Monday, June 22, 2009

Strawberries galore (gelatin and pudding showdown!)

I completely forgot that strawberry season was right around the corner. I had been reading about them for a few weeks, but I've learned to ignore a lot of things because all of the southerners are enjoying produce that I won't have for another couple of months. Then one day I showed up at the farmers' market and the strawberry ladies had appeared. Luckily I was there early because they didn't have very many that week. For some reason I only got a quart and, after lots of snacking and a gelatin recipe, it was gone two days later. The next Saturday, several people were selling strawberries, and I got two quarts. I was content with this amount, but then arrived to pick up my CSA share that Monday afternoon to find that I was getting another quart. Life couldn't get any better. Seriously, I'm not sure that I could ever have enough strawberries. Strawberries are one of the most delicate fruits, so the local ones that haven't been shipped across the country and sprayed with pesticides galore are in a world of their own. Luckily I get to join them in that world for a few weeks :)

After making the gelatin recipe (see below for that one), I decided to have a strawberry pudding showdown. My two main cookbooks for fruit-sweetened desserts each had a recipe, and they were very different. The solution? Try both.

strawberry pudding from Cook with Me Sugar FreeStrawberry pudding #1 (adapted from Sharon Gerstenzang's "Cook With Me Sugar Free")

1/2 cup pureed strawberries (from a scant cup of whole berries)
3 egg whites
1/4 cup apple juice concentrate
1/2 Tbsp orange juice concentrate
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 Tbsp arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
2 Tbsp powdered milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the strawberry puree, egg whites, and juice concentrates together, and set this mixture aside. Beat milk, arrowroot, and powdered milk together and pour into the top of a double boiler (or a metal bowl that fits inside a saucepan) with boiling water. Cook the mixture, stirring frequently, until it thickens, and then remove from heat and add a few Tbsp of the milk mixture to the strawberry mixture. Then put the double boiler back on the heat and gradually beat the strawberry blend into the egg mixture. Continuously beat this, while still cooking, for 10 min. Stir in vanilla extract, remove from heat, and chill. Serves 2-3.

This one was decent. It had a good taste, even though it was somewhat subtle and the orange juice taste covered up the strawberries a bit. I would leave the OJ concentrate out if I made it again. The consistency was off, too. It was right when it was done cooking, but by the time it sat in the refrigerator for a few hours, it became almost like glue. That doesn't sound appetizing at all, but I promise that it was still good.

strawberry pudding from Karen Barkie's Sweet and SugarfreeStrawberry pudding #2 (adapted from Karen Barkie's "Sweet and Sugarfree")

2 cups pureed strawberries (from about 3 1/2 cups whole strawberries)
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)

Blend the strawberries and arrowroot together and pour into a double boiler over boiling water. Cook until it thickens, stirring constantly (8-10 min). Then remove from heat and chill. Serves 2-3.

This one was also good, but still not perfect. I think that I preferred the flavor of this one over #1 because it was pure strawberry. But, the texture was way off. Even though it thickened after boiling, it never really got thick enough to be pudding consistency. After I would take a few bites, the remaining "pudding" would slowly slide over to cover the empty part of the bowl. Pudding isn't supposed to do this. I still ate this up rather quickly and had no regrets about making it. I guess that next time I should combine the two recipes somehow to get the right consistency.

And the real winner?

strawberry gelatin, adapted from Sharon Gerstenzang's Cook with Me Sugar Free
Strawberry gelatin (adapted from Sharon Gerstenzang's "Cook With Me Sugar Free")

4 tsp unflavored gelatin (2 packages)
1/2 cup cold water
1 cup unsweetened apple juice concentrate
2 cups boiling water
1 cup pureed strawberries (from a scant 2 cups whole strawberries)

Stir the gelatin into the cold water, and let sit for 3 min. Then add juice and boiling water, stir until gelatin dissolves, and add strawberries. Chill until it sets (I really have no idea how long it took, but I'm guessing several hours). Serves 6.

As a former lover of Jello, I'm appalled that this was my first homemade gelatin experience. It doesn't get much easier, and there's no better summer dessert (particularly when strawberries are involved). I LOVE this. The taste is unparalleled - so fresh and delicious. It's so much better than the stuff with the artificial flavoring and coloring (although it's practically the same color as strawberry Jello). My favorite part is that the strawberry seeds give it a fun texture and remind you that you're eating real food.

Needless to say, as soon as I had enjoyed my last bowl of pudding, I quickly made another batch of gelatin. And I'll probably end up making another this week. And perhaps the week after. And I should probably freeze some strawberries so that this can continue for a while, because I don't see myself getting tired of it anytime soon.

But here's my question: I'm almost out of gelatin, and I'm thinking about trying agar-agar (a seaweed-based gelatin substitute). Anybody used it? If so, do you have any tips?


Julia said...

I love that you use fruit juice concentrate instead of sugar. I've heard of recipes calling for prune or date puree (or other types of obscure fruits)but I like the more common, easily available options.

Katie said...

Both of these books use juice concentrates in most of the recipes, and almost all of them have turned out great (or at least very good). It's definitely easier than chopping millions of dates! The only thing that didn't work for me is that they suggest using pear-grape concentrate with chocolate. I've never seen that combo (or pear alone, for that matter), so I just used grape and it was far too strong.

Melissa said...

I made this agar agar based dessert a few months ago, and it was brilliant:

I reckon you could substitute any fruit for the mango.

If you're going the agar agar route, it comes in flakes and powder - the powder being more concentrated, so you'll need less.

Katie said...

Hi Melissa - That recipe looks delicious (and beautiful!). I will definitely be trying that out soon. Thanks for the tips on agar-agar, too - I'm less hesitant to try it out now knowing it can produce such wonderful results :)

Dancer said...

I used the agar to make some cashew cheese during the vegan experiment. The only place I could find the powder was Better Health and it was expensive. The result was interesting, but I was also hoping for a miracle of a cheese replacement. It wasn't bad, but it was not cheese.

Katie said...

Dancer - Thanks for the info! I know it'll be pricey, but I guess it's worth a shot to try it out. Hopefully it will be a better replacement in a gelatin recipe than your cashew cheese one