Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Marshmallows

For my friends who have been asking for my marshmallow recipe...

I have grand plans for step-by-step pics, but Robbie Burns said it best, The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley. Today you get one photo of what marshmallows look like when they're ready to be eaten. :)



It's really amazing how easy it is to make your own marshmallows. I love playing with flavors and coming up with new treats. I also love bringing marshmallows to work, where someone will always proclaim the current presentation 'your best ones yet'. So, yes, they're a good ego boost for me.

There is one requirement for this recipe - a stand mixer. Frothing up that gelatinous goodness takes 10-15 minutes on high speed, which most hand mixers just can't tolerate. My Cuisinart stand mixer, on the other hand, mixes like a champ and thus far has never complained about all the hard work.

Another note - I haven't tried using anything but gelatin in my marshmallows, so they are not vegetarian-friendly. There are lots of discussions about vegan marshmallows using agar agar or other substitutes (just try a Google search) if you're curious.

I don't use egg in my marshmallows, although a lot of recipes I've seen call for it. I'm so happy with the texture of mine that I haven't felt any need to add egg white.

The key to a smooth experience making marshmallows is to know the steps ahead of time and be prepared for that part where you pour boiling syrup into the mixer. I start by sprinkling gelatin over water in the mixing bowl, because it needs to bloom for a few minutes.

Then I pull out all my supplies - silicone spatula, splash guard for the mixer (this is not requisite but really makes the boiling syrup part less stressful), 13x9" dish, aluminum foil, cooking spray. I pull out whatever flavorings and food colors I'm thinking of using, and I make sure to put my salt  right next to the mixer, or otherwise I'll definitely forget to add it.

Then, and only then, I combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. The rest goes pretty smoothly when everything's at the ready.

Marshmallows

1/2 cup lukewarm water
3 packets gelatin powder

2 cups sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup water
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
food coloring (optional)

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup potato starch

Pour water into bowl of stand mixer, and sprinkle gelatin powder over the water. Allow 10 minutes for the gelatin to bloom.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in a medium saucepan. Stir (preferably with a silicone spatula) until sugar is dissolved, then occasionally stir around the rim of the saucepan to prevent burning and to get all those little sugar bits that climb the saucepan.

When the syrup is at a hard boil, let boil for one minute (I never use a candy thermometer because I think it gets in the way). Turn the mixer on low and pour the syrup slowly over the gelatin. Then turn the mixer up to high and set a timer for 15 minutes. Add the pinch of salt.

Now get your dish ready. Line the 13x9" dish with aluminum foil (make sure the foil comes up the sides at least 1 inch) and spray all the foil with cooking spray (you can brush with oil instead, but cooking spray is so much easier!).

Also use this time to wash that silicone spatula to be ready for the next step!

After about 10 minutes of mixing, you can add your vanilla and food coloring. Your marshmallow fluff should be very fluffy now, filling more than half the mixer.

After 15 minutes, stop the mixer. Pour the marshmallow fluff into the prepared dish, using the spatula to help. If the pouring was uneven, you can smooth the fluff with your spatula.

Now wait at least 4 hours for your marshmallows to set. I usually make my marshmallows in the evening and cut them the next morning. They can sit on the countertop till then.

Mix the powdered sugar and potato starch (you can use corn starch, but I prefer the tastelessness of potato starch. You can find potato starch at specialty food stores, Asian groceries, and some chain grocery stores). Spread a generous amount, bigger than 9x13", on a clean working surface (I use my granite countertop). Put the rest of the sugar-starch powder in a large, shallow bowl. Have another clean bowl ready as well. Flip the marshmallow sheet onto the surface and peel off the foil. If you used a good amount of cooking spray it should slide right off.

Spray a bit of cooking spray on a nice sharp, long knife. Now slice a strip off the marshmallow sheet ( I usually cut the long way) and then cut into squares. Dump the marshmallows into the shallow bowl and coat with powder. Transfer to the clean bowl. Repeat until you're all out of marshmallow strips.

You can also cut shapes with cookie cutters - cooking spray comes in handy for these - if I'm making small shapes with cookie cutters, the top and bottom tend to poof out so I bisect them and get 2 flatter marshmallows that more resemble the shapes they're supposed to.

There are so many flavors to play with. I usually use extract for my flavors, but you can also sub fruit puree for the water you use to bloom your gelatin. I've also added a tablespoon of alcohol for flavoring.

For peppermint marshmallows, keep the vanilla and add a few drops of peppermint oil. If you want a red swirl instead of pink marshmallows, add the food coloring after pouring the marshmallows into the dish, then swirl with a chopstick or two.

For pumpkin marshmallows, bloom the gelatin in pumpkin puree then use 1 tsp of vanilla and 2 tsp of almond extract.

If you want to give the marshmallows a toasted or buttery flavor, try brown sugar instead of white sugar. I did this and added a taste of rum and called them 'hot buttered rum'. They were awesome.

Chocolate marshmallows are more challenging. I need to play some more with these. Mixing in the cocoa immediately deflates the marshmallows, and they're still good but flat and dense. I've seen a suggesting to just stir in the cocoa at the end, which creates a marbled effect and keeps most of the height of the marshmallow.

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