Today: Amanda shows us how to update an old-school dessert.
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Back when it was acceptable to throw some chopped fruit in Jell-O and call it a salad, another, genius Jell-O dish was born. This unparalleled dish was, of course, Jell-O Fluff -- the bouncy and affable fusion of Jell-O and whipped cream. Jell-O Fluff became a beloved dessert for a number of years, and was then swiftly and heartlessly discarded by the next generation.
There are two schools of Jell-O Fluff -- those made with whipped cream and those made with Cool Whip -- and they might as well be the Yankees and Mets of the Jell-O world. Their fans can not stand each other. The whipped cream fluff camp sees itself as superior, Jell-O elevated. The Cool Whip fluff camp believes it is the fluff of the people, a little fake in flavor but more authentic.
I don't want to sway you, but coming from the whipped cream fluff camp, all I can say is that our version is much better. Cool Whippers, my gloves are off!
My mother made Strawberry Fluff, which meant that after concocting a batch of strawberry Jell-O, she whisked cream into it until it turned a voluminous electric pink. Then she spooned it into glasses and put the fluff into the fridge to chill before dinner -- during which time it would gain a thin skin on the top, a detail I always liked.
These days, I'm less fond of strawberry Jell-O, though fluff still ranks high in my food memory. I wanted to recreate the magic, but this time with Jell-O made from scratch. (Note to Cool Whippers: Jell-O is about to be under siege as well.) There's one berry that I think goes better with whipped cream than strawberries, and that's the blackberry.
Making Jell-O from scratch is no big deal, it turns out. You need to juice the fruit, and with berries this is easy because all you have to do is add a splash of water and a little heat and they begin collapsing and juicing.
Press them through a sieve, using the back of a spoon to extract as much juice as possible. Measure the juice; you'll need 1 3/4 cups.
Pull out 1/2 cup of the blackberry juice, and sprinkle it with the gelatin. My juice was so thick, I had to add 2 tablespoons of water to get the gelatin to hydrate and bloom.
Meanwhile bring the remaining juice to a boil, add it to the gelatin, stirring the mixture until smooth, and sweeten it with sugar. Then into the fridge it goes until it's firm.
Once the blackberry jello is firm, fold lightly sweetened whipped cream into it. At first it'll look deliciously messy and lumpy, but eventually the color unifies and the chunks of jello reduce to bits. My mother used to whisk hers until it was smooth, but I like the lumpy bits and suggest you leave them in.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).
Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.