Thursday, December 23, 2010

homemade marshmallows to accompany seriously sinful hot chocolate mix

I promised to post about the marshmallow experience, and so here goes: they were surprisingly easy, and they taste really good! To be completely honest, I haven't actually had them in a cup of hot chocolate yet, but they are really good plain. They are a little softer than their store-bought counterparts, though I noticed today that they were getting a little firm around the edges with age (I made them two days ago). However, that's not much different than what Stay Puft do, and I have no hesitation that they'd soften back up beautifully in a mug of hot cocoa. They have a nice vanilla flavor (that's the tablespoon-and-a-half of vanilla extract talking), and they're definitely sweet, but no more cloying than any other marshmallow. I like how light their texture is; some "artisan" marshmallows I've bought at candy stores are very thick and kind of heavy. It was fun to make them - to conquer another baking challenge - and they were a perfect accompaniment to the rockin' hot chocolate mix I made for our neighbors' holiday treats.

See how cute? You can even see the little holes in them that are probably part of the reason the texture is so fluffy.





I used a recipe from The Kitchen that they adapted from a book called Marshmallows by Eileen Talanian. If you write a whole book on marshmallows, your basic vanilla recipe ought to be a darn-good starting place for novices. The recipe requires quite a few tools, but the directions were very clear and helpful. I opted to line my pan with parchment (which I also sprayed with cooking spray), and the marshmallows stuck to it a bit, but I was terrified they'd never come out of the pan if I didn't use the parchment. Maybe next time I'll be brave. If you've ever made 7-minute frosting, this isn't too dissimilar... basically, you're making a very sticky meringue, and it starts to set up fast, so you have to move pretty quickly. (And then you have to sit around for 12-15 hours while they "cure." Not unlike chocolate chip cookie recipes that won't let you bake the cookies until the dough has "rested" for 36 hours. Harrumph.)

Vanilla Marshmallows
Makes about 100, depending on size

Special Tools: 
9x13" pan
3- or 4-quart sauce pan
candy thermometer (preferably one that can clip onto the side of the pan)
stand mixer with wire whisk attachment
stiff spatula or spoon (a rubbery one is too flexible here)
pastry brush
sharp knife or pizza cutter

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons (usually 3 packets) unflavored gelatin powder
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons cold water
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla
3/4 cup water
1 1/4 cup corn syrup or sugar cane syrup
pinch salt
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar

Spray the 9x13" pan with cooking spray. Use a paper towel to wipe the pan and make sure there's a thin film on every surface, corner, and side. Get all of your equipment ready to go.

Place the gelatin powder in the bowl of the mixer. Combine the 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water and vanilla, and pour it over the gelatin while whisking gently with a fork. Continue stirring until it's the consistency of applesauce, and make sure there are no large lumps. Put the bowl back on the mixer and affix the wire whisk so you're ready to go.

Combine the 3/4 cup water, corn syrup, salt, and sugar in the sauce pan. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. (I actually clipped my thermometer on at the beginning because I didn't want to have to work with the hot pan.) While the mixture is heating up, dip your pastry brush in cold water and brush any crystals back down the sides of the pan. I did this several times while the sugar syrup was cooking. I also didn't want to walk too far away from the stove because I wasn't sure how fast it would come to temperature (it took several minutes all told). If you don't have a pastry brush, cover the pan for 2 minutes once it comes to a boil, and the steam will wash down the sides.

Do not stir the sugar once it has come to a boil or it may crystallize. Continue boiling the mixture until it comes to 250F. Remove from the heat and take off the thermometer.

Turn the mixer on medium speed, and then gently and carefully pour the hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin. Try to avoid getting the syrup on the whisk or it will harden. Don't worry if it foams up; just go slowly and carefully. When all the syrup has been added, cover the bowl with a cloth (to prevent spattering), increase the speed to high, and whip for 10-12 minutes, until it looks like a glossy meringue. This is basically homemade marshmallow fluff!

Working quickly, scrape off as much marshmallow mix as you can from the whisk. Use the stiff spatula to scrape the mixture into the pan. Get out as much as you can without making yourself crazy. You can wet your fingers and smooth the top so it's even. Let it sit out, uncovered, for 12-15 hours to cure.

Marshmallow Coating:
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) powdered sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch

Stir these together in a bowl. This makes more mixture than you'll possibly need, but it's better to have too much. Sprinkle the top of the marshmallows with the powdered sugar mix. Then turn them out onto a large cutting board. You may need to pry them out of the pan (or coax them off the parchment with a paring knife, as the case may be). Sprinkle more powdered sugar over what is now the top.

Sprinkle the rest of the mixture into a shallow bowl or baking pan. You're going to roll each marshmallow in this to keep them from sticking together, and it's helpful if you have a large, flat dish to work in. Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut strips, then squares, of marshmallow. I made strips about 1" wide, and then cut them in about 3/4" rectangles. (Guess they weren't really squares.) I used the pizza cutter and it worked very well and didn't stick. If your knife sticks, dip it in water after every few cuts. Toss each square in the mix to coat them evenly on all sides. I actually shook mine out in a fine mesh sieve because I didn't want too much extra powdered sugar mix in the gift bags. The next day, I tossed in a little more of the mix because I worried they were getting sticky.

These make great gifts, and they will also keep in an airtight container at room temperature for several weeks. You can keep the leftover marshmallow coating in a sealed container indefinitely and use it for your next batch!

Print this recipe.

7 comments:

Sandra Dee said...

What does one do with 100+ marshmallows at one time?

Gwyn said...

Yours look way better than mine! I think my recipe is pretty similar to yours, but it called for coating with just powdered sugar, not powdered sugar and cornstarch. I think your recipe's approach is better because my sugar coating got a little gunky.

And yes, what do you do with 100 marshamallows? After using about half up in s'mores kits, we still have a lot of marshmallows!

jami said...

The cornstarch really helps. I've been using a mix of pwd sugar/cornstarch to dust my board when rolling out fondant, and it helps there, too - coats without getting sticky.

As to what we do with them (other than eat them), I packaged them up for our six neighbors with whom we exchange holiday treats!

Meg Johnston said...

What a cute idea! I have never attempted marshmallows before but it's on my list :)

Mary said...

I do a great deal of cooking but have never made marshmallows. You have inspired me. I hope you had a wonderful holiday and that the new year brings a full measure of good things your way. Blessings...Mary

Nicole J said...

I have been wanting to make marshmallows for a while now, ever since I learned it was possible, but have never actually bit the bullet and done it. You make it look so easy, and SO good! Great post, and great photos!

jami said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone! These are really fun to make and not too hard if you're not afraid of getting just a little sticky. :-) Good luck!