There is something magical about jello. A jolly comforting presence in every self- respecting greasy spoon or truck stop. Looking at a bowl of bright shiny jello cubes is like opening a new box of crayons.
True, a real foodie will find it difficult to serve a jello dessert without a side of irony, but what the heck. Lighten up. Even vegans can get in on the frolic by making the dessert with agar-agar powder mixed with fruit juices. In fact, agar jelly doesn’t need refrigeration to set, and keeps its shape in temperatures well over 30 degrees C.
The ultimate summer dessert just may be a Jello mold. I have a white Tupperware mold with interchangeable tops; a tulip, a heart, a star, even a Christmas tree. A jello for all occasions.
Depending on the amount of time you have and your level of insanity, you can make some real show stoppers, studding the jello with fresh fruit, or candies, layering colours and folding in “whipped topping” to make a sort of mousse.
If you do stud (did I just call you stud? Yes I did) the jello mold with fruit, wait until it is pretty well set, and poke the fruit down with a chopstick or wooden skewer, otherwise the fruit will float to the top of the mold. And by top, I mean the bottom, since the mold is inverted for serving. Do not add kiwi or pineapple to your jello however, or it won’t set.
If you are layering the “flavours” (ok, let’s just call them “colours”) you have to wait until one layer sets before adding the next layer. The best way to do this is by using the “quick set” method; add 1 cup boiling water to powder, stir until completely dissolved, then add ice cubes instead of the recommended remaining amount of water. Stir until jelly thickens, about 5 minutes, then remove unmelted ice. This really works!
When your mold is completely set and has that characteristic firm and bouncy jiggle, you are ready to unmold this marvel. Unmolding jelly can be a literal flop if you rush it, it just takes a little practice. If you just invert the mold onto a plate, the jelly will stick and you will end up with something that looks like this.
Loosen the mold around the jelly by running a warm wet knife around the edge. Dampen your serving plate-the one you will use to invert the mold onto-so that when the jelly plops onto it you can slide the dessert easily to the center of the plate.
Dip the mold up to the rim into warm water to loosen the jelly from the mold, about 10 seconds. Hold your plate over the mold and invert quickly.
Some folks eschew this method and simply prepare the mold beforehand by spraying the interior with vegetable oil. This works too. No matter which method you use, the jelly will look cool, which is the main thing. Actually, the main thing is eating the damn thing. Like the ad says, there’s always room for it.