I actually made two desserts today. On this lazy Sunday, a day of supposed rest. Yes, I did. What brought it about was well, the failure of one of these two desserts when I had made it a few days ago. To get away from the frustration, someone suggested that maybe I should try making something foolproof (thanks, Tasty Trix), something that couldn't fail even if I was making it while sleepwalking. Anyway, today's first dessert, a cake actually, worked out just fine. It also tasted magical. Except.... I was still thinking about the other dessert that got away!
So in the waning light of the day, I decided to give it another go. It was to be my third attempt at making the dastardly Aloe Vera and Pink Grapefruit Cream Jelly, using agar agar as a base to work with. Just everyday ingredients... Hmmm, I better let you know that we have pots of aloe vera plants growing outside our home, so for me, they're 'everyday'. Also, I had brought home an armload of pink grapefruits the other day, most of which I've utilized, bar one. I was down to my last grapefruit and the situation was getting desperate!
At home, we mostly use aloe vera as part of our beauty ritual - think home spa. I often slather the slimy (it's waaay slimier than okra) aloe vera sap all over my face before I go to bed. I can honestly tell you that it's rather unpleasant handling all that messy slime! But I know I'll be rewarded for my efforts when I reach 82 and have only one wrinkle to my name... uhh, perhaps that's just wishful thinking.
Don't forget to get rid of the thorns first! Oh... did I already mention slimy?
I guess most people are familiar with aloe vera as a health supplement in the form of juices, powder or tablets. Not many realize that fresh aloe vera can be eaten too, it's refreshing with yogurt or as part of a dessert. Once the hard skin is removed and the flesh is boiled, aloe has the texture of cooked plums or grapes, although without any of the flavoring. On its own, it tastes of nothing really so it's important to add a flavor to it, such as lime or sugar. I decided here to go with kaffir lime leaves and it turned out to be a rather excellent choice.
So in my mind, I saw this beautifully layered dessert - thin slices of grapefruit flesh sandwiched in between the translucent aloe vera and pinkish hue of the grapefruit cream and topped with caramelized palm sugar. Except it turned out like this, total disaster!
I only had one grapefruit left, so it was time to rework the dessert. Got rid of the palm sugar and grapefruit slivers, and finally... it all came together! I must mention that in the midst of my despair the other day, I had the good fortune to come across Ms. Salty Seattle's experimentation in her CSI-like kitchen to produce little agar spheres, so since I was working with agar, I thought, why not try it out? To my utter amazement, the simple act of injecting warm agar blobs into frozen oil really worked to produce (in this case) glistening, pink grapefruit pearls encased in agar. Except mine weren't shaped so roundedly, more like little pebbles rather than gems.
The four layers
In the end, I had made enough pink spheres to sprinkle on all my serving portions. I would've loved to make more of these so they can form the topmost layer but 1. the sun was setting and I had to take photos quickly, 2. the oil was melting fast and there was no time to refreeze it before dark, and 3. I got tired of playing so decided to simply pour the grapefruit-agar mixture on top of the dessert to make the final layer. I won't go into the mechanics of producing the spheres here, but if you're really interested, you can head over to Linda's blog now and learn something new.
Holy Moly, it worked!
It was worth failing a couple of times just so I could end up with this very pretty, almost ethereal dessert. The aloe vera gives a refreshing crunch, the kaffir lime and grapefruit flavors pack a mean citrusy punch, while the mellow cream serves to balance the acidity and pull the dessert together. Sweet...
Oh, and what of that foolproof dessert? Another post, another day, my friends.
Aloe Vera and Pink Grapefruit Cream Jelly
Agar agar (base solution)
1 packet (7g) agar agar powder
200g caster sugar
Dissolve sugar and agar in water and bring to the boil. Remove from heat andvuse this solution as the base for other layers.
Aloe Vera Layer
2 large aloe vera leaves, peeled and cubed
4 kaffir lime leaves, crushed
( + 150ml base agar solution)
Boil aloe vera and kaffir leaves on medium high heat for 5 minutes. Fish out and discard leaves. Add the base agar solution.
150ml double cream
(+ 250ml base agar solution)
Gently whisk the cream with the base agar solution until well combined. Take 150ml of this mixture to make the Grapefruit Cream Layer (below)
Grapefruit Juice Layer
100ml grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed
150ml extra water
(+ 150ml base agar solution)
Strain grapefruit juice, retain the fleshy bits for the Grapefruit Cream Layer (below). Add water and base agar solution to the grapefruit juice.
Grapefruit Cream Layer
150ml of Cream Layer mixture
Grapefruit flesh that has been strained (above)
Whisk together until well combined.
(Note: If I had more grapefruit, I would've added the juice as well)
Spoon the layers carefully into the serving dish in this order:
1. Aloe Vera Layer
2. Grapefruit Cream Layer
3. Cream Layer
4. Grapefruit Juice Layer
5. Grapefruit Spheres (optional)
Make sure you leave each layer to set for a few minutes in the freezer before spooning the next layer on top of it. Keep the agar base solution/mixtures warm while waiting to be layered to prevent the agar from setting and clumping.