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Gelatin and its many forms

Image of a box of Gelatin

After posting a little quiz on Facebook about gelatin (or gelatine) the other day, I got a bunch of emails with loads of questions.  I thought I better write up a quick explanation, providing a little insight into the confusing area of gelatin types and measures. Most of this information is courtesy of British Larders.

How we use Gelatin

Gelatin is available in either powder or leaf form. We use it to as a setting eganet in various desserts, one example being our trifle. In our baking we prefer to use the leaf form, as its easy to measure, and provides good results. As such, we wont cover the use of gelatin powder in this post.

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Gelatine leaves come in a variety of “bloom strengths”, which are usually indicated as follows;

Strongest

  • Platinum
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Bronze
  • Titanium

Weakest

The bloom strength simply indicates how much gelatine is needed to set a given quantity of liquid. The weight of the sheets varies from grade to grade, so that 1 sheet, regardless of the grade, will have the same setting power (or bloom strength). So when a recipe calls for 4 leaves (or sheets) of gelatine, you may use 4 leaves of any grade.

So why would you use Platinum rather than Titanium gelatine?

Grades with higher bloom strength result in a clearer, better tasting gel. As such, we prefer to use gold or platinum leaves, being what we think is a reasonable mix of cost and quality.

What is Gelatin?

Gelatine is an odourless, colourless and tasteless solid substance made from protein derived from beef and veal bones, tendons and other tissue.  Much of the commercial stuff is a by-product of pig skin.  It’s commonly used as a gelling or setting agent in cookery, both savoury and sweet. Gelatine is an irreversible hydrolysed form of collagen and is classified as a foodstuff with an E-number E441. You can find it in lots of everyday foods such as marshmallows, jellies and some low-fat yoghurt’s and set desserts. Some dietary or religious customs forbid the use of gelatin from specific animal sources, and medical issues may limit or prevent its consumption by certain people.

Gelatine sets firm when cold and melts completely at 35°C.

The effect of commonly used ingredients on the setting point

There are a few everyday ingredients that can influence the setting point of gelatine.

  • Milk and dairy products strengthen the gelling process and support it’s structure.
  • Salt lowers its strength and can cause the collapse of the structure or in some cases prevent its setting, all this can be counteracted by increasing the amount of gelatine used.
  • Sugars increase its strength with the exception of fructose found in fruits
  • Acids such as vinegar, fruit juice and wine with a pH below 4 produces a weaker jelly and requires the amount to be used to be increased by up to 1/3 of the original amount.
  • Strong acids and tannins in red wine and tea can make a jelly set with gelatine go cloudy. Cloudiness can be prevented by cooking the tannin-rich ingredient and gelatine solution together briefly, about a minute or two. The jellies can also benefit from being passed through a muslin cloth or in some cases even being clarified.
  • Pineapple, papaya, melon and kiwi fruit all contain protein-digesting enzymes that break gelatine down and prevent it from setting. You can deactivate these destructive enzymes by cooking the fruits and turning the fruit into a puree or cook the extracted juices to create a clear jelly.

How to use leaf gelatin

All leaf gelatine must be adequately soaked before using, regardless of the brand, strength or size.  This soaking method is called blooming.  So if your recipe states ” to bloom” it means to soak the gelatine till it’s rehydrated. 

You must always soak leaf gelatine in cold water, as anything less than cold may interfere with the blooming stage.

  • Place the leaf or leaves in a suitably sized flat container. If you soak more than one sheet make sure you separate them by wiggling them about in the water.  If they stick together they will not soak properly, and their use will be diminished.
  • Pour enough cold water over the gelatine to ensure it’s completely covered.
  • Leave to soak until the gelatin blooms (expands) and goes wrinkly, this typically takes about 5 minutes. Mke sure the leaves are sepated so that the water can reach them all.
  • Do not leave the gelatine in the water too long, as it will start to break down, and you will not be able to use it in the correct amounts if it begins to disintegrate.
  • Once bloomed the gelatine is ready to be used, remove the gelatine from the water and squeeze it between your fingers to remove any excess water.
  • Melt the gelatin by adding it to the warm liquid that it is to be added to; the liquid temperature must be over 35°C (in practice its needs to reach 50C or it takes too long to melt).
  • Once the liquid is cooled below 15°C (in practice around 4C good), the gelatine will set and become firm.

Here is a simple formula to give you an indication of how much to use. Please remember these are only guidelines and you may want to test small amounts by chilling 100 ml of your mixture to check how firm it sets.

  •     1 leaf (or sheet) of gelatin for 100 ml liquid = soft set (easy to turn out)
  •     1 leaf (or sheet) of gelatin for 125 ml liquid = wobbly soft set (served in a glass)

Conclusion

I conclude that there is no difference between different grades of gelatin for setting purposes, however taste and clarity of the gel is best using Gold or Platinum.

My personal preference is to use leaf gelatine rather than the powdered form.

Remember that gelatin (sometimes called gelatine) is not suitable for vegetarians nor certain religious diets.  I recommend using veggie gel or agar agar which are both suitable for vegetarians and vegans.  I will write another post covering agar agar as there are some important rules to follow for its successful use.

2 Comments

  1. How do I determine the amount of gelatine leaf to use if the recipe states x amount of gelatine, please?

    1. Hi Eira,

      Because each brand differs a little, I check the manufacturer’s suggestions on the box or pack. There are two things to consider the weight and the the type of leaf. Your recipe should state, the kind of gelatine (gold, titanium etc.) and the weight needed for perfect results.
      I hope that all makes sense.

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