altered):
3g gelatine (4g Jel-it-in)
150g 70% cocoa mass dark chocolate (I used Lindt)
Simply heat the water up and dissolve the gelatine in it. Pour the hot water over the dark chocolate and mix till smooth. Put the boil over iced water and use an immersion blender to mix till the mixture cools. The reason why I’d say to use an immersion blender is because you want fine air bubbles within the mixture (it’s still a mousse) and using something like an electric whisk gives you bubbles that are too big. Then simply put the mixture into the fridge and it sets!
The panna cotta with the Jel-it-in actually gave a slightly softer result than the gelatine! When I cut into the Jel-it-in panna cotta it has a texture reminiscent of silken tofu. If left for a longer period of time it actually weeps moisture gradually. It melted straight on the tongue and gave way to a creamy finish. Now, there is a slight downside. I actually noticed that there was some bits of Jel-it-in that didn’t dissolve properly, and had to strain the mixture. I don’t know whether the softer result was because the dissolution was incomplete – the gelatine dissolved easily and evenly – but either way, my preliminary result shows that the Jel-it-in has a softer result in the panna cotta.
But what about the chocolate mousse? Well it seems that it’s quite the opposite! The chocolate mousse made with gelatine has the softest, lightest, meltiest mousse that has the pure flavour of chocolate. Not that there’s anything wrong with making chocolate mousse the traditional way, but sometimes I just want the pure flavour of 70% chocolate without the added cream. The Jel-it-in chocolate mousse actually mixed and set more easily and thickened up really quickly, but produced a slightly heavier, thicker result.
Either way, I think it’s a great alternative to traditional gelatine. I have many friends who are vegetarian, and I love the extra option of being able to to serve them a gel-set dessert. Some recipes might need a bit of tweaking, but I know I’ll keep experimenting.
Please do let me know if you have recipes that you’ve tried it with! Just leave a comment on the blog or send me an email at email@example.com.
Note: Tammi Kwok of insatiablemunchies was given samples of Queen Fine Foods Jel-it-in by the lovely people at Beyond the Square Communications.