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. —Amanda Hesser
Pile the blackberries into a medium sauce pan with 1/2 cup water. Bring to a simmer, and as the berries soften, use a potato masher to gently but firmly crush the berries. I like to do this so the berries don't get too cooked. Remove from the heat and pour the berries through a fine sieve into a large measuring cup. Use the back of a large spoon to press any excess juices from the berry seeds. You will need 1 3/4 cups juice.
Remove 1/2 cup juice from the measuring cup and place it in a medium mixing bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the juice. If the gelatin isn't absorbed by the blackberry juice, then you may need to sprinkle up to 2 tablespoons water on top. Let the gelatin bloom for 5 minutes.
In the meantime, pour the remaining 1 1/4 cups blackberry juice into a sauce pan and bring just to a boil, then pour it over the gelatin mixture and stir until the gelatin is dissolved. Stir in 1/4 cup sugar, then place the bowl in the fridge to chill; the blackberry jello should be firm in 3 to 4 hours.
When the jello is ready, whip the cream to soft peaks, adding 2 tablespoons sugar to sweeten as you whip. Fold the cream into the jello with a spatula, occasionally stirring to break up any large jello pieces. Leave it a little lumpy. Spoon into small bowls or ideally, low glassware. Serve with a spoon!
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.