Citrus-berry Terrine {FFwD}

This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe is very, very French. No, it’s not laden with butter and wine. Nor is it some ultra-fancy dish you’d expect to find in a 5-star restaurant. No, what makes this dish French is gelatin. You see, unlike Americans who grew up eating Cool Whip and fruit mixed with Jell-O and who now can’t stand the sight of anything called “Fluff”, French home cooks see unflavored gelatin as any other cupboard staple. They use it to hold together meringues or thicken mousse. And in the Summertime, they mix it with fruit juice to make refreshing, light fruit desserts, like this one.

This is one of those recipes that is meant more as a jumping off point than a set of strict instructions. With the basic gist of the recipe — citrus juice thickened with gelatin surrounding fresh berries — you could make any number of tweaks, based on your mood, what’s in season, or, as in my case, what you have in the refrigerator.

The recipe starts with instructions to make supremes of orange slices and set them aside to dry a bit, which I did.

OK, you caught me. My supremes look a little too perfect, don’t they? In my first slight departure from the recipe as printed, I drained a can of mandarin oranges, rinsed off the syrup, and dried them on paper towels. I couldn’t see taking the time to make supremes when I had pre-supremed oranges in the cupboard. I didn’t have any grapefruit, canned or otherwise, so I left those out of the recipe.

The next step was to soften two packets of unflavored gelatin in water. I had recently been to the bulk food store, and I bought powdered gelatin there, so that’s what I used. There was a sign on the bin indicating that one tablespoon of bulk gelatin equalled one packet of gelatin. I would come to find out that this was not the correct proportion (it should have been 2 1/2 teaspoons of gelatin), but more on that later.

While the gelatin softened, I mixed two cups of orange juice with a small amount of sugar and brought them to a boil. In the time it took the sugar and juice to boil, the gelatin coagulated — my first clue that something was amiss with my proportions. Rather than mix the juice into the gelatin in the bowl, I ended up scraping the gelatin into the saucepan and heating it until it softened up.

The recipe says to put the juice mixture in the fridge for about two hours, stirring occasionally, until it firms up a bit and has the consistency of egg whites. I forgot to stir the juice  mixture, and after about 1 1/2 hours, it was completely firm, like set Jell-O. This was when I knew the measurement for the gelatin must have been off. Undeterred, I took the mixture out of the refrigerator and beat it with a whisk until it broke up as much as it was going to; then I mixed in the fruit.

At this point, I knew things had gone way off track, and I had no idea if the mixture would reset and hold together or if I would be eating it out of the pan with a spoon. But it tasted fine, so I decided to chance it. I spread the mixture in a loaf pan, covered it with plastic wrap (which I used to press it into the pan as tightly as I could), and put it in the fridge overnight.

The next day, I took the pan out of the refrigerator, anxious to see what sort of disaster I had created. I unmolded the terrine onto a platter, and to my surprise, it held together.

Granted, it didn’t look as pretty as the one Nancy made a while ago, but I was impressed that it came out as nice as it did. (Oh, and by the way, the Vintage 10 1/4 x 3 5/8-inch pan she talks about in her post is the same size pan I used for my terrine. Nancy found a bunch of these pans at a sale and was kind enough to send me one.)

So, how was it? Was I able to overcome my potluck fluff nightmares and actually enjoy this gelée? In a delicious word, yes.

The terrine was light, cool, and fruity, perfect for the sweltering Summer weather we’ve been experiencing. And frankly, good enough to make anytime of the year with whatever fruits are available.

This is definitely a recipe that surprised me. I thought it would be OK, but really expected nothing more than a Jell-O salad. It was so much better than that, but every bit as easy to make. This is a recipe I am certain to make again and again, with different juices and fruits. And unflavored gelatin will take the place of the sugary, artificially colored and flavored boxes of Jell-O in my cupboard.


  1. August 15, 2011 at 7:35 am

    […] the addition of unflavored gelatin to the mousse. As I learned when I made Dorie’s citrus-berry terrine, French chefs (both home and professional) see gelatin as just another pantry staple and use it […]

  2. Renee said,

    August 3, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    I had planned to make this and then totally forgot about it! Glad it turned out yummy. I was unsure about the whole jello salad thing too but I was also curious….

    • gaaarp said,

      August 4, 2011 at 4:42 pm

      You should give it a try, especially while the Summer fruits are still fresh and abundant.

  3. July 31, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    I am also very excited about learning how to make healthier gelatin desserts. I had to do a bit of sleuthing to learn about the Nancy pan. You lucked out!

    • gaaarp said,

      July 31, 2011 at 5:48 pm

      I was so surprised when the pan showed up in the mail! I’ve found so many uses for it. I’m surprised it’s not more widely available.

  4. July 31, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    This was surprisingly good, wasn’t it? Now I’m eager to jell all kinds of things.

    • gaaarp said,

      July 31, 2011 at 5:46 pm

      I know, I’ve been thinking about other juice and fruit combinations that would work.

  5. betsy said,

    July 30, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    Yeah, it makes sense that survivors of jello salad would be skeptical. I was in that category too. Loved it though. Wasn’t this refreshing? I’m glad you had success.

    • gaaarp said,

      July 30, 2011 at 11:08 pm

      It was so light and refreshing, I couldn’t stop eating it. I think I had five slices in a row, then more later in the evening!

  6. Kathy said,

    July 30, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    I’m glad that you really enjoyed this recipe! I also found it delicious and refreshing. Yours looks wonderful! Have a nice weekend!

    • gaaarp said,

      July 30, 2011 at 11:07 pm

      Thanks. It’s definitely one that will made repeated appearances around here, especially in the summertime.

  7. Elaine said,

    July 30, 2011 at 10:26 am

    I should have used one of my pans that size! Messy or not I think you did a great job. It was trcky trying to keep an eye on the gelatin! So glad to hear that you made another one and it turned out even better. Even though I had problems with mine because of the fruit I selected I will definitely keep tweaking this recipe because I don’t think I can go back to the boxed flavored Jell-o now!

    • gaaarp said,

      July 30, 2011 at 12:49 pm

      I agree. No more boxed Jell-O!

  8. teaandscones said,

    July 29, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Yes, Psychic Friends we are indeed. Scary!!! OOOO!!!!! I was a litle leary, but it did turn out to be very good.

    • gaaarp said,

      July 29, 2011 at 10:39 pm

      It was worth the risk, that’s for sure. We loved it!

  9. July 29, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Nice try the first time round. If the gelatin solidifies too quickly, just gently reheat (before mixing with the fruits) and it will turn softer or liquify again, then you can reset it with the fruits.

    • gaaarp said,

      July 29, 2011 at 10:41 pm

      Thanks for the tip!

  10. July 29, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Glad it turned out okay for you in the end! In case you care about weight conversion, one evelope of gelatin is 7g. I know people don’t care for moulded gelatin dessert but I did not realize the extent of this stigma until we tackle the recipe this week!

    • gaaarp said,

      July 29, 2011 at 5:10 pm

      Thanks, that’s good to know. I’ll weigh mine the next time, as 2 1/2 teaspoons seemed like it might have been too much, too.

  11. Steph I said,

    July 29, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    It sounds like many of us had the same experience with the gel setting too quickly…I think our fridges are just colder and more efficient than Dorie’s french fridge! I love that you included all the photos of the steps along the way…looked just like what I had to do with mine…but was too distracted to photograph as I was trying to repair!!

    • gaaarp said,

      July 29, 2011 at 5:09 pm

      Yes, but unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of the second one I made, which looked so much nicer!

  12. Eileen said,

    July 29, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Looks delicious to me! My gelatin only took an hour to set to the correct consistency in the fridge, too. It seems like a lot of people had that problem. Glad you liked it enough to make it twice! I’m still working on finishing my first one, but plan to make loads of these in the future!

    • gaaarp said,

      July 29, 2011 at 5:08 pm

      It’s funny: I grew up eating Jell-O salads, and came to dislike them But I really liked this recipe!

  13. July 29, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    I had trouble with my jello setting up too quickly on me as well, in fact I took it out of the fridge after only an hour. Looks like you managed to save yours and happy to hear that you liked it.

    • gaaarp said,

      July 29, 2011 at 12:26 pm

      The second time I made it, I kept a closer eye on it, and it came out more like the one in the book.

  14. Kayte said,

    July 29, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Okay, you make this look really good. I looked at the recipe, knew I could not get past that unflavored gelatin bit, it smells like calves’ feet to me, because it is actually calves’ feet, and figured I would just eat my fruit in a bowl unencumbered. Maybe I can plug my nose and try it after all (I have been able to do sourdough bread you know and I never ever thought I could get past the smell of that). Good move on those supremes, grapefruit comes that way as well…in a jar at my market. Yum! Very pretty.

    • gaaarp said,

      July 29, 2011 at 11:47 am

      Even though, as you know, I, like you, grew up in the Midwest, I’ve never smelled calves feet. I’ll take your word on that one. I think once it’s mixed in with the fruit juice, etc., the gelatin itself doesn’t really have an odor or flavor.

  15. Cher said,

    July 29, 2011 at 7:59 am

    I think many of us have been scarred by the Jell-o desserts of our youth!
    All of the fruit looks mighty good. Those are some bright looking blueberries!

    • gaaarp said,

      July 29, 2011 at 11:46 am

      Thanks. I made this one again the other day, and it came out even better. Nice and smooth & shiny. But of course I didn’t take a picture.

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