October 30, 2010

Almond Jelly (杏仁豆腐)

To continue with the Halloween theme, here's a recipe for a dessert that's easy yet quite impressive: ghostly almond jelly. This was my first time making almond jelly from scratch, but it turns out it's really simple. By making it from scratch, rather than from an instant powder, I could ensure that it was firm enough that shapes could be cut out without the jelly falling apart.

Isn't this cool? The jelly fluoresces under a black light. It's perfect for Halloween since it's ghosts are white, and it glows. The reason for this is that I replaced some milk with tonic water. Tonic water contains quinine, a bicyclic aromatic compound that fluoresces when exposed to UV light, emitting a blue light (my inner nerd is delighted by this, haha). Quinine is slightly bitter, but when it's not noticeable when diluted in the almond jelly. I can totally see this used for purposes other than Halloween as well. Wouldn't star cutouts be awesome for like a space-themed party, Pacman for a video game party, or maybe jellyfish for an under the sea/Nemo party :D?

Ghostly Almond Jelly
adapted from Examiner Chicago

4 packs gelatin
2 cups boiling water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup tonic water (regular or diet)
4 tsp almond extract
2 cans fruit cocktail
additional water and tonic water

Place the gelatin in a bowl and mix in the boiling water so no lumps remain. Whisk in the sugar till dissolved. Mix in the milk, tonic water, and almond extract. Pour the mixture into a 10 x 15" rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours.

Once firm, run a knife around the edges and invert onto a large sheet of plastic wrap or a large cutting board. It might take some time for the jelly to loosen from the pan. (Perhaps dipping the bottom of the baking sheet in a tub of warm water would help; I just waited for it). 

Shaping the Jelly
egg-shaped cookie cutter
holly-shaped cookie cutter or knife
drinking straw

Take an egg-shaped cookie cutter and cut out egg shapes from the sheet of jelly. Then either take a leaf-shaped cutter or a knife to cut from the smaller side of the egg. After, use a drinking straw to poke holes for the eyes.

Empty the fruit cocktail cans into a large serving bowl. Add a bit of water and tonic water to dilute the mix a bit. Place the almond jelly ghosts in the fruit cocktail mix.

Note 1: To make normal almond jelly for an everyday dessert, you can skip the tonic water and use 2 cups of milk. And instead of making ghost shapes, you can either use other cookie cutters to make other shapes like hearts and such, or you can just dice the jelly up into cubes like it's normally served at dim sum restaurants.

Note 2: My pictures are a bit misleading, since I took the picture before I was done cutting out all the jelly. There will actually be a lot more jelly in the bowl; I had two layers of ghosts when I finished cutting out 3/4 of the jelly. Perhaps to make it easier to scoop out both the jelly and the fruit cocktail below, use 2 shallower bowls to serve the jelly so that there's only one layer of jelly in each bowl.


  1. Oh, that is so clever it hurts me ever so slightly. Brilliant.

  2. woot! oh i've eaten wayy too much this weekend. gonna explode and now sick of heavy/junk food.

  3. alicerosebell, steph, Idle Wife: Thank you!

    tiffany: haha, the danger of the holidays, too much food.

  4. You are a genius!!!!
    I love this!!!!!!!!!!

    wish i had come across your blog earlier!

  6. I love all your stuff. Thanks for sharing

  7. Mika & Clove: Thanks! Glad you like it!

    Vivian: Haha, thank you. There's always next year :).

  8. OMG. Tonic water. Genius. I bet you are super pretty too.