Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Cooking Up A Little Learning, Science-Style

Other than the Alberta cake, I'm also known for creating an edible part of the Grade Four Light & Shadows unit.

Once upon a time, my dad started making these crazy Jell-O squares.  I thought it was interesting how he would pour a layer, put the dish in the fridge to set, make the next colour so it would be cool enough to pour on the previous layer without melting it, and repeat...many times...for many hours.  "Interesting" is not the word most people use to describe this dessert once they have attempted it.  Let me tell you, these things are a labour of love.

There are a few versions of Jell-O squares that I know about.  You can make the recipe with a white layer between the colours, you might then cut them into small pieces which is called Broken Glass, or you can make them in my favorite way which is by following the colours of the spectrum.

At the conclusion of the aforementioned science unit, I make these squares.  Sometimes I think, "Oh, maybe not this year, I'm pretty tired..." but every year, I just have to.  And every year, my class is AMAZED.  The students are always fascinated how the colours almost blend into each other.  They love to hold the squares up to the light and some peel the layers apart.  You'd think that their siblings would've filled them in about my tradition or that in their younger years they might've seen the squares jiggling down the hall in the palms of Grade Four students on their way out for recess on J-Day, but the new batch of kids always seems surprised.

As my dad, a retired science teacher, has used this recipe for a long time, I am going to tell you the recipe and not worry too much about the copyright thing this one time.  I don't think the Internet was even a twinkle on a computer screen back then.  I will give you the double recipe version since, if you are going to go to all the work of making these, you might as well have a BIG batch to be proud of.  You'll need a big pan, larger than 9x13" - think the size of a lasagna for when company's coming over.  That big.  Or else a bunch of smaller containers.  I think you'll be less disgruntled with me if you use larger ones.  Just sayin'.  Or perhaps I should say, just warnin' you.

Here's your shopping list:
12 envelopes unflavoured gelatin such as Knox
 2  boxes red gelatin       (strawberry, raspberry, or cherry)
 2  boxes orange gelatin  (carrot - just kidding!  orange or peach)
 2  boxes yellow gelatin   (lemon or maybe pineapple* if you're lucky)
 2  boxes green gelatin    (lime or margarita)
 2  boxes blue gelatin      (Berry Blue**)
 2  boxes purple gelatin   (grape)
 1  week-long pass granting the permit-owner temporary blocking of memory of what gelatin
     actually is and where it comes from

You will need really cold water and boiling water for this venture, so enlist the help of a friendly water cooler or chilled pitcher of H2O from the fridge as well as a tea kettle.  Also, prepare a level spot for your dish/es of Jell-O to set in the fridge. 

First, pour a half cup (125mL) cold water then mix two packages of unflavoured gelatin into it until dissolved.


Time to build the rainbow!  I usually start with red on the bottom so I don't mix up when trying to reverse ROY G BIV.  For some reason, VIB G YOR just doesn't remain in my brain.

To the dissolved gelatin, add two 4-serving packages of red gelatin - I usually choose strawberry and like to mix the thick goop until uniform in color and texture.  Did you put the kettle on, Polly?  Now pour in 2 cups (500mL) boiling water and stir until that's dissolved.  Choose your Jell-O dishes and then fill.  This double recipe filled the dishes shown:  a 9 x 13" pan, an 8 x 8" square, and four dessert shot glasses.  Pop the lot of them into the fridge.        

My family often gets left out of the treat distribution when I make food for school, so I made sure to have four servings for us to enjoy at home.  I wondered if the students would appreciate a little glass of their own but Larry said he really didn't think shot glasses at school would be appropriate, no matter what they were filled with!
Layer 1:  Complete---ish!  The first layer takes the longest to set, but as each consecutive layer gels, it takes less and less time.  Prepare to wait at least 30 minutes the first time and give it a shake test until it remains flat and jiggles.
Only five more to go if you're going for the most accurate spectrum available by the flavours/colours of gelatin on the market!  Sorry but indigo hasn't been offered, to my knowledge, but I guess you could mix half of a box of blue and purple if you really want to.  Not one student has ever commented on the indigomission so I'm not goin' there until someone complains!  Besides, my big pan is always filled to the very top.
While Layer 1 sets, prepare the next one.  Same procedure as Red, just with orange gelatin.  And, yes, the photo above was the orange one...I only thought of taking the step-by-step pics when I got to the 2nd stage! :-P  You will want the upcoming color to have time to blend and cool a bit before pouring it gently onto the set one.  This will help you avoid melting your work and the "gently" part prevents divots.  We're not making a golf course.
As Orange sets, make the yellow mixture, and do something else while you wait!  This is the benefit of the waiting part of this recipe, not like when you say, "I'll just let those little banana muffins brown on the tops for one minute..." and then do something else and it turns into four minutes and then they're really brown and dry and can't go to Farmers' Market. :-(  I may have had such an experience this week. 
Now, when Yellow is nice and jiggly, your progress should look something like this:
Halfway done!
Mix, cool, pour, and chill the green, blue, and purple strata. in their good turn.  If I recall correctly, the last few layers only take about 15 minutes to set.  I hope you started right after supper or you had an afternoon to work on them.  Oops!  I guess I should've mentioned that more overtly at the beginning of the post.  My bad.
Ready for the big reveal? 
Drum roll please...

Fridge view!
Hold it up to the light - you know you want to!
 Ready for my young scientists to enjoy!
I'm really excited to make these for the Farmers' Market this coming Tuesday.  I've made two different kid-appealing treats per Tuesday and I can't wait to see the looks on their faces when the Jell-O is set out on my table in cups with a spoon, ready to devour. 
Thanks for sliding down the rainbow to the Island today!  I hope you are all having a summer full of colourful activities.
*Pineapple Jell-O...hmm...anyone recall which two fresh fruits prevent gelatin from setting?
**According to Wikipedia, in 1992, a woman won an lg Novel Prize for inventing blue Jell-O!  More fascinating information about the brand name of gelatin here.


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