It’s been just waaaay to hot in Perth to do any meaningful cooking and baking at the moment. Of course it’s summer and all, but we haven’t had any rain for what seems like months so the humidity hangs around day and night. A cool change is needed!
Cold desserts have therefore been the most common thing coming out of my kitchen lately. One such cool treat I get the urge for every now and then is Almond Jelly, which fans of Dim Sum and Asian desserts may be familiar with. If not, I can imagine the idea of an almond flavoured jelly must seem pretty weird, but stay with me.
Curiously, Almond Jelly has nothing to do with almonds at all. The marzipan-like flavour and smell actually comes from apricot kernels. I ended up discovering this fact after discussing Almond Jelly with a Japanese friend who thought it was strange to describe it as such. Indeed, in Chinese (and therefore Japanese), the dessert is called An-nin Dofu which translates as Apricot Kernel Tofu. I think you can appreciate why it’s pushed as Almond Jelly in the West…
Real Almond Jelly is indeed made with the extract of apricot kernels but since it’s not exactly easy to come by, most recipes call for almond extract (oil of bitter almond) in its place. I doubt the average person can discern the difference anyway and I wonder if Chinese restaurants in Australia bother using apricot kernel extract either. Something to further investigate if I ever find that spare moment!
As for me, I love the smell of almond extract so this substitution was no problem. I used gelatine however as my agar agar was playing up (they probably do have a Use-By date) but you could probably make a nice vegan version using almond milk and extract, with agar to set. I’ll try that next time but otherwise I am partial to the milky creaminess of the dairy version.
In restaurants, Almond Jelly is usually finished with a tart Goji berry set in the middle (the photo above is from a meal I had in Japan last year) but I decided to make a quick Yuzu Granita as an accompaniment instead for double refreshment. The floral, tangy taste of yuzu and lemon goes very nicely with the creamy, sweet jelly. If you can’t get hold of yuzu juice, plain lemon granita goes nicely too.
Almond Jelly + Yuzu Granita
2 sheets of gelatine
230g milk (hi-lo is fine)
20g cream (if desired, or use more milk to make up to 250g)
50g caster sugar
1 tsp almond extract (essence is fine but extract is much nicer)
To Make: Put gelatine sheets into a small bowl with enough cool water to cover and set aside. Place milk, cream (if using) and sugar in the TMX bowl and warm to 60C for 2 minutes on Speed 1. Add almond extract and combine on Speed 2 for a second or two. Squeeze water from gelatine sheets gently and place in TMX bowl with the milk mixture. Stir on Speed 3 for 1 minute. Pour jelly mixture into moulds, serving bowl/glass or one large square container if cutting into small blocks. Allow to set for at least 2 hours until firm, giving the mixture a quick stir after the first hour to prevent cream from separating too much (if using cream). Once set, cut into small squares if serving as cubes.
For the granita, I made a simple sugar syrup of 250g of sugar with 150ml of water, simmered on medium heat until syrup coats back of spoon quite thickly. I then added one tablespoon of yuzu juice (from Japanese grocers) and 2 of plain lemon juice (you can use all lemon) and stirred to combine (you can add more citrus if desired). Once the syrup cooled, I threw in 2 cups of ice cubes with a 1/2 cup of syrup into the TMX and blitzed the lot on Speed 8 for 20 seconds. You may want to adjust the granita’s flavour by adding more or less syrups as you like.