August 4, 2012

Osmanthus Blossoms Jelly/Guì Huā Gāo (桂花糕)

On my recent tour to Kunming in China, one of the excursions was a visit to an ancient home that once belonged to a famous Chinese general. The main house was located in a courtyard surrounded by beautiful gardens of sweeping willows and water lilies.
Along the perimeter of the gardens were rows of medium height trees with small clusters of yellow and white fragrant Osmanthus Fragrans blossoms. The blossoms have a heady fragrance that is sweet and fruity, it reminds me of sun ripened apricots and peaches--intense and intoxicating, yet not overwhelming. In the afternoon a cool gentle breeze swept through the entire courtyard bringing forth the scent of joy and natural sweetness. It was a delightful experience to be in the midst of it all, as it brings to mind nostalgia of bittersweet and its sentiment.
Osmanthus Blossoms
Like roses, Osmanthus Fragrans blossoms are picked and dried to preserve their scent. They are commonly used to add aroma when making sweet cakes and flavor teas. In cakes, they are used to make the famous guì huā gāo, 桂花糕, which is frequently mentioned in “Virtues of Harmony”, a Chinese drama. In tea it is used to infuse and adds flavor, thus creating a scented tea called ‘guì huā chá (桂花茶).
I brought some dried osmanthus home with me, and with luck, I have some Konnyaku jelly powder in my kitchen larder. In this installation, I've paired it with black grass jelly, “Liang Fen or Cincau” (凉粉), and fresh lychees to give an interesting flavor of slight bitter taste and sweetness, as in bittersweet.
1 package Konnyaku jelly powder (use regular gelatin or agar-agar)
1½ cups water
4-6 presoaked wolfberries (optional)
2 Tbsp. dried Osmanthus
Jelly molds
1. In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of water and sugar (if used) to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Remove from stove and add dried blossoms. Give it a good stir and cover saucepan to allow the blossoms to infuse for 10-15 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, dissolve the Konnyaku jelly powder completely with the rest of the water. Pour in the cooled infused liquid and stir well to mix.
3. Drop into each jelly mold a piece of wolfberries (if using) and fill molds with jelly mixture. Leave aside to cool, and then chill jellies in the refrigerator. To serve, simply unmold and serve.
Note: If using other jelly powder or gelatin, follow instructions on package. Adjust water and sugar to your taste.
Printable Recipe

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