I really don’t like gelatine in sweet pastry.

It just doesn’t feel right to use something “meaty” together with sugar, chocolate and whipped cream. I made a mousse cake a couple of years ago that called for gelatine. I only had the powdered version at home and it developed this horrible smell when it was bloomed in water. So I decided to go gelatin-free and started to search for an alternative.  Well, agar-agar of course!

Agar-agar is derived from certain algae plants and is used as a vegan/vegetarian substitute for gelatin in jellies, mousses, custards, marmalades or anything that needs a stabilizing agent. What’s so great about it is it’s able to set in room temperature (40 ºC) in opposite to gelatin. It has no color and no smell! I have used it in mousses as well as in jams, and I also made a beautiful raspberry panna cotta with agar – recipe for this will be posted in a nearby future.

The recipe I’m sharing today is very simple but so versatile. My Berry Jelly Gems are inspired by the jelly decorations on the beautiful mousse cakes (I had to make my own version, see last photo in this post) made by Dorothea Malmegård, a Swedish pastry chef, who was first runner up in the swedish version of the TV-show Top Chef – Just desserts. While drooling over her Instagram account I got the idea of making jelly with agar and letting them set in chocolate praline molds. The result was surprisingly perfect even as a glaze for mousse cakes. The mold thing got me a bit carried away. My son is obsessed with Star Wars and for his 7th birthday I couldn’t resist buying molds in the shape of Darth Vaders head…and yes, I made Darth Vader Jelly Gems with the flavor of blackcurrants! Pretty awesome, both taste and looks, if you ask me – if you ask my son, he on the other hand thought they looked a little bit creepy and found the flavor a tad too strong. I love blackcurrants and thought the jellies turned out great, so if you don’t care for these berries you might want to try strawberries or raspberries.

Now, go, make – and let the force be with you!

Blackcurrant Jelly gems goes Darth VaderBlackcurrant Jelly Gems, take a bite!

Blackcurrant Jelly Gems

All ingredients are organic.

Note: You can buy agar-agar as bars, flakes or fine powder. Depending on what kind you have, the amount of agar-agar used in a recipe differs. The agar-agar I use is something between flakes and a powder. According to the packet, 1 tbsp of agar-agar is used in 200–250 ml of liquid to make gelatin (the higher measurement gives a very firm texture). To make panna cotta, I use 1 tbsp agar-agar per 1000 ml of liquid. Read more about how to measure agar-agar on The Kitchn

225g / 8 oz. frozen blackcurrants
160g / 5.6 oz. water
250g / 8.8 oz.  raw sugar
a splash of fresh organic lemon juice
a pinch of salt
2 tbsp agar-agar flakes (se note below)

1. Place the agar-agar in some water in a glass and let it bloom.
2. Bring berries and water to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes on low heat.
3. Add sugar, lemon juice and salt and continue to simmer for 8–10 minutes. The sugar must be completely dissolved.
4. Add agar-agar and simmer for 5 minutes. Note: You can measure the compote before adding the agar. I got almost 400 ml of liquid and thus adding almost 2 tbsp of agar-agar.
5. Pour the compote in prepared mold of you choice – you can grease the molds with some vegetable oil before to make the gems easier to unmold. Cool in room temperature and then place in fridge until using. 

Raspberry Jelly Gems as cake decoration

Raspberry Jelly Gems

All ingredients are organic.

225g / 8 oz. frozen raspberries
90g / 3 oz. raw sugar
a splash of fresh organic lemon juice
1 tbsp agar-agar

1. Place raspberries, sugar and lemon juice in a pot. Bring to a boil and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.
2. Measure the compote and add agar-agar accordingly (1 tbsp per 200–250 ml of liquid).
3. Let the compote simmer for another 5 minutes until the agar-agar has dissolved.
4. Pour the compote into prepared molds of your choice. Cool in room temperature and then place in the fridge until using.

A Sweet Tip

♣ The jelly can be used as a glaze on top of a mousse cake or as an insert in a mousse cake.
♣ Use the gems to decorate cakes and desserts or just devour them naturally.
♣ Try to use other fruits or berries. If you use acid fruits like passion fruit or mango, you must boil the fruit before adding the agar-agar. The acid will otherwise prevent the agar from setting properly.
♣ For a regular raspberry marmelade I sprinkled some agar-agar at the end of cooking to make it a bit thicker.

Bon appetit.

Raspberry Jelly Glaze and Blackcurrant Jelly Gems on a mousse cake

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