This is my first attempt at making Strawberry Hearts. I have always wanted to make this dessert for the longest time but somehow never got down to it.
I guess it is partly due to the fact that baking is more tedious than cooking. The amount of layering required for this recipe is quite insane, and you have to get each step correct. You can taste your way to perfection for cooking but with baking (or no bake) recipes, you can’t make any mistakes. Each misstep can lead to undesired outcomes.
So someone posted on Singapore Baking Facebook that they made their own Strawberry Hearts. And then someone else posted another recipe and from the looks of it, it is rather authentic. Immediately I knew I had to try it. So I went about buying all the ingredients, and alas, the supermarket near my place had sold out on gelatin. Incredible.
That’s like the stabilizing factor in the no-bake cake industry. I was so close, having already gotten the bulk of the ingredients in another earlier purchase. Then I still vaguely remember having already purchased gelatin. After returning home I realized it had already expired and my wife disposed of it.
So this is my gelatin-less version of the Strawberry Hearts.
200 grams of Digestive Biscuits (the other recipe started 300 grams, but I felt it was too thick)
100 grams Unsalted Butter (best to use unsalted butter as you won’t want your biscuit base to taste too salty)
Cream Cheese Layer
2 x 250 grams Philadelphia Cream Cheese (you can buy bigger blocks from Phoon Huat)
2/3 cups Castor Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
1 1/2 tbsp Gelatin Powder (I substituted magnolia full cream milk instead, 1/4 cup)
1 1/4 cup of Boiling Water (didn’t use water but used milk)
160 grams of Strawberry Tortelly Jelly Powder
Lastly – 1 punnet of Strawberries (make sure you check the sizes are similar, korean strawberries are the best)
(I gleaned off the recipe from Ms Karen Lim aka “Bing” ‘s recipe and adapted it to what I think would work for me)
1. Bing’s recipe was done on a glass pan or casserole dish. I think I have that same glass dish as well, also about the same size. Pretty standard. But the 300 grams of digestive was a little too much. So if I were to do it again, I would reduce to 200 grams (as indicated above) and also reduce the butter correspondingly from her 150 grams to 100 grams.
2. I crushed the biscuits in a Kenwood Food Processor, for this, you could try the biscuits in a ziplock bag and whack it with a rolling pin approach, but seriously, it is not the same. Bing’s biscuit crushing appliance is also a tad too small. You want to crush the biscuits until they are fine grains. Follow her photos and recipe process, but take into consideration my pointers here.
3. Gelatin is an absolute must. You can’t just pretend that it is not there. I pretended of course (read the story above as to why I didn’t have gelatin in my bakery warchest) and used Magnolia Full Cream Milk to fake the presence of Gelatin. I am taking this calculated risk because I want to create liquid but not make it too solvent (get it?!). So I added a 1/4 cup of Milk to reduce the density of the cheese mixture but yet not too much so that it still retains structure (also I don’t quite like the taste of gelatin in my cakes). My plan worked. Of course if you are still not sure what I am doing, follow Bing’s recipe with the gelatin, cannot go wrong.
4. Once the biscuit is set, I did the fork-poke-holes in biscuit crust thing as what Bing suggested. I think it is to allow the cheese mixture to fill into the tiny holes so that they can retain the structure. In my case it was kind of redundant because my cream cheese mixture was like molten lava texture. There was very little liquid to begin with.
5. I bought Driscoll’s (US) Strawberries, which upon hindsight was a bit of a mistake. These US strawberry farmers usually like to pack in all different sizes. The Korean guys are better in that they pack the same sizes. Korean strawberries are pretty to look at (like korean pop groups) and they are perfect if you want your strawberry hearts to look cookie cutter.
6. I got Philadelphia Cream Cheese which was made in Australia. Of course if you can find the ones produced in the US, then that is better. I find the Australian versions not as nice. But limited choice so bo pian. You may buy the bigger slabs from places like Phoon Huat but the quality would again differ.
7. I used Tortelly Jelly because I couldn’t find the brand of jelly that Bing used, then after reading her blog, realised that she lives in New Zealand (haha!!). So naturally I need to find my substitute here. It’s not the best, Konnyaku would have been better. 160 grams of jelly was just nice for what I did, so that’s a keeper.
8. Her note about setting the cream cheese with the strawberries is not without reason. I did my fake-gelatin method and set it for 3 hours only before scooping in the liquid strawberry jelly mixture. Even then the bits of cheese mixture floated (a bit only, cannot really see), so you might need to set it at least 4 hours or longer. Thankfully none of the strawberries floated, so that was good.
9. Once the strawberry hearts were set overnight, I used a sharp knife to cut the pieces out. My gosh, they are huge slabs, measuring about 4cm by 5cm. I am now wondering how in the world the jelly hearts business people manage to create their so thinly. Theirs is truly beautiful. Mine, was just not pretty at all.
10. The only saving grace was that the strawberry hearts tasted fantastic. Really nice. I would definitely do it again, but with gelatin and maybe with 3 tsp of Lemon Juice.
Setting the cream cheese
Strawberry Hearts encased in jelly.