Friday, July 8, 2011

Pomegranate Chiffon 123 Dessert

I have to confess to being very excited about this week’s recipe, Pomegranate Chiffon 123 Dessert. Forget the fancy-sounding name; this is a delicious - and very retro - tribute to a much-beloved mainstream classic.

Anyone old enough to have been aware of his surroundings in the late 60’s and early 70’s will no doubt remember a dessert-fad called Jello 1-2-3. The folks at Kraft found a way to apply colloidal solution technology (whatever that is) to their venerable staple, Jello, and create a special formula that, properly prepared, would separate into three uniquely textured layers while cooling.  It enjoyed a good popularity for a time, and gradually faded out until being discontinued in 1996. Although this specially formulated Jello is no longer available, the concept – and the memory - still enjoy a very devoted following.

Recognizing this, Kraft includes on their web site a recipe for using their regular Jello formula to make a layered dessert in the spirit of Jello 1-2-3. It's a good recipe (although it separates into two layers, not three), but there's one problem: it uses their regular Jello product.

Let me be clear: I like Jello. It’s just that the flavor is never quite what it’s supposed to be. (Ask someone what their favorite Jello flavor is, and they’ll probably say something like, “red.” Yes, it’s supposed to be strawberry, but let’s be honest: have you ever taken a bite of red Jello and said, “Mmmm…sure tastes like strawberry!” My guess is that you haven’t.)  Red is supposed to be a color, not a flavor.

To remedy this, we know it’s possible to put fruit juice into unflavored gelatin and create a dessert that really is the flavor it claims to be.  So why not bring those two concepts together, create a layered chiffon gelatin that really tastes like something, say pomegranate, and sandwich the pomegranate’s tartness between the sweetness of a graham cracker base at the bottom and a fresh strawberry syrup garnish on top?

I believe you will like the result. A lot.

You’ll note the recipe uses Cool Whip which, by astonishing coincidence, is also made by Kraft. Regular readers know I normally prefer fresh whipped cream to packaged whipped toppings, but whipped topping has one (and only one) advantage over fresh whipped cream that is important to the chemistry of this particular recipe: it doesn’t break down quickly the way fresh whipped cream does.

This recipe makes an 8” x 8” baking dish size dessert that divides nicely into 9 servings. The only special considerations are the need for a blender, and freezing about 1-1/2 cups of your juice into ice cubes before starting.
Begin by preparing a graham cracker crust in an 8” x 8” baking dish. (Click here for a link to my recipe for pineapple pudding pie that includes a graham cracker crust made with reduced-fat ingredients.) Once the crust is made, it must cool completely before you prepare the gelatin-chiffon mixture.

Only after the graham cracker crust has cooled, put 1-1/2 cups of pomegranate juice (or pomegranate juice mixture) in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Sprinkle in two 0.3 ounce packets of unflavored gelatin and stir about two minutes till the gelatin powder is completely dissolved.

Pour the hot juice into the blender. Add the 1 cup of cold juice and 1-1/2 cups of frozen juice (ice trays work best), and blend until smooth (about 30 seconds).

Add 1 cup of Cool Whip and blend until completely incorporated into the juice mixture.

Pour the blended liquid into the baking dish on top of the crust. Almost immediately, the liquid will begin to separate into a darker gelatin layer on the bottom, and a lighter chiffon layer on top. Refrigerate for at least three hours till the gelatin and chiffon set.

After the dessert has set, garnish the top with strawberry syrup and cut into 9 equal squares to serve. (Click here for a link to my recipe for fluffy reduced-fat blueberry pancakes that includes a fresh-made strawberry syrup that has chunks of strawberry. To make a smooth syrup instead of a chunky one, use the same recipe except puree, rather than chop, the strawberries.)
And there it is: a dessert your family and guests will enjoy even if they’re not old enough to remember the classic that inspired it.

If you'd like a cookbook-style, notebook-ready copy of this recipe, drop me a line (including your e-mail address) and it will be sent. 

See you next week with more food that's as much fun to make as it is to eat. Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)


  1. And here I was thinking they only made a great martini. ~Mary

  2. I must say, I still used sugar-free Jello, & like it too(which isn't always the same thing).

  3. Thanks, Mary. I think your idea is a good one: make a Pomegranate Chiffon 123 dessert, and wash it down with a pomegranate martini!