Friday, January 1, 2016

Homemade Marshmallows

Making marshmallows is like making magic. Watch the silky soft semi-translucent peaks of egg whites transform into thick and shiny white swirls of marshmallow before your eyes. Create a substantial and yet pillowy light something, then slowly but surely watch it dissolves into nothing when plopped into a mug of hot chocolate. Sounds like sorcery or legerdemain, but really it's simple science and love. 

When most people think about marshmallows, they think toasted s'mores around a campfire, they think a handful of those mini dry things in their hot chocolate, they think Lucky Charms cereal or Easter Peeps or some other kid's candy. And don't me wrong, those are all great things. But what if we thought about marshmallows as something a little more sophisticated? A homemade confection, coming in limitless flavors, to be eaten alone as a bonbon or luxuriously melting into a mug of hot chocolate or coffee. A gift for friends, a treat worth bringing to a party. That is the kind of marshmallow I'm talking about. 

The mass-produced kind are fine, but homemade marshmallows will change your life. Or, your marshmallow life at least. They're so fun to make, require minimal ingredients, and once you start making your own you'll never go back. Here's a basic vanilla recipe. You can also experiment with different extracts for different flavors -- imagine a peppermint marshmallow in your hot chocolate! An almond marshmallow covered in coconut flakes! This really is the perfect winter treat. 

Vanilla Marshmallows

  • 2 envelopes powdered gelatin 
  • 1/2 cup + 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn starch
  1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water until it's dissolved (do this before you start anything else -- it can sit for a while). 
  2. In a small pot over medium heat, mix the sugar and corn syrup with 1/3 cup water. Place a candy thermometer on the side of the pot. 
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or in a large bowl with a hand-held mixer) beat egg whites until frothy, then add a pinch of salt.
  4. When the syrup in the pot reaches 210ºF/99ºC, increase the speed of the mixer to high and beat the whites until stiff peaks form (see this image if you're not sure what that means).
  5. When the syrup reaches 245ºF/118ºC remove the pot from the stove and slowly pour the hot syrup into the whites while the mixer is running on high (if you're using a hand mixer you'll probably need a trusty assistant to hold the mixer while you pour).
  6. Scrape the gelatin/water, which should be pretty solid, into the pot that you used for the syrup (no need to wash it hooray!). Warm it until it melts to liquid. 
  7. Pour the liquified gelatin slowly into the whites as the mixer is running (again, you may need a trusty assistant). Add the vanilla extract and continue to whip for at least 5 minutes, until the outside of the bowl feels completely cool when you touch it. 
  8. Mix powdered sugar and corn starch in a small bowl. Use a sifter to thoroughly and completely dust a 9x13 pan with the mixture (you don't want any of the pan showing, or else the marshmallows will stick). You should use about 2/3 of the mixture.
  9. Use a spatula to spread the marshmallows in a layer on the pan. Allow to dry uncovered for at least 4 hours, or overnight. 
  10. Dust the top of the marshmallows with the rest of the powdered sugar/corn starch mixture. Use a pizza cutter or scissors to cut the marshmallows into any size or shape pieces that you’d like. I prefer large squares about the size of a coffee mug -- you can imagine why. Roll the edges in the powdered sugar/corn starch mixture to make sure they're not sticky on any sides. 
  11. Shake the marshmallows in a wire strainer to remove the excess powder.
  12. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.
  13. ENJOY!!!