Please, we implore you, do not be afraid of blancmange

Blancmange
See? It’s just fruit and Jell-O!
Photo: Stacey Ballis, Graphic: Karl Gustafson

Welcome to Jiggle All The Way, The Takeout’s holiday celebration of Jell-O, gelatin, and all things wiggly. We’ll be releasing new feature stories and original holiday recipes every day this week, and each of them will have a little bit of wobble.

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When it comes to wiggly desserts, you should look no further than Regency England, when gelled things were de rigueur and any scullery maid worth her salt was practiced in the art of boiling calves’ feet. Luckily for us, we are blessed with packets of gelatin that require no such machinations, and thus we can easily bring back the magic that is blancmange.

For most of us, this oddly named dessert is something we have only heard referenced as a horrible nursery food or lunch punishment imposed on uniformed British school children. Paul Hollywood shudders when he thinks of blancmange shivering on a plate during his formative years. But if you have never had a decent one, you should. A lightly gelled mold of fruit and cream bolstered with almond is actually a perfect delight, and well worth making.

Many recipes call for unflavored gelatin and rely solely upon fresh fruit puree to flavor them, but I am here to say that Jell-O and frozen fruit are the way to go. The flavored Jell-O amps up the flavor in the frozen fruit, but the fruit helps prevent it from tasting overly artificially flavored. The texture is almost mousse-like, bolstered by the almond meal to a dense velvet that is a deep pleasure to eat. If you don’t like raspberries—which are traditional—you can use other Jell-O and frozen fruit combos: strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, peach, and mango all work well. Avoid citrus flavors or pineapple, as the acid will impact gelling and fight with the dairy.


Illustration for article titled Please, we implore you, do not be afraid of blancmange
Photo: Stacey Ballis
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Jell-O Blancmange

  • 32 oz. frozen raspberries, thawed
  • ¼ cup cassis liqueur, cassis syrup, or Chambord (optional)
  • 5 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 (6-oz.) packet raspberry Jell-O (or two 3-oz. packets)
  • ½ cup almond meal or almond flour
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream

Puree the berries in food processor or powerful blender until completely smooth. Pass through a sieve into a clean bowl, pressing through to extract the puree, and discarding the seeds. This step seems fussy, but is totally worth it, you want the dish to be smooth and not chunky; nothing is less elegant than your guests picking raspberry seeds out of their teeth. Stir in the liqueur or syrup if using. Set aside.

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In a saucepan, mix the cornstarch with a little of the milk in a medium pan, whisking until you have a lump-free slurry. Then stir in the remaining milk, Jell-O mix, and almond meal, and whisk to combine. Place the pan on the stove over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 2-3 minutes until thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the almond extract.

Mix in the cream and all of the fruit purée until combined thoroughly, then pour into a greased 8-cup mold or bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the mixture to prevent a skin forming, then put into the fridge for a minimum of 6 hours or overnight. To serve, unmold, decorate if desired with fresh fruit or small candies or whipped cream and serve. Can be made up to 3 days in advance.

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DISCUSSION

I am terrified of blancmange. Especially the ones that play tennis.