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What to Do When the Gelatin Refuses to Gel

March 14, 1985|MINNIE BERNARDINO | Times Staff Writer

Question: I made a gelatin mold and used kiwi fruit for the first time. After sitting for some time in the refrigerator, the gelatin didn't gel. I suspect that there must be something in the fruit, as there is with fresh pineapple, that will prevent setting.

Answer: You are so right. Kiwi has an enzyme (actinidin) similar to one found in pineapple that breaks down protein and prevents gelatin from setting. The enzyme, a natural digestive aid, also tenderizes meat and produces off flavors in milk and milk products. However, the higher the fat content of the milk product, the slower the off flavors develop.

To inactivate the enzyme, heat the fruit until just below the boiling point. This may be done before adding to gelatin dishes. Although the fruit holds its shape when blanched, it turns a pale green color. Personally, I prefer to garnish the gelatin with the fruit rather than incorporating cooked kiwi into it. Also, remember that overripe kiwi loses its bright green color, becoming more translucent.

Q: Is the skin of the kiwi fruit edible? Is the fruit high in Vitamin C?

A: Jan Bilton, food consultant from New Zealand, says that the whole fruit, including the skin, can be eaten. Rub the fruit gently with a soft cloth to remove excess fur and use in savory salads. Usually, however, the fruit is peeled before eating. The fruit is high in Vitamin C or ascorbic acid, about twice the amount in oranges. It is also rich in potassium and relatively low in calories.

Q: After 28 years of inconvenience and misery, a doctor has diagnosed my digestive disorder as a result of intolerance to the lactose in milk products. Being a former "milk-o-holic" has necessitated major dietary changes. I have managed to find non-dairy substitutes for milk, sour cream and the like but I've had no luck at all in a search for a cheese substitute.

I find the current hassle of pizza companies over the use of "real" versus artificial cheeses mildly amusing, but short of going to the chefs in pizza parlors asking for artificial cheese, nutrition centers and supermarkets seem to know of no such product. I will be most appreciative of any information you can give on the this elusive food product.

A: A cheese substitute product used in institutions is also available in the deli cases of most supermarkets. Pioneered by the Fisher Cheese Co., the product is comparable to margarine being a substitute to butter; that is, it has a vegetable oil base. The Fisher line includes a substitute for shredded mozzarella cheese called Pizza-Mate and a substitute for process American cheese slices called Sandwich-Mate singles. For shredded Cheddar there's Ched-O-Mate and for non-melting shredded Cheddar cheese there's Salad-Mate. The non-dairy substitutes and blends are all nutritionally equivalent to their natural/processed conventional counterparts.

If you can tolerate a small amount of lactose try cheeses with the lowest lactose content such as aged natural Cheddar, Gouda, Edam and Stilton; Brie, Camembert, Gruyere, Limburger, Monterey and Port du Salut.

Q: Every time I make a loaf of cinnamon swirl bread, I get these huge spaces in the swirls. Can you please tell me how to avoid this?

A: Are you rolling up the loaf firmly enough to eliminate air pockets and sealing the edges and ends properly? Moisten these with a little water to seal.

Also, too much flour could be another cause. Avoid using a heavily floured surface as any thin layer of free flour clinging to the dough will separate rolled layers during baking. Allow the cinnamon-sugar mixture to stick well to the dough. This may be accomplished by brushing the dough with water before sprinkling with the mixture and then lightly pressing the mixture into the dough.

Address questions on food preparation to You Asked About, Food Section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. Personal replies cannot be given.

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