Like a lot of Whovians, Tom Baker was my first Doctor. Every single reference to him in the new series fills me with inordinate delight. When the Flesh version of Matt Smith’s Eleven grinningly asked, “Would you like a Jelly Baby?” I instantly knew what I was making for this episode.
If you live in the UK, Jelly Babies are easy to come by. In the United States, you can sometimes find them at specialty candy stores or on the International aisle of grocery store the size of a medieval town. Most have to import ridiculously stale ones for crazy high prices.
Hardcore fans who can’t get the real thing can buy a Jelly Baby mold (I got mine on Amazon for $10) and all the ingredients to make your own candy. It’s not worth it every weekend, but for a season premier, they’re a perfect way to delight original series fans.
Jelly Babies from “The Almost People”
Series 6, episode 6, story 217b
- 1 cup/250 ml boiling water
- ½ cup/200 g sugar
- 1 cup/250 ml 100% fruit juice of your choice
- 1 tsp/5 ml lemon juice (if not making lemon or lime candy)
- ½ tsp/2.5 ml food coloring matching the juice flavor (red for cherry, green for lime, yellow for lemon, etc)
- 2 tbsp (1 oz)/30 ml gelatin powder (or 2 ½ tbsp vegan gelatin substitute)
- 1 tbsp/15 g cornstarch (increase to 1 ½ tbsp for vegan variation)
- ¼ cup/30 g cornstarch
- ¼ cup/30 g powdered sugar
Boil 1 cup/250 ml of water until it bubbles like a vat of undifferentiated Flesh.
While the water boils, whisk together your fruit juice, lemon juice, food coloring, gelatin powder, and cornstarch until free of lumps. You can make whatever flavors you want. As you can see from the photos, I experimented with lemon, lime, cherry, orange, and grape.
If you want your Jelly Babies to match the colors of Tom Baker’s scarf (and you know you do), I recommend
- flat root beer for the brown
- 1 tbsp vanilla or cinnamon in 1 cup of water for the tan
- grape juice for purple
- kirsch or cherry juice for the red
- fresh squeezed lemon juice for the yellow
- Kale juice for the green
Or not. Sweet Kale gummies are disgusting. Look, it was the 1970’s. Everyone loved Earth Tones. You can easily get away with substituting lime or blueberry for the swampy green/blue color and still have a magnificent edible scarf.
For each batch, first completely dissolve your sugar in the boiling water. In another bowl, mix your 100% fruit juice (this is important! Spend a little extra on real juice or you’ll be tragically disappointed in the flavors), lemon juice (citric acid acts as a stabilizer), gelatin powder and cornstarch until completely free of lumps. Add enough food coloring to make your liquid the color you’re envisioning for your final jelly babies. I found ½ tsp usually worked, though you’ll need a little less for the grape ones and a little more for the lemon.
When the sugar is dissolved in the hot water and the fruit juice mix is completely lump free, pour them together. Keep whisking the mix for a full minute to ensure proper blending or else your gangers will be cloudy and weapy. You don’t want an entire batch to turn out like Jennifer Lucas.
Dab some vegetable oil on a paper towel and spread it into the cavities of your jelly baby mold. Don’t use non-stick spray. I learned from experimentation that it’ll leave an unpleasant sheen on the unmolded jelly babies.
Put the mold on a flat plate or tray. This will make it easier to transport to your fridge. Otherwise, you’re trying to move a floppy, liquid filled piece of plastic without spilling it all over your floor. For best results, use a tablespoon measure to carefully fill each cavity.
Leave the jelly babies in your fridge to set overnight.
Classic jelly babies have a powdery matte coating that keeps them from sticking together and adds a unique texture. Once your jelly babies are completely set, whisk your powdered sugar and cornstarch together then spread the mix on a plate. Oh so gently remove each jelly baby from the mold and carefully roll it in the powdery coating. Set the coated candy aside on a clean plate. In an hour, come back and roll each one in the coating a second time. If you want a little crunch, you can substitute granulated (table) sugar for the powdered sugar for a little more texture.
Store your Jelly babies in a single layer in a cool, dry place for up to 3 days. (Without industrial stabilizers and additives, they’ll start sweating in a few days no matter what.) If you put them in the fridge, they’ll quickly get as weepy as Jennifer Lucas contemplating her childhood on the moors.
Serve to Classic Who fans along with a Bloody Mary garnished with copious celery before watching your favorite Tom Baker episodes.
DON’T SUBSTITUTE JELL-O
In the spirit of experimentation and simplification, I tried making these with a box of orange gelatin. I dissolved the powder in ½ cup hot water and chased it with ½ cup cold water. I knew the flavor wouldn’t be the same, but I also knew readers would ask. As you can see from the photo, the orange ones did hold their shape, but wept mercilessly, even if I kept them in the fridge until right before serving. If you want candy that can sit around at room temperature, go for for the fruit juice gummies.
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