Remember Martha’s old show, Martha Stewart Living? One day, she showed the audience how to make marshmallows.
That’s the same day I went, “OK. She’s officially lost her mind.”
Marshmallows never seemed like anything but a vehicle for other flavors to me. Dip them in chocolate: delicious. Mix them with butter and Rice Krispies: tasty. Shape them into little chicks and cover them with neon colored sugar ... well, if not great, then at least visually appealing.
But to make them from scratch seemed asinine. What, and put the Jet Puffed people out of business?
But now, years later, I find that marshmallows are no longer the understudy; they’re the star. Gourmet versions are popping up all over the place and, let’s face it, those damn snowflake ones Martha floats in her hot cocoa are attractive.
So here I am, making marshmallows.
It’s not a hard recipe, just time consuming. Like fudge, you have to cook the sugar over low heat until the crystals dissolve, washing down the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush from time to time. That took a loooong time, but perhaps that’s because I cooked it over very low heat.
Once dissolved, the heat gets cranked up and you wait for the temp to hit 245-degrees F. Again, time consuming but not hard.
From there, the syrup is poured into the gelatin. Once that happens, a scent, not unlike wet dog, is released. (Hot wet dog. Like when your dog goes in the lake on a really humid day and, on the drive home, that damp musky smell stinks up the whole car.) Fortunately, after 15 minutes of whisking at high speed, the smell dissipates and you’re left with something akin to Marshmallow Fluff. I’m guessing that if you took that mixture and put it into an airtight container, it would remain soft. (I would have set a bit aside to experiment with that idea, but the thought occurred after I was finished.)
The cream poured fairly easily into a (disposable aluminum) pan with the help of a rubber spatula. I didn’t press it down with my hands; the spatula (sprayed with cooking spray) did a fine job smoothing out the top. Then, I sprinkled the top with powdered sugar and waited.
The next day they were ready to cut and eat. I found the cut sides to be a bit sticky, so I threw several in a paper bag with some powdered sugar and shook them. The sugar adhered to the sticky sides.
And the taste? Eh. They’re still marshmallows. They're fresher and less artificial-tasting than those you buy at the store, but in the end, nothing really special. They are good covered in chocolate -- melt in your mouth tender -- but most marshmallows taste good in chocolate anyway.
From a culinary perspective, I don't I see the point in making them from scratch. But as a science experiment, it is kind of neat.
2 1/2 Tbsp. unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
Combine gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer with whisk attachment. Let stand 30 minutes.
Combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small heavy saucepan; place over low heat, and stir until sugar has dissolved. Wash down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to dissolve sugar crystals.
Clip on a candy thermometer; raise heat to high. Cook syrup without stirring until it reaches 244-degrees F. (firm-ball stage). Immediately remove pan from heat.
With mixer on low speed, slowly and carefully pour syrup into the softened gelatin. Increase speed to high; beat until mixture is very thick and white and has almost tripled in volume, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla; beat to incorporate.
Generously dust an 8-by-12-inch glass baking pan with confectioners’ sugar. Pour marshmallow mixture into pan. Dust top with confectioners’ sugar; wet your hands, and pat it to smooth. Dust with confectioners’ sugar; let stand overnight, uncovered, to dry out. Turn out onto a board; cut marshmallows with a dry hot knife into 1 1/2-inch squares, and dust with more confectioners' sugar. Makes about 40
Grade: C (not really bad but what’s the point?)