What's spookier than eating desserts set with Acid-Soaked Ground Bones of Cloven-Hoofed Beasts? Having to recipe test them over, and over, and over....
Kelp here, having spent nearly the entire month of October researching gruesome gelatin recipes just in time for your Halloweekend (or whenever really. You do you.) Most of these recipes are fairly simple, and potentially alcoholic, which I suspect is what the people want. However, for desserts originally formulated with ~spirits~, this teetotaler tested non-alcoholic versions. And now, let's start with a neither easy, nor alcoholic recipe!
Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
Most pumpkin pies are of the cooked custard variety - I enjoy these very much, provided they have not been ruined with the addition of Spice. (This is not a PSL callout, I just personally don't enjoy cinnamon. Or cloves. I like pumpkin.) This, however, is a vintage recipe for a much lighter, uncooked chiffon pie, set with the help of unflavored gelatin. As such, it's easy to overspice, so experienced custard pie makers may need to adjust their benchmarks. Also, WARNING: you will have to make a meringue. Get your copper bowl out.
For a bit of seasonal flair, I was successfully able to use a spatula to mound the pie higher in the center and drag vertical 'ridges', so that it more resembled an actual pumpkin. I was unsuccessful, however, in using black sanding sugar to make a jack o'lantern face - the moisture in the pie dissolved the black dye, causing it first to run everywhere, and then seep into the pie itself, looking uncannily like mold spots. A little too scary. Later, at the craft store, I remembered they sell plastic face parts that kids can punch into pumpkins; these would work perfect for a non-disastrous pie decoration.
¾ cup brown sugar
1 0.25 oz-envelope unflavored gelatin
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ginger
¾ cup milk
1¼ cups canned pumpkin
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 9-inch graham cracker crust
In saucepan, combine brown sugar, gelatin, salt, and spices. (Kelp tip: I only used ½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg in my pie, and it was Very Nutmeg. Adjust spice amounts accordingly.)
Separate eggs, reserving whites for later. Combine slightly beaten egg yolks and milk. Mix into brown sugar mixture in saucepan. Cook at medium heat and stir until mixture just comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in canned pumpkin. Transfer to bowl and chill till mixture mounds slightly when spooned.
Meanwhile, beat egg whites till soft peaks form; gradually add granulated sugar, and continue to beat into stiff peaks. Gently fold pumpkin mixture thoroughly into egg whites. Turn into crust, and chill firm.
Candy Corn Shots
My cursed kitchen adventures continued with this contemporary recipe for a fun layered gelatin. I tend not to trust flashy seasonal gelatin recipes online - they look nice in the picture, but could easily taste awful. So I took the concept of this one and formulated it myself, which took extra time.
Once I figured I had the recipe down, I opened my last box of lemon gelatin mix to a spooky surprise - the inner package had ripped open, and there were several tiny black specks crawling onto my fingers. After cleaning up the contamination, I tracked down some 'Island Pineapple' flavor to use instead. This ended up tasting okay, but something about dissolving fake pineapple flavor gelatin in hot water produces a disconcerting smell.
As if that wasn't enough, I then prepared each batch and layered my shots...in the wrong order. Since I have a policy of not filling the fridge full of uneaten desserts, there was nothing to do but eat my mistakes and wait. Sigh.
Anyways! This recipe tastes fine, despite my complete burnout from eating it over two weeks. I do recommend sticking to lemon over 'island pineapple', and a fair warning - the yellow portion reminded me very much of scrambled eggs. (In appearance. Not taste.) I made these without alcohol, but if you would like to booze it up, I recommend adding spirits to the orange portion only.
2 3-oz packages of lemon flavored gelatin (or 1 6-oz package, divided)
1 3-oz package of orange flavored gelatin
¾ cup heavy cream (or approx. 1½ cups whipped topping)
1⅓ cup vanilla ice cream, melted
Yellow gel food coloring (optional)
Alcohol of choice (optional)
For white layer: Dissolve 3 ounces of lemon flavored gelatin in ¾ cups boiling water, and let cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, whip heavy cream to soft peaks. (If using whipped topping, skip this step.) Slowly incorporate gelatin into whipped mixture. Pour into shot glasses, to about one-fifth high. (Kelp tip: this layer doesn't have much going on. Go ham on the other layers.) Chill until set (won't take long).
For orange layer: Dissolve 3 ounces of orange flavored gelatin in 1 cup boiling water. Add one cup cold water OR clear liquid of choice. Let sit until room temperature, and then pour over set white layer. (Kelp tip: this should be the thickest layer for maximum candy corn resemblance.) Chill until set.
For yellow layer: Dissolve remaining 3 ounces of lemon flavored gelatin in ⅓ cup boiling water. Slowly add melted ice cream. For a more vivid yellow, add a few drops of food coloring. Pour over set orange layer, and chill until firm.
A while back, while cleaning out my kitchen, I found a plastic brain mold and set it aside. And now, its' time has come. There's really nothing spooky about this recipe besides the mold shape, and I doubt many of you have 5-cup plastic brain molds in the back of a cabinet somewhere. But maybe you do! There are similar recipes for making creepy crawly worms by using plastic straws as molds, but they are a lot of work for something you could approximate with a trip to your local candy aisle.
This was another extensively workshopped recipe - most brain recipes online (yes, there's many) said to use a "red flavor", but a few specified Strawberry. And recently, my resident grocery shopper had finally tracked down Cranberry flavored gelatin after being on the lookout for months. Armed with all five 'red' flavors (I have never seen Strawberry-Banana and therefore refuse to acknowledge its existence), I set out to see which was the most brain-like, and which the most bloody. This involved keeping a reference picture of a fresh, blood-covered human brain in my phone gallery, which has been a fun surprise in the days since.
The results? Well, first off, Black Cherry is disqualified as a red flavor. But luckily, it's purplish tint makes it a great visual substitute for the sorry excuse of a flavor Grape is. Bloodwise, Cranberry is predictably the darkest, although Cherry and Raspberry are just a shade lighter. Strawberry is the lightest, and enough so that I would say "do not use". However, if mixing with ice cream to create an imitation internal organ, Strawberry is indeed the clear winner - other red flavors end up usable, but too dark to be realistic. For this brain, I used Strawberry for the flesh and Cranberry for the blood; if you're thinking "Cran-Strawberry?", know that the cranberry flavor is oddly subtle, and the strawberry gets washed out by the ice cream. It's really just red flavor, in the end.
(makes approx. 5 cups, plus blood)
9 ounces of strawberry flavored gelatin (either 3 3-oz packages, or 1 6-oz and 1 3-oz)
1 3-oz package of cranberry flavored gelatin (OR cherry, raspberry)
4 cups (1 quart) melted vanilla ice cream
Mold of choice (Kelp tip: for detailed molds, like brains, use neutral oil cooking spray to grease before filling)
Thoroughly dissolve strawberry gelatin mix in 1 cup boiling water. Incorporate 4 cups of melted vanilla ice cream. Slowly pour into (greased) mold. (Kelp tip: I had a bunch of air bubbles, but you'll be pouring blood over it, so don't worry about imperfections.) Chill until firm (around 6 hours). Dip mold into warm water for 15 seconds, and use fingers to test if surface pulls away. Unmold onto serving platter, cover, and return to fridge.
Meanwhile, dissolve cranberry flavored gelatin in ¾ cup boiling water, and chill until thickened. (Kelp tip: should be a little globby, but still runny enough to pour. If it sets up too much, use a little boiling water to loosen it back up.) Slowly and evenly pour thickened gelatin over molded dessert for desired effect. Return to fridge and chill until set.