There has been a major holiday and celebration every month since November. It was all fun and good but after three months of cookies and dessert, it is time to tone down on the sweets a little. Yet, it is hard not to make something heart-shape and pretty for Valentine’s Day. I decided on a quick and easy dessert that is not overly sweet or rich.
Agar-agar is a gelatinous substance derived from red algae. It is a natural vegetarian gelatin that is white and semi-translucent. Widely used in Asia as an ingredient in desserts, agar-agar can be purchased in dried strips or powdered form. It is virtually tasteless and all kinds of flavoring can be added to it.
In Malaysia, agar-agar is very popular and many a gathering will have some form of dessert made with this ingredient. It is also a favorite at school parties as kids love agar-agar. This dessert is chilled and served cold, perfect for the hot and humid climate there.
Agar-agar can be a fun dessert to make as it can be molded to any desired shape. This time though, instead of molding it, I used colors for contrast. A colored layer was prepared and heart shapes cut out. Then a second clear layer was poured over the carefully arranged hearts to encase them.
- 2 cups (480ml) water
- 1 tbsp agar-agar powder
- 1/3 cup (75g) sugar
- 8 drops of red food coloring
- 1/8 tsp rose essence
- 4 cups (960ml) water
- 2 tbsp agar-agar powder
- ½ cup (110g) sugar
- ¼ tsp rose essence
Prepare an 8-in x 8-in pan, 7-in x 5½-in pan, and a small heart shape (or any other shape) cookie cutter.
Prepare the red layer first. Bring water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan. Add sugar and agar-agar, stirring constantly until sugar and agar-agar dissolve, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in rose essence and red food coloring. Turn off heat. Pour agar-agar mixture into 8-in x 8-in pan. Allow agar-agar to set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Unmold agar-agar and place it on a cutting board. Using cookie cutters, cut out shapes.
Place cut-out shapes in desired arrangement back into the 8-in x 8-in pan and the 7-in x 5½-in pan.
Now, prepare the clear layer. Bring water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan. Add sugar and agar-agar, stirring constantly until sugar and agar-agar dissolve, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in rose essence.
Pour agar-agar mixture into pans with cut-out shapes. Shapes may move about slightly. Use a fork or chopsticks to straighten the shapes if necessary. Allow agar-agar to set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Unmold and cut into squares or shapes as desired. Serve cold.
You can also use a round cookie cutter to cut out round pieces instead of squares. These are really pretty but they should preferably be served on the same day they are made. Unfortunately, I found the red hearts bleeding into the clear section the next day. “Bleeding hearts”! ;). The taste however, is unaffected.
For more agar-agar recipes, do check out the related posts below or the pictorial Holiday and Cuisine Galleries in the drop-down menus at the header above.
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!