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Gelatine woes

Just the mere mention of the word gelatine can throw us into a mild panic. There are so many types and sometimes recipes specify grams vs leaves vs grades…. And I get it, it’s a bit of a weird ingredient anyway and there is so much info out there it can be hard to know what advice to follow.

If the thought of using gelatine in a recipe makes you throw your hands in the air and grab your head in despair, DON’T WORRY. I’m going to break it down for you now because it really doesn’t have to be something to fear.

We can get really 'sciencey' here and talk gelatine mass and technicals but I think that conversation is reserved for really advance dessert making. So we are going to stick to what I know and have learnt from using gelatine in kitchens and then at home.

First and foremost, always check the manufacturers instructions as a guide. Especially if you’re using a different brand or you are in another country and aren’t sure. The manufacturer will typically tell you how much gelatine will set a certain amount of liquid. This is helpful! You can always test a small amount and see which set you get and adjust accordingly for future recipes.

Gelatine comes in different forms, here we are going to focus on leaf gelatine (pork, beef and fish) powdered gelatine (pork), vegegel (the Dr Oatker brand as it’s the most accessible in supermarkets), agar agar.

When it comes to leaves, the NUMBER of leaves is important. And the weight of the leaves.

The most available in supermarkets are: Platinum fine leaf sheets, bronze leaf and they are small.

The most available in restaurants are: Double the length of the supermarket ones, typically bronze leaf pork/beef

Wholesale gelatine sheets used commercially in kitchens are double the size of the ones you get in the supermarket. The way sheets work is that across the grades (platinum, bronze, gold etc) they all weigh differently, some are thicker than others. This changes the weight of the leaf, however each leaf at it's very basic level is interchangeable between leaves. This is because a thicker sheet like bronze will need to be thicker to bring more power over a thin platinum sheet which will have more strength despite being thinner. Therefore you can switch leaf for leaf.

The weight of a supermarket sheet is half of the weight of the average restaurant sheet. This is easy maths! So therefore all you need to do if you are using a recipe from a restaurant and they are using wholesale gelatine is to double the amount of leaves that they specify.

The DJA recipes will always tell you which gelatine we are using and the size of the sheet!

Don’t feel overwhelmed when you’re switching between the number of leaves and the grades.

Silver, platinum, gold, bronze all have a different thickness and weight. This is to account for their strength

At the top level just ignore this, if you’ve got different grades swap them leaf for leaf and BREATHE.

To use leaf gelatine you need to soak the sheets in ice cold water. Why? Simple, if the water is warm the sheets will simply start to disintegrate and dissolve and that’s not what you want. You’ll dip your hand it and realise they’ve disappeared. A no no. Ice cold always.

Once they have softened in the cold water squeeze out the excess liquid and put them into warm/hot liquid to dissolve fully and stir well.

Powdered. Powdered is a bit weird, it kind of smells too doesn’t it? Don’t let that put you off though. Powdered gelatine works really well in a lot of desserts.

When you use powdered gelatine you need to treat it a bit differently, you’ll need to ‘bloom’ it in water first. What happens is the gelatine crystals absorb the water and turn from powder into a jelly like substance. This can then be easily dissolved into a warm liquid. You can also just whisk the powder straight into something warm, some people like to do it that way!

With powdered gelatine you’ll need to measure the water that you dissolve it in, too much water and you will ruin the recipe. Always refer to the back or the packet when using gelatine.

Now we move onto vegegel! There’s not that much info out there about using this stuff but after many tests I’ve come to the conclusion that whilst it will alter your final texture it’s not a terrible alternative to meaty gelatine, it’s actually quite good.

To use vegegel all you need to do is whisk it into a warm liquid.

Agar agar is found in granular form like powdered gelatine and vegegel. The difference being that it comes from sea weed

The outcome is often brittle, use agar agar when it’s ok to have a brittle texture, like dipping a frozen sphere of mousse into agar set jelly. Or alternatively use agar agar to make a fluid gel. Those gels are what a lot of chefs use to look cool. Me included. Great for vegan desserts.

Here is a chart for gelatine conversions across different types. Refer to it every time you throw your hands up and grab your head. Breathe and remember, DJA has got you!

How to use this sheet: We have noted how many grams we used to set 80ml as a guide for you along with the accompanying results. The simple syrup was a ratio of 3:1 water to sugar and the panna cotta mix contained whole milk and double cream. Please do check the manufacturers instructions on the back of the packet when using gelatin, different brands across different countries can vary.

This chart was made during a day of fun experiments with a fab team of really brilliant pastry chefs including Terri Merceica of Happy Endings, Talia Ricard of Hart's Bakery, Sheba Kingsford-Smith & Ellie Doney.


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