Sunday, October 28, 2012

Homemade Marshmallows


I've been wanting to tackle homemade marshmallows for quite some time. For some reason I've never gotten around to it until now. Aaron and I just got back from a delightful getaway in the Adirondacks, near Lake George. Before we left, I had a lot of fun planning cozy camping food: creamy chicken stew with biscuits, fried chicken with mashed butternut squash, and pumpkin pancakes for breakfast just to name a few. Naturally, s'mores were on my list too, so it was the perfect opportunity to tackle marshmallows. Not exactly diet food.





Marshmallows are surprisingly simple to make. I used the same recipe as Deb Perelman over at Smitten Kitchen, from the December 1998 issue of Gourmet. It's straightforward and uncomplicated. My only advice is, if you have kids, maybe make these while they're not around. I had visions of the goopy marshmallow sticking to everything in sight. But don't be discouraged, it's well worth the mess for these little buggers. 




While making this odd confection, I couldn't help but think of how and when they were created. I did a quick wiki search and discovered that the sap from the marshmallow plant was used  to make sweets dating all the way back to ancient Egypt. Of course, the modern incarnation of a marshmallow resembles nothing of it's ancient brother (so you can erase that image from your mind of Tutankhamen roasting marshmallows over a fire). In France, in the early 19th century, the marshmallow sap was whipped and sweetened with sugar, a closer resemblance of what we know today. Later, the use of gelatin and egg whites replaced the marshmallow plant altogether and the rest is history.




For me, confectionery can sometimes be temperamental and challenging, so I was very pleased these marshmallows turned out perfectly on my first try. They are delightfully light and fluffy and are leagues more flavorful than store-bought marshmallows. In a word: yum! You can really taste the vanilla in this homemade version, so be sure to use a good quality vanilla extract.



HOMEMADE MARSHMALLOWS
Recipe from Gourmet, December, 2008

Ingredients:
About 1 cup confectioner's sugar (for dusting the pan and coating the marshmallows)
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tbsp. plus 2 1/2 tsp.) unflavored gelatin 
1 cup cold water, divided 
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. salt
2 large egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Oil the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13-inch rectangular metal baking pan and dust the entire pan with confectioner's sugar. Set aside.

In a large bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer) sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water. Let stand to soften.

In a 2 or 3-quart heavy saucepan, cook the granulated sugar, corn syrup, remaining 1/2 cup of water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Increase the heat to medium-low and boil the mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240 degrees (the soft-ball stage), about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour the sugar mixture over the softened gelatin, stirring until all the gelatin is dissolved. 

Using a standing or handheld electric mixer, beat the mixture on high speed until white, thick, and just about tripled in size (about 6 minutes for a standing mixer and 10 minutes for a handheld mixer). 

In a large bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites on high speed until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat the whites and vanilla into the sugar mixture until just combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth out using a rubber spatula. Evenly sift 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar over the surface of the marshmallow. Chill the marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least 3 hours or up to a day.

Run a small paring knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the marshmallow. Invert the pan and carefully flip the marshmallow onto a clean cutting board. Using a pizza cutter (or large chef's knife) trim the edges of the marshmallow. Cut marshmallow into 1-inch cubes. Return the cut marshmallows to the pan and sift the remaining confectioner's sugar over the top. Toss the marshmallows to evenly coat in the sugar. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Yield: about 70 marshmallows 

Notes:

  • Don't be surprised if these brown more quickly over a fire compared to conventional marshmallows. 

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