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Boozy homemade jellies are my jam. So are desserts served in little individual cups, because I’m far too much of a wuss to make anything that involves turning something that I’ve supposedly set with gelatine out of a mould. Jellies, panna cotta, you’ll aways find me serving them out of some sort of pretty glassware. Because Valentines Day is basically an excuse to make pretty pink desserts, here is my two person recipe for a basic champagne jelly, topped off with strawberries slices carved into little heart shapes.
These jellies took a while to figure out. The ingredient ratios were pretty easy to figure out (though I always tweak the gelatine amount depending on how much alcohol in what I’m using, as booze prevents gelatine from setting), but how to keep at least some of the champagne bubbles suspended in the jelly so there is a pleasant fizz on the tongue as you eat? After a few experiments, I found that the key is to make a thick sugar syrup, which, while it is still warm, you whisk the gelatine into it. After letting it cool a little, you can stir in the (very cold) champagne (or Cava or (preferably English) sparkling wine, I have not tried this with Prosecco, which is carbonated rather than bottle fermented) without losing too many of the bubbles.
Obviously you don’t need to carve the strawberries, and you can use other pink or red fruits too. While I was testing these I floated raspberries in each dish, which were lovely. Speaking of substitutions, you have a choice here between white standard and golden caster sugar. While testing I found that using white sugar gave a cleaner champagne flavour, but the golden caster sugar gives a prettier, more champagne colour, but adds a bit of a caramel to the jelly (which is still pleasant, it just depends on what you’re after.
Put the gelatine sheets in a bowl of cold water to soften.
Place the paired pieces of lemon zest, the sugar and the water in a small saucepan, and stir over a medium heat until all of the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat.
Once it is cool enough to hold your finger in it, but still quite warm (the syrup needs to be warm to dissolve the gelatine, but if it is too hot it may stop it from setting), remove the paired lemon zest.
Squeeze any excess water from the gelatine sheets, and whisk them into the syrup one by one until they are completely dissolved, with no strands of gelatine left in the pan.
Top, thinly slice and carve the strawberry slices into heart shapes.
Gently stir the champagne into the gelatine syrup mixture, and divide it between two glasses (do this a bit at a time into each, as the bubbles rise and the gelatine sinks, and you need an equal amount in each glass).
Gently stir the liquid in each glass again (to make sure the syrup is well mixed into the champagne) and top with the strawberry hearts.
Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, but preferably overnight.
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