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I recently was making some orange jelly which was going to be dipped in chocolate. I couldn't use gelatine to set the jelly as it returned to a liquid below the temperature of the melted chocolate. What other gelling agents could I have used, and what are their properties?

I'd like to expand my knowledge of what does what so I can choose the best agent for setting a jelly in a particular situation.

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Maybe you should narrow your question, so it doesn't address every possible solution, but just gelling things that need to be heated. –  jmoeller Jul 12 '10 at 10:11
    
I was hoping to get a list of possible gelling agents and their properties. Getting one for things that needed to be heated was only my need at the time, but I'd like to know what sort of difference it would make if I used gellen or agar-agar to set something instead of gelatine, and what other setting agents can be used. I'd like to know how to get various textures, like jelly beans, soft gums, hard gums etc. –  Sam Holder Jul 12 '10 at 10:16

5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

For your application you may want to use agar.  It is easy to find, gels at room temperature, and will remain so to about 90C.  The acidity of the orange juice will slowly (a few days) break down the agar, but it should give you enough time for a dish.  Other agents include:

  • sodium alginate
  • carrageenan 
  • xantham gum

A good description of the gelling agents from a cooking perspective can be found in the sites on molecular gastronomy such as tech blog of the French Culinary Institute or Martin Lersch's hydrocolloid recipe collection.

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Big thumbs up for the links to Cooking Issues and the Texture collection! Those are great sources, particularly the latter, for understanding the behavior of gelling agents. –  Harlan Jul 12 '10 at 13:24
    
thanks, that French Culinary Institute link was just what I was looking for. –  Sam Holder Jul 13 '10 at 14:48
    
Oh man, I love Textures. It's like porn. –  daniel Oct 7 '10 at 19:47

I haven't used it, but I've heard that Agar-agar can be used to solidify hot things.

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Sorta. Agar requires no more than room temperature to solidify, but unlike gelatin, it allows the product to be heated back up to a serving temperature without melting. You can also do fun things like put a jelly on top of something hot (steak, say) without worrying about it turning into a puddle on the plate. –  Harlan Jul 12 '10 at 13:26
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@Harlan, that is the sort of information I was angling for, as knowing that a certain gelling agent means the result can be served hot a still solid is useful when deciding on what to use. –  Sam Holder Jul 13 '10 at 9:59

The only ones I'm familiar with are"

  • Leaf gelatine - made from animal protein
  • Powdered gelatine - made from animal protein
  • Agar Agar - made from seaweed
  • Arrowroot - made from plant material
  • Pectin - made from plant material

Any of the above are, suitable for making a variety of items. such as jam, jellies, marmalades etc. The degree of 'firmness' of the product is related to the quantity of gelling agent to the amount of water.

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You might try modified tapioca starch, if you can heat the base of the jelly enough to set the starch; I've only used the regular form, but the processing of "modified" tapioca is supposed to remain stable at temperature (somewhere near 50C)

I'm also not sure how well tapioca handles acids (which 'orange jelly' might be); I know agar has issues with acid.

For a list and description of alternative gelling agents, see Cook's Thesaurus: Gelatins (and possibly, Starch Thickeners)

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Tapioca is largely underepresented in gel-type candy recipes. I've been having good luck w modification the the tapioca pearl recipe lately: snapguide.com/guides/make-your-own-tapioca-pearls-from-scratch/… Including 10% glycerin appears to result in a stable jellybeanish gel. However at this stage it's all experimental, rather than recipe based. Still, tapioca/glycerol candies aren't nearly as brittle as those I've tried that rely on agar. –  Wayfaring Stranger Mar 2 '13 at 2:49

Corn starch will set acid fruit to a soft jelly, but it will go very soft at high temperatures. If you coat sweet moulds with chocolate and cool them well, you can fill them quite successfully with cooled but not yet set jellies.

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