All About Gelatin

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on February 27, 2011

As a Pastry Chef, one of the ingredients that I use quite often and could not live without is gelatin. In the food industry, gelatin is used in the preparation of many different confectionary items such as marshmallows and gummy bears, but it is also used as a stabilizer for pastillage (gum paste), whipped cream and mousse based desserts. It is also added to soups, lowfat ice cream and yogurt to enhance the mouthfeel of the final product without adding extra calories.

Gelatin (also spelled gelatine in the UK ) belongs to a category called hydrocolloids and is a translucent, colorless, brittle (when dry) and nearly tasteless substance that is derived from the byproducts of the meat industry primarily from pork skins, pork and cattle bones or split cattle hides. The raw materials are processed utilizing different curing methods to extract the dried collagen. These processes may take up to several weeks to complete, depending on the properties of the final gelatin product that is required.  There are many vegetarians and vegans who are not able to use the product derived from animals for dietary and/or religious reasons, so other options such as agar agar and carrageenan (both derived from seaweed), pectin (derived from citrus and apple pomice) and guar gums (derived from beans) are used instead. Recently, fish by products have also been considered as an option for alternate sources of gelatin.

In home based applications, gelatin is usually found in either a granulated or powdered form. Knox gelatin for example has a bloom strength of 225, but this is not written on their retail packaging…this info is usually provided to industry professionals who buy their items in bulk.

On the commercial side, sheet gelatin is used most commonly and comes in three different bloom strengths; bronze (125), silver (160) and gold (200). When using gelatin in your desserts, it is important to know the strength of the product you are using so that you don’t end up with a rubbery product. Like powdered gelatin, sheet gelatin must be soaked in very cold water until it softens. Once it softens it can then be heated, melted and then incorporated into your recipe.

I have been subscribing to a great magazine called the Dessert Professional for several years now, and the information provided in this trade magazine is helpful and enlightening on so many levels. Not only do they provide some great recipes from talented professionals around the world, but also provide some great technical information.

One such article that I came across last year was written by Robert Ellinger who currently works with Ewald Notter from the School of Confectionary Arts in Florida. I had the pleasure to study with Ewald and Susan Notter in the art of sugar pulling in addition to master classes in chocolate and gum paste.

Robert’s article was so informative in that it explained how to make sure that you were using the right amount of gelatin in your recipe, no matter what you may have on hand…the only caveat is that you must know the bloom strength of your product.

For example, if you had a recipe that required 42 grams of gelatin with a bloom strength of 225, but you only had gelatin with a bloom strength of 125, how much more of this would you have to add to your recipe so that you end up with the right textured product and not something that resembles sludge?

Robert’s brilliant conversion equation shows that you need to use the following formula:

225 (bloom strength in the recipe) – 125 (bloom strength on hand) ÷ 225 (bloom strength in the recipe) x by 42 (or whatever the amount of gelatin is required in the recipe) = Amount needed to add to the recipe to achieve the right strength.

In this case, 18.6grams of additional gelatin at 125 bloom strength must be added to the recipe. If the number you end up with is a negative number, you must subtract this amount from the amount required for the recipe.

My next post will show you how to use sheet gelatin in making a Bavarian mousse…so stay tuned!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar christo February 28, 2011 at 9:28 p

I have now added you to my reader – I dont know why it took me so long to do this…

avatar Eric Moshier February 28, 2011 at 2:34 p

Thank you! I have wondered for awhile (ok, years) about determining the proportion of gelatin ” outside the box” of a recipe, no box required. Very helpful and thank you for being my FB friend!
Eric Moshier
Lancaster, PA

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet March 6, 2011 at 11:19 p

Hi Eric! Thanks for visiting and I am glad that I could help!

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet March 6, 2011 at 11:19 p

Well Christo…to know me is to love me…lol!

avatar mario October 5, 2011 at 12:52 p

can u please tell me how to know the right amount of gelatin is used in desserts and puddings???

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet October 27, 2011 at 6:44 p

Hi Mario, I have a great post on just how to do that but you still need to know the strength of the gelatin you are using. Here is the link…

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