September 18, 2017

Osmanthus Flower Jelly 桂花糕

Osmanthus Flower Jelly 桂花糕

Osmanthus, Flower, dessert, chinese, recipe, wolfberry, goji, Jelly, 桂花糕, mid autumn festival, cake, traditional, 桂花, 瓊脂, 杞子
By Published: 2017-09-18
Chinese Mid Autumn Festival 中秋節 is coming around the corner!  It's the time of the full harvest moon, glowing lanterns held aloft by small hands, long nights of gazing longingly at Chang-O 嫦娥, lovely ethereal goddess of the moon, and stuffing of bellies to bursting point with delectable mooncakes, perfectly round to symbolize reunion.  

嫦娥奔月 Chang'e Flying to the Moon- 任率英 Ren Shuai Ying, 1955
To celebrate Mid Autumn Festival we hand press traditional mooncakes stuffed with fragrant lotus paste and golden duck egg yolks or five nut mooncakes stuffed with, yes, five kinds of nuts and tons of other goodies or sometimes we even make those delightful mix of traditional mooncake and mochi cakes known as snow skin mooncakes.  This year we decided to add to the festive edibles by whipping up this easy Chinese Osmanthus Flower Jelly, or 桂花糕, a traditional Chinese dessert jelly filled with the colors of autumn and delicately scented with the ethereal and floral perfume of the wonderful osmanthus flower.

Osmanthus, Flower, dessert, chinese, recipe, wolfberry, goji, Jelly,  桂花糕, mid autumn festival, cake, traditional, 桂花, 瓊脂, 杞子

Why the Osmanthus Flower Jelly for Mid Autumn Festival, you may be wondering?  Well the osmanthus 桂花 comes into blossom at just the time of the Mid Autumn Festival and it is traditional for folks to sit under blossoming osmanthus trees and gaze at the full harvest moon while breathing the sweet air permeated by the fragrance of the blossoms.  As a result of much lazing about under osmanthus trees, over the years Chinese have naturally incorporated the fragrant blossoms into all kinds of Mid Autumn celebratory foods and even wine!

Osmanthus, Flower, dessert, chinese, recipe, wolfberry, goji, Jelly,  桂花糕, mid autumn festival, cake, traditional, 桂花, 瓊脂, 杞子

We used agar agar strips, or 瓊脂, to set this flower jelly, as per tradition.  Agar agar works similar to gelatin, but is made from seaweed so it is vegetarian whereas gelatin is derived the collagen in animal bones.   You could substitute agar powder or gelatin to achieve a similar jelly effect.  Agar strips and agar powder can be found at your local Asian grocery store.

The agar agar strips are easy to use, just soak to soften and then boil until completely melted.  As with gelatin, the more you use the stiffer the jelly is, the less the more wobbly.  So you can adjust the recipe to your preferred wobbly factor.  The recipe amount below will result in a jelly that is stiff which we like for this jelly.

Osmanthus, Flower, dessert, chinese, recipe, wolfberry, goji, Jelly,  桂花糕, mid autumn festival, cake, traditional, 桂花, 瓊脂, 杞子

Ah, the heart of the jelly: the dried osmanthus flower, or 幹桂花.  If you have ever been in the physical presence of an osmanthus tree, you will know what I mean when I say that the scent of the blossoms is unique and seductive.   An osmanthus tree grew outside the window of my girlhood bedroom and the memory of that fragrant scent blwoing in with the breeze is unforgettable.  

If you can't find dried osmanthus flower at your local wet market or Asian grocer you can find it here

Osmanthus, Flower, dessert, chinese, recipe, wolfberry, goji, Jelly,  桂花糕, mid autumn festival, cake, traditional, 桂花, 瓊脂, 杞子

These are dried wolfberries, also known as goji berries, or 杞子.  The tender insides of these tiny dried fruits taste slightly sweet with a touch of tartness.  The Chinese use these berries a lot in herbal tonic soups as they are loaded with all kinds of healthy goodness (my 媽媽 says they're good for the eyes) but they work really well in sweet dessert type of stuff too.  In the Osmanthus Flower Jelly, they not only provide just the right amount of fruity tart balance to the jelly but also set the autumn colors of the jelly off to perfection.

Osmanthus, Flower, dessert, chinese, recipe, wolfberry, goji, Jelly,  桂花糕, mid autumn festival, cake, traditional, 桂花, 瓊脂, 杞子

The Chinese traditionally use rock sugar, or 冰糖, when making desserts.  The rock sugar is basically a semi refined crystallized sugar that is sweet without being too sweet with lovely mild flavor notes.  Also the rock sugar provides a gloss when used for sauces and so on.  If you don't have rock sugar on hand, just substitute any mild flavor semi refined sugar, like coffee sugar or himalayan wild honey etc.  Don't use the soft brown sugars that you have to pack down to measure - I think the taste of those might be overwhelming.

Osmanthus, Flower, dessert, chinese, recipe, wolfberry, goji, Jelly,  桂花糕, mid autumn festival, cake, traditional, 桂花, 瓊脂, 杞子

Phew...finally...we got all our stuff and now it's making time!  So easy, just throw everything in a pot and let it bubble away.  The house smelled like the most fantastic flower garden when I was making this jelly...amazing!

Osmanthus, Flower, dessert, chinese, recipe, wolfberry, goji, Jelly,  桂花糕, mid autumn festival, cake, traditional, 桂花, 瓊脂, 杞子

Hurrah...I finally got to use some of those cute silicon molds that I keep buying on sale!  Somehow I find it impossible to resist a cute silicon mold on sale.  Oh, and do remember to place your silicon mold on a tray of some sort before pouring your jelly.  It's impossible to move the silicon mold by itself once it's filled because it's wobbly as heck to lift.  (Confession: I always forget...every time!)   


As last important tip.  Your flowers will sink.  Like the Titanic.  To the bottom of your mold.  Which means that when you unmold your lovely jelly you will discover that the dried flowers have all bunched up on the top of an otherwise lovely jelly.  Ugh...not good.  But you will be happy to know that by trial and error, my little girl and I realized that you can get around this problem if you stir the jelly with a toothpick as it sets.  If you stir up the flowers just as the jelly is setting they will stay suspended just perfectly in your jelly.  And then you can pop all in the fridge to cool completely.  
And then TA-DA!  The unmolding of your perfect slice of autumn joy.  These Osmanthus Flower Jellies really are quite, quite beautiful to look at, graceful and glowing in the warm fall sunlight.  And, most importantly, really, really yummilicious to eat!  Happy Mid Autumn Festival to all!

Osmanthus, Flower, dessert, chinese, recipe, wolfberry, goji, Jelly,  桂花糕, mid autumn festival, cake, traditional, 桂花, 瓊脂, 杞子


Osmanthus Flower Jelly Recipe  桂花糕
(makes 16-18 small jellies) Prep time:    Cook time:

Ingredients:

1/2 oz agar agar strips 瓊脂 or agar powder, 13g 
3/4 cup rock sugar 冰糖, 150g
5 1/2 cups water (more if you want more wobbly jelly)
2 tbsp dried osmanthus flowers 幹桂花
2 tbsp dried wolfberries 杞子

Directions:

Soak agar strips in cool water for 30 mins.  Drain agar strips and put in a large pot with the 5 1/2 cups of water.  Simmer over low heat for 10-15 mins until agar strips completely melted.  Add in sugar and stir until melted.  Add in osmanthus and wolfberries.  Let simmer another 2-3 mins, stirring occasionally. 

At this point you can test how wobbly your jelly will be by spooning about a tbsp into a small bowl and letting it set in the fridge for a couple of mins.  If the set jelly is too stiff for your liking add a bit more water.  If jelly is too wobbly simmer a few more mins and retest.

When the jelly is to your liking, remove from heat and let cool in pot for 5 mins before spooning into your mold.  Remember if you use silicon molds you need to have those molds on a tray of some kind before filling with jelly or you're never going to be able to move it without spilling everything out.  Let continue cooling in the molds at room temperature for 10 mins or until the jelly just starts to thicken.  Use a toothpick to stir up the osmanthus from the bottom of the mold where it has sunk.  Repeat every couple of mins until the flowers stay suspended in the jelly.  Finish the cooling in the fridge.  

To serve, unmold by twisting mold until the sides of jelly are detached.  Or use a toothpick to loosen sides before sliding jelly out.  Serve awesome jelly on your prettiest plate sprinkled with a shower of delicate osmanthus flowers.  Store covered in fridge for up to 5 days.  Enjoy your flower jelly!

Tip:  For easy measurement of agar to liquid, use the ratio of 1 g of agar powder or strip for every 100 ml of liquid to be gelled.  Add more water if you want it softer and less 'crunchy'.




More Mid Autumn Festival Treats at The Hong Kong Cookery:






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4 comments:

  1. How many jellies will this make?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oops, thanks for picking upon that. It should make around 18 small jellies. ~ellen

      Delete

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