Osmanthus jelly is one of the best desserts among the Hong Kong dim sum for a reason. It has an attractive, crystal-like translucent appearance studded with goji berries. This lightly scented jelly with the soothing taste of rock sugar is the perfect dessert after a hearty meal of dim sums.
Let’s get into the detail of how to make the osmanthus jelly.
What is the osmanthus flower 桂花?
Osmanthus is an edible flower. Its petals have a unique flavor and are only slightly bitter, making it an ideal ingredient for desserts, tea, wine, and other culinary creations. According to traditional Chinese medicine, the osmanthus flower is beneficial for lung health, removing thick phlegm, increasing saliva, improving skin appearance, detoxifying the body, and beneficial for lung health.
Osmanthus jelly is called gui hua gao / 桂花糕 in Chinese. Since the word 糕 is also meant cake, some people also translate it as osmanthus cake. The osmanthus flower jelly with goji berries is different from another dessert made with flour, and butter is also referred to as osmanthus cake.
How to make osmanthus jelly
This recipe is relatively simple, preparing with dried osmanthus flower, goji berries, and rock sugar. These items are available in most grocery shops, Chinese medical halls, and supermarkets in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, where I currently live. I suggest heading to the Chinese medical shops or any large Chinese grocery stores to look for these items if you live outside Asia.
1. Prepare the osmanthus tea
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and measure 800ml / 3.4 US cup in a small pot.
- Sprinkle the dried osmanthus flower into the boiling water and give them a few stirs. Cover and leave it aside for about 25 minutes. Let the dried osmanthus flower steep in the boiling water. You will notice the dries flowers are floating on the surface initially but eventually slowly sink to the bottom.
- After 25 minutes, most of the osmanthus flowers have hydrated and sunk to the bottom. The flavor should have released into the water, forming an aromatic osmanthus tea. You will also notice that the color of the flowers starts to fade and become paler.
- When most of the flowers have sunk, pour the osmanthus tea through a wire mesh strainer into a pot. Lightly press the osmanthus flowers captured by the strainer to squeeze out the remaining tea, then discard the used flowers.
2. Dissolve the rock sugar and gelatin
Chinese rock sugar has other names in English: Chinese rock candy and Chinese sugar crystal. It has a shape of a rock with a transparent to pale yellow color, with a clear and neutral taste similar to white granulate sugar.
Osmanthus flowers have a mellow and delicate flavor and does not overpower the taste, and therefore is ideal for making dessert. It also produces a translucent and shiny appearance on meat and is also the preferred choice of sugar in preparing Chinese stew meat.
Dissolve the rock sugar
- Add the rock sugar to the filtered osmanthus tea.
- Heat the tea over low heat and stir it lightly to dissolve the rock sugar.
- Once the rock sugar has completely dissolved, top up the volume with water to 1 liter/ 4.2 US cups.
- The volume is essential to ensure the jelly has the right firmness with the amount of gelatin in the recipe.
- Set aside the sweetened osmanthus tea to let it cools.
- You can also add some honey to enhance the flavor.
Dissolve the gelatin
Add the gelatin powder slowly into the tepid warm osmanthus tea, which will dissolve much faster than when it is cold.
Continue stirring while slowly adding it is the fastest way to dissolve the powder. However, please do not add the gelatin to the hot osmanthus tea as heat can destroy the gelatin, and the osmanthus cake will not set when refrigerated. Ensure the gelatin dissolves thoroughly to ensure the osmanthus cake has a clear, smooth, and translucent texture.
3. Feel up the mold in stages
Now prepare a mold of suitable size. You can use a glassware, a cake pan or some small jelly molds of your chosen shape.
- I put the 7×7 inch mold in an ice bath to speed up the process. You do not need to do that if you are not in a hurry to set the jelly.
- You can pour all the osmanthus tea into the small mold. However, if you do that for the large one, most of the goji berries will float to the top. As such, they will not evenly distribute after it sets. A better way is to pour the osmanthus tea into the mold in two to three batches.
- After adding half of the tea into the mold, sprinkle half of the goji berries and some dried osmanthus flower into the osmanthus tea. Use a fork or chopstick to distribute the goji berries evenly,
- Another critical step is to gently transfer the osmanthus tea to the mold to avoid creating bubbles, which may trap in the tea. You can use the tip of a kitchen paper towel to break the bubbles easily.
- Transfer it to the refrigerator and wait until it sets
- After the first layer is firm enough, remove it from the refrigerator and repeat the same process. I usually make two or three layers depending on the depth of the mold.
5. Unmold and serve
Unmold the osmanthus jelly after it is set..
Here is an easy way to do it:
- Run a sharp knife at the edges.
- Place the osmanthus cake upended on a clean plastic chopping board.
- Place it under running water for twenty seconds, or until the jelly drop onto the chopping board by itself.
- Wipe off the excess water.
- Remove the mold.
The jelly is ready to serve chilled, and is excellent with a cup of Chinese tea.
Can I use agar-agar or jelly powder to substitute gelatin?
You can use either agar-agar, jelly powder, or gelatin to make osmanthus flower jelly. They are from different sources with slightly different firmness and texture.
Agar-agar is made of seaweed or algae. To use, just cook the agar-agar with some water and boil it. The texture of the jelly is more firm than gelatin.
Jelly is made of konnyaku or carrageenan seaweeds. Once set, it is visually giggly and has some chewy texture.
Gelatin is extracted from either cow or pig bones. Make sure to check the source of the gelatin if you are not eating pork. Gelatin can destroy by boiling water, so it is best to dissolve in cold water or tepid water if you want it to dissolve faster. Its texture is the softest among agar-agar, jelly, and gelatin.
Agar-agar is more potent than gelatin in setting the jelly. As a general rule, one teaspoon of agar-agar powder is about the strength of eight teaspoons of gelatin powder. You can read more about the differences here.
Other related Hong Kong desserts
If you like dessert, please check out the following dessert recipes on this blog:
Mango pudding is a favorite dessert available in many Chinese restaurants. The texture of the just-set gelatin is light as a feather, full of mango flavor and melt-in-the-mouth.
You must be familiar with the Hong Kong egg tarts (蛋挞) if you like Cantonese dim sum. Whilst the barbecue meat bun is the signature of the savory dim sum, the most lovable dessert will be none other than the Hong Kong egg tart. This article explains in detail how to make it at home.
Turnip cake is crispy outside and yet tender, almost melting in the mouth inside. It’s my favorite dessert on my dim sum spread.
- 13 g dried osmanthus flower (see note)
- 15g Goji-berries
- 40g Gelatin
- 160g Rock Sugar
- 20g honey
- Water top-up to 1L
- Bring 800ml of water to a boil. Sprinkle the dried osmanthus flower into the boiling water.
- Let the flower steep for 25 minutes. Remove the flower by pouring it through a wire mesh strainer.
- Add the rock sugar. Heat the tea over low heat to dissolve the rock sugar.
- Once the rock sugar has completely dissolved, add more water until the total volume is one liter/ 4.2 US cups. Let it cools.
- Add the honey.
- Dissolve the gelatin powder slowly into the tepid warm osmanthus tea.
- Pour half of the tea into the mold, sprinkle half of the goji berries, and some dried osmanthus flower into the osmanthus tea. Use the tip of the kitchen paper towel to break the bubbles, if any. Transfer it to the refrigerator and wait until it sets.
- After the first layer is set, remove it from the refrigerator and repeat the same process to finish all the tea, goji berries, and osmanthus flower.
- After the second layer is set, place the osmanthus cake upended on a clean plastic chopping board.
- Place it under running water until the jelly drop onto the chopping board by itself.
- Remove the mold and cut it into pieces. Serve.
*Note: reserve one tbsp to sprinkle into the osmanthus tea while adding it to the mold.
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Knox Original Gelatine Unflavored - 1 oz. box (4 individual powder gelatin envelopes)
Helen Ou @ Guangxi Specialty: Traditional Pure Brown Rock Sugar 17.6oz
Premium quality organic goji berry, 12 oz - Perfect for Baking, Teas, Soup, Trail Mixes
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 36Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 7mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 0gSugar: 8gProtein: 2g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 4/3/2021