Views, history and recipes from a pastry chef living and working in London.

"The fine arts are five in number, namely: painting, sculpture, poetry, music,
and architecture, the principal branch of the latter being pastry." Antonin Carême (1783-1833)

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Pannacotta & Jelly

Pannacotta, literally translated as "cooked cream" is an Italian dessert from the north of Italy in places such as Piedmont where it is traditionally known as an agricultural food product. Traditionally thickened with either fish bones, egg whites or, nowadays, gelatin, this creamy, extremely rich dessert is said to have been invented by a Hungarian lady in the Langhe area.

It will have been very heavy cream, boiled slowly with lots of sugar and eggs to create that thick almost custard like consistency. Regional variations suggest that anything from rum to Marsala will have been added to give the final pannacotta that extra kick. Pannacotta is classically served with either caramel sauce, poached or stewed fruit or with compotes or coulis.

We have records, of jelly like concoctions being eaten as far back as Egyptian times. It is mentioned in Anglo-Saxon recipe books and was a great favourite at banquettes of the likes of Henry VIII

But it was the Victorians who really first played with the endless possibilities that gelatin offers. Jellies were considered quite a luxury as gelatin was quite expensive. This was due to the fact that it had to be purified before use, from sheet form which was extremely time consuming.

Jelly also uses gelatin as its main setting ingredient. Gelatin, in its commercial form, is a brittle, tasteless solid substance, sold in leaves of crystals. It is derived from collagen, a substance found in the skin, bones and connective tissue of animals. This may sound pretty disgusting but its worth noting that gelatin is found in many things we come into contact on a day to day basis. Not only is it found in many food stuffs but it is also widely used in pharmaceuticals, photography, and cosmetics.

It was in 1845 that an American industrialist named Peter Cooper, the man who built the first American steam train, applied for and received US Patent 4084 for powdered gelatin, did it become more widely and readily available.

On the other side of the pond in 1862 in York, a man named Henry Isaac Rowntree first founded the Rowntree sweet company (now known as Hartley's) which was to play a major part in Jelly in the UK from then on.

In 1897, the Patent was bought by a Cough syrup family manufacturer called Waits, in New York. They added flavourings and fruit concentrates to the crystals and created what is now known in the US as Jell-O. The product failed dismally and was then sold on to the Woodward's Genesee Pure Food Company who, in 1904, started distributing large quantities of "the Jell-O Cookbook. This signalled the beginning of the success of Jell-O.

In 1923 Rowntrees started producing their own version of the American success story that was Jell-O, but it was in 1932 that they pioneered the brightly coloured , highly concentrated, "just add water" jelly that we all know and love.

In America by the 1930's Jell-O was a household name. They even brought out a few savoury version for use in salads and on  vegetables, (sounds revolting to me).

Nowadays Jelly is as popular as ever with Jell-O boasting a huge 158 products on the US market. They sell approx 300 million boxes of gelatin a year.

So here's my version of jelly with an added "la,di,da," pannacotta to give it depth and creaminess. I admit it does look like a bit of a mission but i promise you its easy peasy. Once its all set you can serve it at a dinner party with the hole on the bottom so it just looks like your average clementine. Trust me the reaction when people cut into it is worth the effort.

  • 600g double cream
  • 150g milk
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 5 gelatin leaves
  • 2 tbsp rum
  • 1 vanilla pod
Clementine jelly
  • 8 clementines (400ml, you can top it up with orange juice)
  • 100ml elderflower
  • 50g sugar
  • 7 gelatin leave 
  • juice 1 lime

OK so mix your cream with your milk, sugar and vanilla and bring to the boil. Soak your gelatin leaves in cold water for a few minutes till they're soft.

Once boiled remove the cream from the heat and whisk in your gelatin leaves and your rum. Sieve into a bowl and place to one side.

Now for the clementines, this is easier than it sound. Place a clementine on a chopping board and carefully cut the top off so you expose approx 1cm diameter hole in the top. With a teaspoon, gently slide the handle into the clementine and down the inside of the skin being careful not to puncture the skin. Continue doing this all round the clementine until you've done a full circle. Next gently prise the segments out of the hole, this will take a while but its easy once you've got the hang of it. Once you've done all 8, give them a good rinse and make sure there are no pithy bits in the cavity. Take the segments and pulp and blitz in a food processor or pass through a sieve. You need 400ml juice so top it up with orange juice if required.

Sieve that into a pan and add the sugar, elderflower and lime juice. Soak your gelatin leaves as before. Place the pan on the heat and once brought to the boil remove, whisk in the gelatin and sieve into a bowl.

So this is where it
gets interesting. Depending on what kind of effect your looking for will determine what size spoon to you. Here I went for a dessert spoon however i think next time i do it I'll go for a teaspoon so I get more stripes.. So pour a teaspoon of jelly into the bottom of each clementine and place in the freezer. This should take no more than 15 mins to set, if that. Remove and repeat the process with the pannacota mix. Its best to keep both mixes as liquid as possible, this way when you pour them in they will find their own level. Make sure each layers flat before placing it in the freezer.

Once your clementines are full, take out of the freezer and wipe down the outsides. Then place in the fridge and serve with a sharp knife, hole side down, whenever required.


Ruth said...


Mary said...

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Hello I am charmed with your blog, excuse that he writes to you in Spanish but not English, anyhow I am one of your seguidoras I am charmed with quite what you do if you want to know me you can visit my blog