Monday, July 26, 2010

I say Gelatin, you say Gelatine . . .

The Mysterious Sheet Gelatin . . . 

Dr. Oetker Brand sheet gelatine (does that  trailing "e" provide superior gelling powers?)

Manuscript editing has run (temporarily) aground on, well, the issue of gelatin itself.  Apparently, we have stumbled upon (no pun intended) one of the most hotly contested questions* in the culinary world- translation of powdered gelatin to sheet gelatin.
 Our editor contacted me last week, with the exciting news that the book may be published in the UK. One minor issue, however. I based the recipes in our recipe book on Knox gelatin, which in the US is available in any and every supermarket, convenience store, and corner market. Not so in the UK, apparently.  (The irony of this conversion, given that the original recipes, and eventually the book, came about due to the scarcity of sheet gelatin in my Midwestern hamlet is not lost on me!)

My quest began a week ago, when it was suggested that, because a powdered gelatin product is purportedly available in the UK, a conversion could be made fairly simply and in a very arbitrary fashion. However, after poking around a bit, fruitlessly I might add, I could not find coherent discussion of this mysterious gelatin powder discussed, nor could I locate any for purchase.  Dangerous business to convert to a substance that: 1) may or may not exist 2) could have mysterious setting properties - comparable to Knox? completely different? who knows!; and 3) did I mention it may or may not exist?  (If anyone has info on UK brands of powdered gelatin and their application, sharing would be much appreciated ...) So began the quest:

Monday: frantic survey of ex-pat UK friends as to dominant UK gelatin types/brands. Sheet gelatin appears to be the front runner, with few major brands. (Thanks a million darling Mr. M., who also clarified that it is gelatine in the UK, with an "e", and that the addition of the "e" provides superior setting properties!)

Tuesday: I am able to order sheet gelatin Amazon from a culinary supply house and an online grocer in Canada, incurring hefty overnight charges in what is likely the world's first and only EMERGENCY gelatin shipment.

Wednesday and Thursday: review wildly disparate internet articles on the proper conversion ratios. Yikes!  None of the information overlaps.

Friday: gelatin shipments arrive! The first (pictured above) is mysterious to say the least. No directions. Nothing. Just a package of sheets.

The second package, Dr. Oetkers brand (also pictured above), is a bit more promising, with its forthright disclosre on the label that one pack gels 2 cups of liquid, with a half page of text with instructions (two different methods - hot and cold prep!) on the back label.

Now the fun begins . . . I will be recipe testing offsite this week, at a rather rustic cabin this week with in-laws and extended family - who as of yet don't realize that they will serve as a captive tasting panel for theconversion experiment!  The fridge appears to be in good working order and able to keep up with the hot hot heat outdoors.

Wish me luck!  Will post testing results mid-week.



*For more gelatin conversion information, check out the following link on gelatin handling courtesy of David Lebovitz' excellent blog.  It is comforting in a way, to hear that the conversion from powder to sheet and vice versa appears to be universally vexing . . .