Momofuku’s Banana Cream Pie, only slightly butchered.

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I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix since LongJohn was born – it helps to pass the time while being forced to stay perfectly stationary for long periods of time. I figured going into this that I’d try to stick with documentaries – that way I could educate myself and if I was interrupted (which I often am) then I wouldn’t miss too much plot if they played in the background while I did something else. And so I’ve been watching a ton of cooking documentaries, and I just finished plowing through The Mind of a Chef. In the first season, the focus is largely on David Chang, owner of Momofuku in New York. One of the segments features his pastry chef, who whips up a banana cream pie like it was nothing.

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It looked so easy I figured I could do it even with LongJohn around. And then I had to think about that for a minute. This recipe involves making a custard, and uses four different kitchen appliances, some of them more than once. It really isn’t THAT easy, but it’s easy for me NOW to do. Talk to me five years ago and I would never have attempted this, or I would have addressed it as a challenge. It’s weird how much this blog has made me grow as someone who cooks things. But on to the pie, which is semi-easy if you’ve made things in the kitchen before. I set up a mis en place because I knew LongJohn could interrupt me at any time.

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I also took my butter and, because my microwave is all the way in the basement, I set it outside on my back porch in the sun to melt. I’m that lazy.

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Plus it was like 33°C, which is more than warm enough to melt butter.

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You like my squinty face?

And so it did.

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The recipe I used printed everything in weights (ounces and grams) so I’m going to use ounces here – my apologies. Get your kitchen scale ready. Start with 8 oz very ripe bananas (this is like two). These are the black ones that you chuck in your freezer. Pitch those into a blender together with 2 3/4 oz whipping cream, and 2 1/4 oz milk and blend the crap out of them until they’re lovely and smooth.

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Next, tip in 3 1/2 oz sugar, 1 oz cornflour (I’ve come to realize that this is a Britishism for cornstarch, not masa harina, which I used – butchery #1), a pinch of salt, and 3 large egg yolks. Blend that again, scraping down the sides of the blender, until the colour is uniform.

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Pour that stuff into a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking often, until the mixture thickens. Clean your blender while this is going on.

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The recipe says to bring it to a boil but mine never did. Eventually it will be a very heavy paste that holds its shape. Pour the thick stuff back into the blender.

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Grab 2 leaves gelatin or 1 pouch gelatin (I thought a leaf equaled a pouch and used two pouches – butchery #2) and follow the instructions to make it “bloom”. When it’s ready, chuck it in the blender along with 1 1/2 oz butter and blend until smooth (again).

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Next, drop in 1/2 teaspoon yellow food colouring (otherwise your pie will be brown not  yellow) and blend again until the pie is artificially crazy yellow (it will get lighter later, I promise).

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Pour the yellow goo into a container and chill it for 30-60 minutes.

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While that’s happening, make the chocolate crumb for your crust (I actually did this first, because it made more sense to me). Preheat your oven to 300°F and stir together 3 1/2 oz plain flour, 1 teaspoon cornflour (again, cornstarch), 3 1/2 oz sugar, 2 oz cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon salt.

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Tip in 3 oz melted butter (yay, the sun!) and beat until small clusters form.

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Spread the clusters on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. The clusters should be still moist but will dry out as they cool. In order for this to happen they have to be a bit bigger than what you see in the picture, because these will burn (so either cook them for less time or make them bigger – butchery #3). Apparently this makes more than you need for a 10″ pie so you will only use 3/4 of it but I didn’t want to waste it or store it so I used it all in my 9″ pie plate and it was totally fine.

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Once the clusters have cooled, chuck them into a food processor and pulse until they turn sandy and there are no chunks left.

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Tip these granules into a bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons sugar and 1 tablespoon melted butter.

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Work that with your hands until the stuff is moist enough to knead into a ball (I did not do this because my poor carpal tunnel hands are killing me). Press that into the pan. I did it with just the crumbs and it was fine (butchery #4).

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Don’t forget to press it firmly into all the corners of the pan – you don’t want it to be too thick there.

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Now for the rest of the banana cream. Whisk 6 1/2 oz whipping cream and 5 3/4 oz icing sugar together until stiff peaks form (remember that it helps to chill your beater and the bowl beforehand).

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Tip in your cooled yellow goo and mix, mix, mix.

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See? I told you it would get paler.

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Tip half the goo into your pie shell. Cut up another, less ripe banana (I used two because they were kind of weenie) and spread that around on the surface. You can get fancy with the layout but nobody’s going to see it.

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Add the rest of the goo and smooth it out. Make sure none of the banana pieces are sticking out because they will oxidize and turn brown.

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Chill the pie for a little while then serve and eat within a day or two. Enjoy!

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Raspberry Mousse Pie

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This is another Martha Stewart recipe that I adapted to be gluten-free and made up for the second of our Mother’s Day celebrations (same day, different mom). This recipe is also great because it actually involves zero baking whatsoever, so if it’s hot where you are and you can’t handle the thought of turning on the oven – don’t worry about it.

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Start by lightly spraying a 9″ square metal baking dish with cooking spray. Or a 7″ x 10″ glass baking dish, which is what I did. Line it with parchment so that there’s some overhang, because you’re gonna need handles.

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Grab 7 or 8 graham crackers. These gluten-free ones are really tiny and kind of thick. We used the whole package. The original recipe involves laying them out in the pan whole but that always ends poorly for me so I plopped them in the food processor, together with about 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut and about 3 tablespoons butter and gave them a good whaz. Then I took that clumpy mixture and pressed it hard into the bottom of the pan. That way I could cut the pieces anyway I wanted without worrying about the shape of my graham crackers.

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Tip 3 tablespoons lemon juice into a wee bowl and sprinkle 1 envelope powdered gelatin (∼ 2 1/4 teaspoons) over top. Leave that for 5 minutes. Wash and drain about 2 cups fresh raspberries and plop them in your food processor. Purée the crap out of them.

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Pour the raspberry goo into a measuring cup via a fine mesh sieve. Scrape and scrape and shove the goo around until all the juice is through and what you have left is just seeds. Compost the seeds – you should have about 1 cup of raspberry juicy stuff.

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In a small saucepan, combine the raspberry stuff with 1/2 cup sugar and stir over medium until bubbles start to form at the edges.

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Tip in the gelatin mixture and stir constantly until the stuff is completely dissolved, about 1 minute.

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Pour that into a bowl and let it cool to room temperature.

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While you’re waiting, whip up 2 cups heavy cream with 2 tablespoons sugar until stiff and lovely.

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Fold your cooled raspberry goo gently into the cream and keep folding until the colour is uniform and it looks amazeballs.

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Pour the mousse goo over the graham crumbs and smooth if necessary with an offset spatula.

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Wash and drain another 2 cups fresh raspberries and use them to decorate the top.

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Refrigerate the mousse pie for about 2 hours or up to overnight. When you’re ready to serve, use the parchment handles to gently remove it from the pan before cutting it into squares. Enjoy!

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Jelly(fish) Mobile

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You guys. Guys. Seriously. This might be the best thing I’ve ever done. And I have to give it away. Fortunately I’m giving it to someone very, very special, so all the effort that went into it is definitely worth it. I can see that this sort of project could be used in all sorts of different situations: you could have it simply as a delightful window decoration; a baby’s mobile; as the modified shade on some LED chandeliers (like this one from IKEA); a room separator … anything. really. This one in particular is … a rainbow jellyfish.

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And you can make one too. All you need for a basic version are some gelatin plastic shapes (you may remember we made them earlier), some fishing line or monofilament line (I picked very fine line that will be nearly invisible) and a wire rack of some kind to hang stuff from (mine is round).

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Add-ons to this were some snap swivels I picked up from our local hunting and fishing store and that lovely beaded string I picked up for my miniature chandeliers that I made earlier this summer. I had some flexible wire that I saved from my wire baskets, and I found a set of bent needlenose pliers (and a pair of scissors) to be very helpful.

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I’ll show you what I did and then hopefully you can take this idea and improve on it and make it your own. Let’s begin, shall we?

First I took the flexible wire and I cut it into three equal pieces. I hooked each piece around the three little feet on my wire cooling rack and wound them up tight. Forgive the photos as my camera hates taking pictures of wire apparently. I looped each wire between two feet so I had three arcs coming up from the rack.

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Then I grabbed all three arcs and squished them together, twisting the wire so that all was left was a nice big hoop at the top, tapering to a straight line in the middle and then it spread out to the three little feet at the bottom, like a tripod.

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Then I took my beaded string and I wrapped it around all of those things, to look like bubbles in the sea.

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Then I hung it from my ceiling fan, because I figured it was pretty firmly attached to my ceiling.

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I added some more beaded string, because I knew that once I started hanging the discs it would be harder to do. I put some loops at the top to distract from all the hardware that was going to be visible up there when I was done.

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Next I sorted all my discs into rainbow order.

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Then I grabbed my humble snap swivel. And some pliers.

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And started attaching them to the discs.

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And I did that a million times.

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Then I started tying the discs onto my fishing line. I had originally planned to just use one disc per line, so that the snap swivel would provide the weight needed to keep the line straight and the swivel would allow for spin but before I put it together I reconsidered this and decided to tie multiple discs to the same line. This will prevent clutter on the wire rack and make things easier to install. It will also leave more space around each disc for spinning. If you do this, make sure to tie the discs on at irregular intervals, because you want the colours to overlap in places and if you do it all regularly it will look like a very pretty geometric thing but not like a jellyfish. So I guess it depends on what you’re going for.

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My inner lines were quite long, and each time I moved out a few circles in the rack I made the lines shorter.

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This took several hours, and was quite fiddly because I also used snap swivels to attach the lines to the racks for durability, which necessitated a lot of reaching over my head to fasten a tiny piece of metal to another tiny piece of metal. It is quite a strain on the shoulders after a while. This is where I got to before I threw in the towel for the night.

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The next day I got up early in the hopes that I could catch the early morning sun filtering through the discs but alas it was overcast. I kept going, though.

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Almost there …

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And here is my beautiful magnum opus. The recipients are already in love with it and I still haven’t figured out how to transport it in my car yet. It makes a highly satisfying sound when the pieces click together, like a sink full of popping dish foam.

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Gelatin Plastic

Gelatine Plastic 21This is the beginning stage of a pretty major undertaking I’m … undertaking. But it’s taking some time to get all my pieces in order so I thought I’d start with a bit of a teaser post for you. Did you know you can make plastic out of gelatin and water? I kid you not. And once you start playing around with all the different things you can do with it, it opens up the possibility for lots of super fun crafts, and it’s totally something you can do with kids. To start, you need some gelatin (I used powdered), some food colouring (optional, if you want your plastic tinted), something to cut your plastic with (I have a cookie cutter for big circles and a straw for little ones), and a smooth, relatively flexible, shallow plastic or silicone dish. Many people use the flexible lids to margarine containers and the like. Gelatine Plastic 1

For every little pouch of gelatin you use, you’ll need 3 tablespoons water.

Gelatine Plastic 3I used 4 pouches in my experiments so I needed 12 tablespoons water, or 3/4 cup water. I plopped that in a small saucepan with food colouring and turned it to low heat. Gelatine Plastic 4

Tip in your gelatin and stir it gently to dissolve all of it.

Gelatine Plastic 5Don’t feel the need to whisk it or start a stirring frenzy as this will cause your gelatin to foam and you won’t have a nice clear result. You’ll get a bit of foam at the edges but nothing serious. Gelatine Plastic 6

Once you have heated the gelatin water enough that all the gelatin is dissolved and the liquid is clear again, pour it into your little dishes (I used two 6″ x 8″ dishes) and smooth it out with a spatula so that all the surfaces are covered. Try to pop any bubbles you see, but a few are okay.

Gelatine Plastic 7Now leave that puppy alone for about 45 minutes. After that time you will have gelatin that is set but is still flexible. You can peel it out of your dish super easily, but do it slowly as it can tear. Gelatine Plastic 8

I used a cookie cutter to cut out large circles, and a shot glass to cut out smaller ones.

Gelatine Plastic 9Then I used a straw to cut out hanging holes from all my circles. Gelatine Plastic 10

The excess is weird and floopy.

Gelatine Plastic 14But cool to play with. It’s totally edible (but doesn’t taste that great) and you can chuck it in the compost. Gelatine Plastic 12

Then I set the circles to dry. I did a lot of trial and error with drying these things. There’s a school that wants you to set them on a paper towel, under another paper towel, sealed just under the lid of a tupperware container, but I didn’t have much luck with that, nor did a bunch of the people who have already done this project and posted it on the internet. In this picture you can see I set the circles on parchment paper to try, but of course paper wrinkles when wet.

Gelatine Plastic 11So I ended up with these wrinkled chip things when these were dry (which takes a couple days). Gelatine Plastic 17

I had also laid a second piece of parchment over top to help hold the drying circles down and prevent them from warping, but it only helped a little, and the paper’s surface got copied onto the circles, leaving a matte finish.

Gelatine Plastic 18I found when I left them on a smooth surface (in this case, plastic wrap taped to my counter) then they warped more but they were totally clear, and I preferred that. Gelatine Plastic 20

I also let some dry completely inside the dishes, and ended up with a big sheet of (still warped) plastic.

Gelatine Plastic 19You can cut this stuff easily with scissors. Gelatine Plastic 23

And it’s also compostable.

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It’s going to take me a while to get all the little circles made that I need but I have a due date of September so stay tuned!


Fun with Gelatin: Coconut Vanilla Bean

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How much more gelatin do I have, you ask?  Plenty.  And I found a picture of this dessert on Google Images when I was looking for gelatin desserts and then I never found it again, so I’m making this up as I go along.

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Let’s infuse some stuff first, shall we?

Take yourself 4 cups coconut water (not to be confused with coconut milk or cream) and pour that in a smallish pot.  Mmm, electrolytes …

Grab a vanilla bean (I also have plenty of those, so I used a big one and then a half piece) and slice it open to reveal all the goodness. Scrape the seeds into the coconut water and chuck the bean pods in after it.  Depending on whether or not your coconut water is sweetened, you might want to add some sweetener, but not too much, maybe 1/2 cup granulated sugar at most.

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Bring the coconut water to a simmer, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved and it’s starting to bubble at the edges.  Turn off the heat, put a lid on it, and leave it to cool.

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Take about 1 cup of the cooled stuff and put it in the fridge until it’s cold.  Then take 2 envelopes unflavoured gelatin (that’s 2 1/2 teaspoons each) and sprinkle that over top the chilled coconut water.  Let that sit for 5 minutes or so.

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Return the rest of the coconut water to the heat and let it just come to a boil.  Pour the boiling coconut water over your gelatin (keep the vanilla bean pieces from falling in, though) and stir like crazy until the gelatin is entirely dissolved.

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Pour the resulting mixture into a wide shallow dish and chill until set, at least 4 hours. Try to agitate the vanilla bean seeds so they’re not all sitting in one spot.

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Unmould your set gelatin by setting your dish in warm water for a few seconds and then inverting it onto a cutting surface.  Cut that sucker up with cookie cutters or something.

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I would do that if I hadn’t packed mine.  I can only cut it with a knife.  So I will live vicariously through you instead.  DO IT.

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Then serve. We found ours was best with a little sweetened whipped cream. Yum!

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Fun with Gelatin: Coffee and Cream

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Still so much gelatin and condensed milk to get rid of!  This idea came from the Pie as I was bemoaning the large bottle of Camp coffee extract I hadn’t yet had a chance to use and wouldn’t be able to move.

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This, therefore, is what we’re gonna do.  And I hope it works.  Also, it’s sort of a commemorative thing for Cait, whose birthday was yesterday (Happy Day!), and whose love for coffee is surpassed only by her love for her dog.  And for me (I hope, but all bets are off).

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In one small bowl, plop about 1/4 cup cold water and sprinkle that with 1 envelope (2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavoured gelatin.  This is for the cream layer.  In a slightly larger bowl, repeat the process with 1/2 cup cold water sprinkled with 2 envelopes gelatin.  The slightly larger bowl is for the coffee layer.  Let both of those sit for about 5 minutes.

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Now, whether you use your microwave for this or your stove is up to you, but you’re gonna need two different hot liquids on the go here.  And the order of how you do this of course depends on whether you’re planning to unmould your gelatin or leave it in its container.  If you’re planning to unmould it (inverted), do the cream layer first.  If you want it to stay in the container in which you put it, do the coffee layer first.  The end result of what you’re looking for is a dish composed of about 2/3 coffee layer on the bottom and 1/3 cream layer on the top.

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For the cream layer, heat 1 cup water to boiling, and stir in 1 can sweetened condensed milk until fully incorporated.  If you’d like, you can add a few splashes of Irish cream liqueur (but not too much, because alcohol will hinder the gelling process).  Pour that hot mess over your gelatin in the smaller bowl and stir until everything is dissolved and smooth.

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Distribute the mixture evenly amongst your moulds and chill them for at least 25 minutes.

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For the coffee layer, you’ll need 3 cups hot coffee (fresh or reheated or instant, it’s up to you).  Add whatever sweeteners you like and a few splashes coffee extract (if you have it) to intensify the flavour.  Pour that over the gelatin in the slightly larger bowl and stir until everything is dissolved.

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Let your coffee mixture cool a bit (you can always divide the liquid and have half of it hot and half of it cold to cool it faster).

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Distribute the coffee mixture evenly amongst the moulds (either on top of the chilled cream layer or at the bottom if you’re not unmoulding), and chill for at least 4 hours (or 25 minutes if you’re layering with cream on top, then reverse the whole thing … you know what I mean).  I found that if I just poured the liquid in, it punched a hole through the cream layer (which isn’t entirely solid at this point), so I ended up spooning it in gently with a measuring cup and pouring it against the side of the mould.

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I think the very topmost layer of cream gelatin also dissolved into the coffee layer, which makes it more opaque than it was originally.

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To serve, immerse your moulds in hot water for a few seconds, then tip them out onto a plate.  If you were stupid and used plastic cups, like I did, you’re probably going to need a knife and a bit of persuasion to get them out.

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Maybe a dollop of whipping cream on top would go over nicely, or some grated chocolate?

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Confession time: I messed up this recipe when I made it the first time and didn’t use enough gelatin in the coffee layer.  So it didn’t gel.  So the coffee layer tipped out like this:

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And the cream layer stayed in the cup like this.  But was oh so tasty.

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So I froze it in order to get these pictures.  And if you do it that way (with only 1 envelope of gelatin for the coffee) and freeze it, it’s quite nifty: more of an Irish cream panna cotta on top of a nice espresso granita.  Sounds fancy.  Tastes delicious!

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Fluffy Lemon Creamy Pie Thing

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This dish is actually known as “Dairyman’s Delight” but that seemed a little sketchy to use as a title.  So obviously I went with something equally vague and sketchy of my own devising.  Way to go Ali.  I think in essence it’s a lemon chiffon pie of sorts, but having never had one, I could be wrong.  Either way, this is a good way for me to use up extra cream cheese, condensed milk, and gelatin that I have hanging around.

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In a bowl, stir together 1 cup whipping cream with 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice and let that stand for about 10 minutes.

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In another bowl, plop 1 8oz (250g) package plain cream cheese.  I find that the closer to room temperature the cream cheese is, the smoother it ends up being.  Give it a bit of a beating to even it out. I confess here I wasn’t as diligent about my mashing and room temperature-ing as I should have been. Sue me.

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Gradually beat 1 can sweetened condensed milk into the cream cheese mixture.  Leave that alone for a few minutes so you can do other things.

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Sprinkle 1 envelope (2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavoured gelatin over 1/4 cup cold water in a heatproof bowl.  Let that sit for 5 minutes (you can do this first so it sits while you beat up your cream cheese and stuff).

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Once it’s sat for a while and bloomed, set the heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water (or sit it in a sink of hot water) and stir until it’s all dissolved and incorporated.

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Now, whip that lemon-cream mixture (that has been waiting so patiently for you) until it starts to stiffen.

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Pour that creamy goodness into your cream cheesy goodness and continue to beat until it’s all well-blended. Stir in your gelatin as well as 2 teaspoons vanilla.

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Pour the whole thing into a 10″ deep dish graham cracker pie crust  (I bought this from Sobeys but you could make your own) and chill until firm, at least 2 hours. My pie pan wasn’t deep dish, but the filling has enough structure that you can kind of mound it into a little hill on top and it will stay.

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Serve with fruit on top.  Enjoy!

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