Friday, May 26, 2006

Homemade Marshmallows

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.

Homemade Marshmallows

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?)

This marshmallow was redeemed by chocolate.


Acme Instant Food said...

Interesting. It seems that since I've started blogging there have been numerous, very timely coincidences. Jung termed it syncronicity. Whatever it is, it's happening a lot lately.

I love marshmallows. I read a very funny blog on The Amateur Gourmet (I think) a few weeks ago about making homemade marshmallows. "Who does that", I asked myself. That night, Ed comes home from work and shoves a paper bag at me. Inside, are several home made marshmallows that somebody at his office made. They were delicious. I promised to make them and then promptly forgot about em. So, here we are with another reminder and a GREAT photo to motivate me. So, guess what I'll be doing later? YEP--scrubbing sugary magma off of my pans!

Anonymous said...

I'm sooooo glad you mentioned the wet dog smell. I thought I was crazy when I notice things smell like that (especially egg white based things).

Lis said...

I have tears.. so funny!! Love the way you describe the process. I just read on another blog a much more serious rendition of marshmallow making and the different flavors you can give them.. I found it interesting - as I did yours - but you are right.. okay, you've got a huge pan of homemade marshmallows.. now what? Although.. hmm.. it is summer.. and summer means bonfires.. gourmet smores? I think I even found a recipe way back when I started reading these blogs for homemade graham crackers.. wouldn't Martha just crap herself?? But after she cleaned up she would love me forever!! Which would be nice as she is The Martha, but I'd prefer her crapless when she loves me :D

Acme Instant Food said...

Take a look at this!

Acme Instant Food said...

Sorry--try this. Sheesh@me.

Acme Instant Food said...

Okay...bizarre. The link shows correct in my window, but when I post it half of it vanishes.

Okay--I cut it up, but use it as one url address. Sorry to bombard ya with messages. Double Sheesh@me.

Laura Rebecca said...

Cybele: I have similar issues with sweetened condensed milk; I can not seem to get past its scent.

Acme: those coconut marshmallows look GOOD! My marshmallow didn't seem as sticky, though, so I wonder what the difference is. What a funny site -- thanks for posting it!

MamaK: I haven't tried any of the professionally made artisan marshmallows (that's Cybele's description and I love it -- what a fun way about thinking about candy) like Plush Puffs. I'd like to try those and then reevaluate things. Here, though, I just didn't find anything particularly special about making them from scratch. Though perhaps if they were flavored with something other than vanilla -- orange essence, lemon, coffee? -- they would be more interesting to me.

I tried to put the ones I made on a stick and dip them in chocolate but they ripped right off once weighed down by the melted chocolate. But I'm starting to think that the batch I made came out softer than the ideal.

Lis: Thank you! We are on the same wavelength - I was thinking about "elite" smores.

I really like Martha but anytime she does anything I see as "above and beyond" I'm just reminded that she has a cadre of staff helping her out in a million different ways.

Rachel said...

I would add a flavor. the mint ones i made were really special!

Laura Rebecca said...

Rachel, that sounds like a really good idea. I bet the mint marshmallow and chocolate combination would be one to die for.

As an aside, I love your blog. The recipes are so creative. I've been salivating over your chocolate cake and coconut lime cupcakes.