Q. I want to make a Bavarian cream, but the recipe I have calls for sheets of gelatin. All I can find is the powdered gelatin from the grocery store. What's the difference? Can one be substituted for the other?
Gelatin is a sort of meat by-product, made by cooking the collagen found in connective tissue, skin and bones of animals – generally pigs and cows – with water. The resulting gelatin is then pressed into sheets or dried and granulated. In either form, it's a fantastic kitchen staple that is woefully underused here in the United States. Far from being useful only to make desserts, gelatin will lend body to sauces and give moistness to braised dishes, meatloaf and sausages.
Gelatin of all kinds must be “bloomed” before use, a process that rehydrates and dissolves the gelatin in cold water, then melts the gelatin mixture gently over low heat or in the microwave.
To bloom gelatin, add 1teaspoon gelatin to 1/4 cup cold water and let sit until thickened, about a minute. Then heat the gelatin over low heat, stirring constantly, until completely dissolved.
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Sheet gelatin can be a little hard to find, but the good news is that gelatin sheets enjoy an advantage over granulated gelatin only in a few very specific areas. Unless you need absolute crystal clarity in a gelatin-based dessert or sauce, granulated gelatin will do just fine.
The most popular brand is Knox, and it can be found in every local supermarket. Substitute 1ounce of granulated gelatin for every 10 sheets called for in the recipe.