On the one hand, it’s the most annoying day on the planet. I mean, what’s fun about a tidal wave of cringe-inducing jewelry commercials and a slew of fussy and overpriced prix fixe “lovers” menus at every restaurant in town?
If you’re single, Valentine’s Day is an exercise in eye rolling – through endless public displays of affection and a general onslaught of cheesiness, usually in the form of some sort of romantic movie marathon on TV. If you’re coupled, Valentine’s Day is an exercise in obligatory romantic creativity — intense pressure to find the perfect, adorable-yet-not-at-all-cliché expression of affection for your Valentine. Flowers? Chocolates? Please.
On the other hand, I like flowers. And chocolate, and John Hughes/Rob Reiner movie marathons. And if you ask me to be your Valentine, I’ll think it’s pretty cute. Just make sure you’re ready for this jelly.
These jellies are made with agar (instead of gelatin), so, in addition to being awesome and adorable, they are both vegan and gluten-free.
Agar is a natural vegetable gelatin counterpart, made from algae or seaweed. It’s sold as a powder, and you can usually find it at health-conscious or vegan food stores (I believe it’s sold at Whole Foods) and most Asian markets.
Fruit purées, such as the blood orange purée called for here, are sold frozen in many specialty stores, as well as online (Amazon carries it, as well as a site called perfectpuree.com). If blood orange isn’t your thing, flavors like pomegranate, strawberry or cassis are delicious and would yield nice red colors for your Valentine.
We make these little guys at Liddabit Sweets, the Brooklyn-based candy company where I work. So if you don’t feel like making your own batch, by all means, let us make them for you.
- 50 grams agar
- 1020 grams sugar, plus extra for rolling
- 820 grams water
- 880 grams light corn syrup
- 820 grams frozen blood orange purée, thawed
Make sure you have a deep-fry or candy thermometer at the ready. (One like this works perfectly here.)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the agar and the sugar. Put the water in a saucepan with tall sides, and begin to heat it on the stove top. Once the water has warmed, whisk the sugar/agar mixture into the water, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the corn syrup and stir gently. Latch the thermometer to the inside of the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook the jelly mixture until it reaches 106º CELSIUS. Once it reaches 106ºC, turn off the burner and let the mixture cool to 90ºC.
Remove the mixture from the stove and add the fruit purée, stirring to combine. Pour the warm jelly mixture into a greased (Pam works well) half sheet pan (half sheet pans are essentially cookie sheets with dimensions 18″x13″x1″).
Let the mixture cool in the half sheet pan for at least an hour, during which time the jelly will firm up. Test the firmness by pressing the jelly gently with a finger – it should feel just firm and slightly jiggly in the center. Once set, use a cookie cutter to cut shapes from the jelly, and place them on a cooling rack. Let the jelly shapes dry out for an hour on the cooling rack before rolling them in sugar to finish.