The good thing about having a boyfriend who works physically and is exceptionally active in his spare time ie. skateboarding and surfing, is that I can experiment with as many desserts as I like and know that they will always get eaten. In my efforts to reduce refined carbohydrates as much as possible from my diet, I have been experimenting with using gelatin as a firming agent in desserts.
Gelatin is a mixture of peptides (small amino acid chains) derived from collagen. Collagen is the most abundant structural protein in both vertebrates and invertebrates making up approximately 30% of an animal’s total protein. Gelatin is produced from the processing of the by-products (skin, bones) of land-based animals, mainly cows and pigs. It is widely used in the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries due to its excellent biocompatibility, easy biodegradability and weak antigenicity (1). However, there was some concern about the safety of gelatin following the outbreaks of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or Mad Cow Disease. As far as I can tell, studies have shown that the minimum industrial processes used to manufacture gelatin, the acid and alkaline processes, are sufficient to reduce the agent responsible for BSE to undetectable levels (2).
Gelatin-hydrolysates and gelatin-derived peptides have been studied for their potential biological effects. Peptides derived from gelatin have been shown to have free radical scavenging activity meaning these peptides have antioxidant properties (3, 4).
In recent years, gelatin and collagen peptides have been marketed in the field of skin care with claimed beneficial biological effects on the skin. But is there any scientific evidence to support this? The skin is comprised of an epidermis and dermis. The dermis contains two major extracellular matrix components, collagen and glycosaminoglycans. Collagen is the major structural component of the dermis. The wasting away of collagen is considered the major characteristic of skin aging. Although collagen and collagen derived products, such as gelatin have low protein nutritional values, as they are lacking in the essential amino acids, preclinical human trials and animal studies have suggested that oral ingestion of gelatin may have beneficial effects. Daily consumption of collagen hydrolysate has been shown to increase the moisture content and elasticity of the skin of female volunteers (5, 6). Studies in mice have also indicated that oral administration of collagen peptides can protect skin from UV exposure-induced damage (7).
In order for orally ingested collagen and collagen-derived products to have any of these claimed beneficial effects on the skin, they must be able to cross the intestinal barrier and enter the blood circulation. Actually, studies in humans have identified food-derived collagen peptides in human blood after oral ingestion of gelatin hydrolysates (8), suggesting that these peptides may actually be absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. The mechanisms by which ingestion of collagen and collagen-derived products elicit anti-aging effects may be due to the stimulation of anabolic processes in the skin in a collagen-specific manner (9).
So not only is the dessert delicious but it may actually help to improve your skin also. The texture provided by the gelatin is softer and more jelly-like than other firming agents, such as cornflour, but I quite liked it.
Lemon cheesecake slice
¼ cup walnuts
2 tablespoons coconut butter or oil
10 drops of vanilla flavour liquid stevia
¼ cup shredded coconut
¼ cup coconut flour
½ cup coconut milk
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon coconut butter
¼ cup stevia
¼ Greek yoghurt
1 egg yolk
1 ½ teaspoons gelatin dissolved in 2 tablespoons boiling water
1 250 gram tub of light cream cheese
¼ cup Greek yoghurt
¼ cup reduced fat coconut cream
Juice from half a lemon
1 ½ tablespoons stevia
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons gelatin dissolved in 2 tablespoons boiling water
Large mixing bowl
20cm x 20cm baking tray
Measuring cups and spoons
- For the base add the walnuts, coconut butter or oil and vanilla flavour liquid stevia to a food processor. Process until the walnuts resemble the texture of crumbs.
- Pour the walnut mixture into a large mixing bowl and add the shredded coconut, coconut flour and coconut milk. Mix well to combine. Rinse the food processor.
- Tip the mixture into a 20cm x 20cm baking tray lined with baking paper and press it down firmly with wet hands. Bake the base in the oven at 160°C for 15 minutes. Remove the base and allow it to cool while you make the remaining layers.
- For the lemon layer add the strained lemon juice, coconut butter, stevia, Greek yoghurt and egg yolk to a food processor and process until the mixture is smooth and an even consistency is achieved.
- In a separate small bowl, dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water by stirring with a teaspoon. Add the dissolved gelatin to the lemon mixture in the food processor and process briefly to combine. Pour the lemon layer over the base and place this in the fridge to set (this will take at least 1 hour). Rinse the food processor.
- For the cheesecake layer add the cream cheese, Greek yoghurt, reduced fat coconut cream, lemon juice, stevia and vanilla extract to the food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth and an even consistency is achieved.
- In a separate small bowl, dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water by stirring with a teaspoon. Add the dissolved gelatin to the cheesecake mixture in the food processor and process briefly to combine. Pour the cheesecake layer over the lemon layer once it is set and firm. Place the complete slice into the fridge until it is completely set and firm.
- Liu D, Nikoo M, Boran G, Zhou P, & Regenstein JM (2015) Collagen and gelatin. Annual review of food science and technology 6:527-557.
- Grobben A, Steele P, Somerville R, & Taylor D (2004) Inactivation of the bovine-spongiform-encephalopathy (BSE) agent by the acid and alkaline processes used in the manufacture of bone gelatine. Biotechnol Appl Biochem 39(Pt 3):329-338.
- Mendis E, Rajapakse N, & Kim SK (2005) Antioxidant properties of a radical-scavenging peptide purified from enzymatically prepared fish skin gelatin hydrolysate. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 53(3):581-587.
- Giri A & Ohshima T (2012) Bioactive marine peptides: nutraceutical value and novel approaches. Advances in food and nutrition research 65:73-105.
- Matsuda N, et al. (2006) Effects of ingestion of collagen peptide on collagen fibrils and glycosaminoglycans in the dermis. Journal of nutritional science and vitaminology 52(3):211-215.
- Proksch E, et al. (2014) Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin pharmacology and physiology 27(1):47-55.
- Tanaka M, Koyama Y, & Nomura Y (2009) Effects of collagen peptide ingestion on UV-B-induced skin damage. Bioscience, biotechnology, and biochemistry 73(4):930-932.
- Iwai K, et al. (2005) Identification of food-derived collagen peptides in human blood after oral ingestion of gelatin hydrolysates. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 53(16):6531-6536.
- Zague V, et al. (2011) Collagen hydrolysate intake increases skin collagen expression and suppresses matrix metalloproteinase 2 activity. Journal of medicinal food 14(6):618-624.