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Sparkling Strawberry Agar Agar

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Sparkling Strawberry Agar Agar is a refreshing summer dessert. It's light and clean, ideal for hot Hawaii days. Easy to prepare ahead of time and perfect for parties. Three ingredients is all you'll need.

Sparkling Strawberry Agar Agar
Sparkling Strawberry Agar Agar, ready to eat!

Sparkling Strawberry Agar Agar is a dessert we love to make all year round, but especially during the warmer summer months. It's a great way to showcase strawberries (and other fruits if you'd like!)

Strawberries
Wash and quarter the strawberries

We eat Sparkling Strawberry Agar Agar chilled, served in dessert bowls with a spoon. The fresh strawberries are suspended in a sparkling (thanks to sparkling apple cider) jelly.

Set the jelly in a large pan and just it cut into cubes when you're ready to eat. Eat as-is, or make it extra nice by finishing each bowl with a splash of sparkling apple cider and more fresh strawberries.

Agar Agar Powder
Agar agar powder

What Is Agar Agar?

Agar agar is the most important ingredient in this dessert. It is what allows this dessert to have that jelly-like texture. Many people often compare agar agar to gelatin. Gelatin is more popular in the US, but because Hawaii has a big Asian population and lots of Asian influences, we use agar agar as often (if not more!) than gelatin.

Agar agar is made from algae. It is a 100% natural gelatin. Agar agar comes in multiple forms including: powder, bars, and flakes. Powder is the most common form (you can find it at most Asian markets).

We use agar agar more often that gelatin for multiple reasons:

  • Agar agar desserts set more firmly (easier to cut, and more visually attractive).
  • Desserts hold their shape at room temperature (gelatin desserts can get soft and even melt) - this is why agar agar is especially popular in Asian countries where it gets super hot during summer.
  • Agar agar is vegan (gelatin is made from animal collagen).
Sparkling Strawberry Agar Agar
Sparkling Strawberry Agar Agar

Agar Agar Desserts

I love desserts made with agar agar. It feels fresh and bright. It's also a fun way to incorporate fresh fruits. These types of desserts are something I grew up with and it's a tradition I carry on in my own home.

Below are two other go-to agar agar desserts:

Osmanthus and Goji Agar Agar
My grandma loves this dessert! Osmanthus and goji berries are two popular ingredients in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) - they are perfect when it comes to desserts because osmanthus and goji berries add a natural sweetness and beautiful fragrance.

Strawberry-Haupia Agar Agar
Do you know about the Hawaiian dessert Haupia? Haupia is a coconut pudding/jelly that's typically made with cornstarch as the thickener. You'll find the "traditional" recipe in our Haupia post. BUT! I actually prefer haupia made with agar agar (it feels more "clean" and the coconut flavors come through so much more clearly) - you can find the recipe for that in this Strawberry-Haupia Agar Agar post.

Sparkling Strawberry Agar Agar
Removing the agar agar from the container after it has set

Recipe Method

Ready to start cooking? You only need three ingredients:

Sparkling Strawberry Agar Agar
Sparkling Strawberry Agar Agar

The first thing to do is wash and cut the strawberries. I like to cut them into quarters (you can cut them even smaller if you prefer).

Line the bottom of your pan/container with the cut strawberries. You want to use just enough to fill the bottom layer of the container. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, add in water and the agar agar powder. Use a whisk and stir to dissolve the powder. Then turn on the heat to medium-high and bring it to a boil. Turn heat to medium-low and cook for another 2 minutes. This part is really important because the agar agar must "cook" for it to be "activated." If the agar agar doesn't fully cook, the dessert will not set into a jelly.

Turn off the heat and slowly pour in the sparkling apple cider. (Make sure to pour the sparkling apple cider in slowly...if you pour it too fast it will froth/foam too much.) Gently stir to combine (don't stir too much or you'll lose the "bubbles" in the apple cider).

Pour the mixture into your pan/container with the strawberries. Let cool on the counter for 5 minutes. Then put in the fridge to set for at least two hours (you can also make this at night and then set overnight dessert the next day!)

To serve, just cut the jelly into 1-inch cubes and pile on 6-8 pieces into little dessert bowls. Eat chilled as is...or you can finish with an extra splash of sparkling apple cider on top! That's how I prefer to do it ^_^

Sparkling Strawberry Agar Agar
Sparkling Strawberry Agar Agar set in individual dessert glasses

Tips

What size pan/container to use?

There are many answers to this question! You can use a 9x9 inch pan. Or you can use a smaller 6x6 inch container (we often use those Pyrex containers at home...they come with the lid which makes it easy for storing when the dessert sets in the fridge). If you use a smaller container, you'll have to decide between making a "taller" agar agar dessert (because you're filling the container higher) or using multiple containers. You can potentially use one 6x6 inch container and then pour the extra liquid into two little glass cups to make mini/individual agar agar desserts (don't forget to add strawberries into those cups first). We do that a lot ^_^

Can I use different fruits?

Yes! For sure. Sometimes we use blueberries or raspberries. Tiny, cute fruits are always a good idea. Just make sure to not use citrus fruits. Example: don't use lilikoi (passion fruit). The high citric acid content will prevent the agar agar from setting into a jelly.

Does it have to be sparkling apple cider?

No. I use sparkling apple cider because I love that the final dessert still retains that bubbly effervescent element. It makes this dessert feel extra fancy. But you can use regular apple cider or even another fruit juice (just make sure it is not a citrus fruit juice). Citrus will prevent agar agar from setting correctly.

Sparkling Strawberry Agar Agar Recipe

See below for the recipe. I hope you enjoy it ^_^

Sparkling Strawberry Agar Agar

Sparkling Strawberry Agar Agar

Yield: Dessert for 3-4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Additional Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes

Sparkling Strawberry Agar Agar is a refreshing summer dessert! It's light and fresh, just right for hot Hawaii days. Sparkling apple cider gives this chilled jelly dessert an extra lovely touch. Pour the mixture into a pan, chill to set, and cut into cubes to serve. Or pour into individual glass cups for an easy and elegant dessert.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Fill the bottom layer of a shallow, heat proof pan/container (9x9 inch container is ideal) with the quartered strawberries. I start with one pint of strawberries and use more or less as needed. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, dissolve 4 grams agar agar powder into 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  3. Turn heat to medium-low and cook for another 2 minutes. This is so that the agar can fully "cook". Agar agar needs to be cooked in order for the dessert to set as a jelly.
  4. Turn off the heat. Pour in 1.5 cups of sparkling apple cider and gently stir.
  5. Pour the mixture into the container with the strawberries. Let cool on a counter for 5 minutes. Then refrigerate for at least 2 hours to set (or can set overnight).
  6. When the agar agar is set, remove it from the pan/container and cut into 1-inch cubes. Serve the sparkling strawberry agar agar chilled and in small bowls with an extra splash of apple cider on top! Eat and enjoy ^_^
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