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My Gelatin Won’t Set! How to fix it?

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I have a confession to make! I hated the recipes that called for gelatin. I would rather use a lemon flavoured regular jelly in a recipe instead of gelatin. And my mould would turn out perfectly every time with jelly but not with gelatin.

My Gelatin won’t set.

Setting a souffle or salad with gelatin was always an uncertain things for me. Sometimes, it would set just right and sometimes it won’t. After many good and bad experiences ( all dreaded once), I learned my lesson and I wish to share my lesson here.

1.What is gelatin?

Gelatin is a simple stuff made from animal parts; skin, hooves and bones. The science behind gelatin is that it’s a protein that sets upon cooling and liquifies upon heating. Have you noticed, the beef/chicken broth made from bones also sets like jelly when kept in fridge.

2.Uses of Gelatin

Gelatin is 70% protein that forms a matrix of chain between gelatin molecules in the dessert or salad or jelly that holds the liquid. It gives a dessert, salad or pudding a proper shape that can be unmolded.

3.What is bloomed gelatin?

The powder gelatin is made up of transparent yellowish crystal. You can’t use it in a recipe directly. You need to dissolve the crystals in any liquid (preferably water, milk would take more time) completely. The process is often referred as blooming of gelatin by chefs. If you bloomed gelatin correctly and your ratio of liquid to gelatin is correct, your dish should set easily.

4.If your dish won’t set?

No need to worry. Heat the liquid. The heating will make gelatin crystals bloom well. And you can fix the dish that is not setting by heating it. You can also mix more bloomed gelatin while heating if needed.

There is one disadvantage of heating. Something delicate like souffle would go flat and loose it’s sponginess. The air trapped by beating will be released. However, it will set and will be soft but not spongy and light.

You can heat on stove or microwave, but keep stirring frequently with short intervals. You just need to heat and not boil it. Keep the heating process to be a stage before boiling point. Since, gelatin is a protein that denatures upon over-heating and losses it efficiency.

5.Why store bought jelly sets easily?

Remember, in the begining I mentioned that using a regular jelly (don’t confuse with quick set) in dessert instead of gelatin always got me desirable result. Here’s why it is so.

Sugar and gelatin both love water and compete for it. So right amount of sugar will give you shorter chain and softer dessert. Ideally, you need to mix sugar with gelatin before adding water or other liquid. Since the jelly always have sugar mixed with gelatin prior to cooking, it always works best.

So takeaway here is that when gelatin is used in presence of enough sugar, it is more soft and jelly like.

6.Best way to use gelatin for desired results.

Since, I use gelatin crystals in most of my desserts and here’s the tip I learned over years.

Gelatin crystal need to be hydrated in lukewarm water or other warm liquids (like milk or juices) so the edges of crystal absorb water. Keep stirring at regular intervals until dissolved.

If you mix gelatin in hot liquid directly, the water will not reach the centre of crystal and the crystals will stick together. So beware of it, that will not let your gelatin bloom.

7.How to bloom gelatin?

Over a hot water bath, keep a bowl of gelatin. (Just boil water in a pan and keep heat proof bowl in it, remove from heat.)

Add luke warm liquid to gelatin crystal. It may be water, juice or milk. Mix at regular intervals until all crystals completely dissolve, about 2 minutes. No gelatin crystal should be lingering around the vessel or spoon, all should be dissolved.

Keep the bloomed gelatin in hot water bath until needed in your recipe. If gelatin solidifies heat again on slow flame until melted without boiling.

Then add bloomed gelatin as recipe calls for it. And the mould should set easily.

8. Simple ratio for gelatin powder to liquid

Mix 1 tablespoon gelatin to 2 cups (500 ml) of liquid. If you use 1 tablespoon of gelatin in three cups liquid, you’ll have softer jelly that can be served in dish without un-moulding.

  • If you use less gelatin your end result will be softer. And if you use too much gelatin your end result will be rubbery jelly.
  • Similarly, the longer gelatin sits in fridge, the rubbery is it’s texture.

9.Some more thing to know about gelatin

  • Gelatin doesn’t work well in presence of few fruit juices like pineapple. But if the fruit or juice is cooked before adding to a recipe, then it won’t effect gelatin’s efficiency. Because the enzymes that hinder formation of gelatin chains are hydrolysed upon heating.
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  • Gelatin leaves to powder conversion

4 sheet gelatin = 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin

  • Gelatin is usually last step in any recipe after which you transfer liquid to the mould.
  • Too much stirring after adding gelatin can also break the interchains that form as gelatin sets and hence hinder the setting process.

What to do?

After adding gelatin to recipe mix well so gelatin molecules are spread all over the dish. Then let it sit in cool place or fridge to set for 2-4 hours. Do not mix in between.

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