I have a confession to make. Anytime I see the word ‘deconstructed’ on a menu, my eyes immediately glaze over, and words like ‘poncey’ and ‘pretentious’ will start running through my mind. So I guess I never quite saw this day coming, that there would be a deconstructed dessert on the blog…
Let me assure you though, I didn’t intend for this to be a pretentious dessert, and I don’t think it ended up being pretentious at all. So don’t roll your eyes at my hypocrisy just yet! 😋
Initially, I set out to make a Japanese coffee jelly. It’s essentially black coffee (or kopi-o for the Malaysians out there) set into jelly form using gelatine or agar-agar. It’s then served with heavy cream, condensed milk, or sometimes even ice cream! It’s quite a popular dessert in Japan nowadays, but as my infinitely endearing editor Tatiana found out, turns out coffee jellies were popular in early 19th century New England too! (Check out her article here.)
So anyway, I made the coffee jelly, whipped up some cream and condensed milk, and was ransacking the fridge for bits from my odd food experiments to garnish this with. And that’s when I found this long-forgotten 100% cocoa dark chocolate bar that my brother bought by accident. If you haven’t tried chocolate made of 100% cocoa, it’s probably a good thing, because 100% cocoa means that there’s 0% sugar used in making the chocolate. This might sound like a really healthy thing, but in truth, it makes the chocolate so incredibly bitter that it’s almost unpalatable when had as a post-dinner snack, as my brother found out the hard way. So it’s just been sitting in the fridge for months now, occasionally eaten by one of us in the family when there’s no other chocolate left, and it’s always promptly followed by a puckery expression of bitter regret.
But in the case of this coffee jelly dessert I made, this worked perfectly, as there’s plenty of sweetness from the condensed milk to offset, and complement even, the stark bitterness of the chocolate. So I topped my dessert with a blizzard of this extra bitter chocolate, and my god it sorta tastes like a mocha! (Alright to be honest it wasn’t that much of a surprise; it is coffee, chocolate, and dairy after all.)
But I always find that when you can relate the flavour of a novel, unfamiliar dish to something that you’ve had before, it often triggers a sense of nostalgia that makes the unfamiliar dish taste that much better. And it was certainly the case here with this mocha-esque coffee jelly. Oh plus, it sorta looks like a soya cincau too (that’s soy milk and grass jelly for the non-Malaysians), so that’s doubly nostalgic!
Sure, this is a pretty simple recipe, and I didn’t even plan for it to be featured on the blog. (It was supposed to be a secret dish for a project I’m working on; more details in a few weeks. 😉) But just based on the serendipitous fridge foraging and pure joy that conjured, I think it deserves a post on the blog after all.
So yes, I did wind up with a deconstructed dessert by chance! And best of all, as a firm contradiction to its ‘deconstructed’ tag, this dessert is far from pretentious, as it’s very probably cheaper than your average RM12 (or $4) cup of mocha you order at your local hipster café.
So maybe, just maybe, not all deconstructed desserts are superfluous after all.
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Coffee Jelly with Chocolate Shavings
50g caster sugar
3 tablespoons of ground coffee or instant coffee, or 3 shots of espresso
10g gelatine powder
150ml whipping cream
150ml condensed milk
50g chocolate bar, the higher the cocoa percentage the better
Sprinkle the gelatine into roughly 50ml of water, and leave it for 5 minutes or so to let it bloom/hydrate. Meanwhile, heat the water, sugar, and ground coffee in a saucepan or pot until it comes to a boil. (If you’re using fresh espresso, pour the espresso in after you’ve boiled the coffee.) Pour the bloomed gelatine into the pan, and stir to incorporate. Bring it to a quick boil, then remove from the heat, letting it cool for 5-10 minutes. Then, strain the coffee into a mould or container, and keep it in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours, or overnight until it sets into a jelly.
Combine the whipping cream and condensed milk in a bowl, and whisk it until it doubles in volume. (You could use a stand mixer with a whisk attachment too for this step.)
To serve, scoop up several spoonfuls of the coffee jelly and place it a glass or bowl (or cut it into cubes if you’re feeling a little boujee). Top it off with the whipped cream and condensed milk, and shave a generous blizzard of chocolate on top!