Introduction: Pumpkin Jello

About: I helped start Instructables, previously worked in biotech and academic research labs, and have a degree in biology from MIT. Currently head of Product helping young startups at Alchemist Accelerator, previous…

I wanted pumpkin jello, but all I could find were complicated mousses and crustless pies. So I smooshed up one of the mousse recipes (minus the eggs such) with a high-gelatin finger jello recipe, and came up with a pumpkin jello that fit the bill perfectly.

I swapped the dairy for coconut milk, both to separate the flavor from a standard pumpkin pie and because it takes allspice (my favorite spice) quite nicely. And we still had Rachel's stash of coconut rum sitting around lab, and I wanted to help use it up. The end result is awesome, delicious, and flexible.

Try it for Halloween, Thanksgiving, or any fall event - it's great finger food, so perfect for hors d'oeuvres. Yum. Bonus: it's gluten free (unlike all those pies) and you can make it vegan by subbing agar for the gelatin. Enjoy!

Step 1: Tools and Ingredients

For the pumpkin jello:
1 can pumpkin puree
1 can coconut milk
1 cup brown sugar
4 packets unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup flavored liquor(s1) of your choice, or apple cider if you want to skip the alcohol
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cloves

For the whipped cream:
1 pint heavy whipping cream (this is called different things in different countries; use whatever you'd normally use for whipped cream)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/8 tsp nutmeg (fresh grated is best)
1/8 tsp allspice or to taste
1 Tablespoon coconut rum (optional)

Electric mixer, or a whisk and stout arm
8x8 pyrex pan, or a pie plate
rubber spatula
plastic bag
cake decorating tips (optional)

1 - I ended up using a mix of all four because I discovered more flavors as things progressed. Mixing several types of liquor really isn't recommended, but it still tasted good.

Step 2: Bloom Gelatin

Pour the 1/2 cup booze (or apple cider) into a wide, flat bowl.  Add a roughly equal amount of the coconut milk.

Sprinkle gelatin over the top in a thin layer, and wait a minute or two while it slowly absorbs moisture from the liquid in the bowl, or "blooms".  (This is necessary to prevent the gelatin from clumping.)  Then stir the liquid to turn over the surface, and repeat until you've used all 4 packages.  I found it best to do this about 1/2 a packet at a time.

If all the liquid has been absorbed (you see the surface buckling/getting bumpy), pour in more coconut milk and keep going.

Check out the picture - you can see yellowish surfaces (gelatin that has absorbed moisture), white powder (gelatin that's still dry), and some crenelation (areas where there's not enough moisture available - I should have added more liquid).

Step 3: Prep Pumpkin

Dump pumpkin puree in a microwave-safe bowl, along with the rest of the coconut milk. Whisk together, then microwave until the mixture is warm but not hot/cooked. (You should be able to stick your finger in the mix, but won't want to leave it there.)

The time will vary with bowl type and microwave strength. I recommend microwaving in one-minute increments, then stirring and doing the finger test between.

Step 4: Combine & Chill

Scoop your nicely-bloomed gelatin into the warm pumpkin/coconut milk mixture (or the other way around - it doesn't really matter) and whisk together. The heat should help dissolve any residual clumps in the gelatin mix, but if you see any be sure to whisk a bit longer.

Add 1 cup brown sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon allspice, and 1/8 teaspoon cloves. Whisk again until everything is mixed.

Pour the jello mixture into an 8x8 pyrex pan, or a deep-dish pie pan, and put in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

Step 5: Whip Cream

1 pint heavy whipping cream (this is called different things in different countries; use whatever you'd normally use for whipped cream)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/8 tsp nutmeg (fresh grated is best)
1/8 tsp allspice or to taste
1 Tablespoon coconut rum (optional)

Dump your pint of chilled whipping cream into a bowl, and whip. The Instructables lab has a snazzy robot-themed Kitchenaid mixer, but you'll do fine with hand-held beaters or a whisk and some well-developed whisking muscles. Go to town.

As the cream reaches soft peaks, add the powdered sugar, rum, and spices. Continue whipping until the cream is light and fluffy and keeps its shape well when you sneak a scoop with your (clean) finger.

Chill until ready to serve, up to one day.

Step 6: Remove and Cut Jello

Remove your jello pan from the fridge, and poke it in the center to be sure it's properly set up. If all's well, the center and the edges should feel equally firm.

Removing the jello:
Grab a knife or rubber spatula, and work it around the edge of your pan to separate the edges from the pan. ID a cutting board large enough to accommodate the jello pan, and place it strategically near the sink.

Next, fill your sink with hot tap water, and gently lower the pan into the water, being sure to hold on to the handles. You don't want to set the pan down - the hot water should be performing its melty magic on the bottom surface of the pan. Count slowly to 10.

Now, put the pan on the counter, and place the cutting board on top of it. Hold the pan and cutting board together, and flip them over. The heat will have mostly detached the jello from the pan, so wiggle or tap it gently to break the seal and let the jello slide out.

Slice the jello into shapes of your choice with a sharp knife (rinse in hot water between cuts to make them super-clean) or cookie cutters. Put your jello shapes on a plate, and return them to the fridge until almost ready to serve.

Step 7: Decorate and Serve

Place a dollop of whipped cream on top of each piece of pumpkin jello.

If you want to get fancy, use a baggie and a cake decorating tip to squeeze a large rosette of whipped cream into place. Use some of the less-pretty side/corner pieces to test the proper jello-to-whipped cream ratio; I come down on the "tons of whipped cream" side so added more to the ones you see here when I ate them.

You can store the topped jello pieces in the fridge, though they'll last for hours in a room so long as it's not too hot. Ours all disappeared quickly!

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