How to make your own marshmallows
Home cooks don’t think twice about making cookies, cakes and candies in their kitchens, but marshmallows? No, they buy them bagged.
“It’s just ingrained in people’s minds that you buy marshmallows from the store, just like you buy Ritz crackers from the store. But once you have the opportunity to make marshmallows, you realize they are heads and tails above store-bought,” said Shauna Sever, author of “Marshmallow Madness! Dozens of Puffalicious Recipes.”
Homemade marshmallows “don’t taste like the bag they come in,” said Sever, who runs a dessert-catering business in San Francisco and blogs about sweets at www.ShaunaSever.com.
“When you make a basic vanilla marshmallow, not only can you taste the truly lovely vanilla flavor, but you can taste sugar –– not just sweetness. It’s slightly creamy and melts in the mouth,” said Sever.
Mallows made at home can go way beyond the standard white vanilla. They can be flavored with fruit nectar, extracts, spices, maple or chocolate syrup, cocoa powder, root beer, fruit concentrates or purees, caramel or liquors, such as tequila or rum.
The puffy pillows can be filled with ganache, jam or slivers of candy bars, or studded with chocolate chips, cake crumbs, crushed cookies, fresh herbs, salted nuts, dried fruits or bacon bits.
Think beyond the white rounds you’re used to; mallows can be made into any color and shape. Imagine the sticky stuff twisted into ropes, layered into multi-colored squares, piped into ice cream cones, skewered into lollipops, spread onto cupcakes and sandwiched between cookies.
“I like to think about them like I think about a cookie plate,” said Sever, a native of the Chicago suburbs who went to school at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. “A plate of sea-salt caramel marshmallows are great to serve with coffee. And I love to give them as edible party favors. They are perfect for weddings because they are so customizable with flavors and colors.”
For Easter, she suggests piping the marshmallow cream in the shape of chicks, using cookie cutters or candy molds to create holiday shapes, or piping the cream into the shape of nests, which can be coated with shredded coconut and filled with jelly beans.
Although marshmallows come nowhere near being called healthful, the homemade variety is gluten-free, fat-free, has no preservatives and can be made vegan-friendly. A 2-inch cube has about 25 calories.
Basic ingredients are sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, water, salt, vanilla extract and a coating –– usually powdered sugar and cornstarch –– to keep them from sticking. Alternatively, an egg-white meringue can be used instead of gelatin. The meringue mallows are a bit fluffier in texture and melt more easily, but they are not as sturdy and can be a problem for those with egg allergies.
For gelatin marshmallows, Sever describes three steps. “Bloom” refers to the softening of the gelatin in liquid. She recommends five to 10 minutes of blooming time. The base of the recipe is the syrup, which is boiled to a specific temperature. “Mallowing” is when the bloomed gelatin, syrup and air are whipped with an electric mixer.
It takes about 30 minutes to prepare a batch, after which it will set, or cure, for at least six hours.
Classic Vanilla Marshmallows
-- From “Marshmallow Madness”
For the bloom:
4 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
For the syrup:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup, divided
1/4 cup water
1/8 teaspoon salt
For the mallowing:
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup Classic Coating, plus more for dusting (recipe follows)
Lightly coat an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Whisk together the gelatin and cold water in a small bowl and let soften for 5 minutes.
Stir together the sugar, 1/4 cup of the corn syrup, water and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the temperature reaches 240 degrees.
Meanwhile, pour remaining 1/4 cup corn syrup into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Microwave gelatin on high until completely melted, about 30 seconds. Pour it into the mixer bowl. Set the mixer speed to low and keep it running.
When the syrup reaches 240 degrees (use a candy thermometer), slowly pour it into the mixer bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat 5 minutes. Increase to medium-high and beat 5 more minutes. Beat on the highest setting 1 to 2 minutes more, and beat in the vanilla; the finished marshmallow will be opaque white, fluffy and tripled in volume.
Pour into prepared pan, using an offset spatula to smooth it into the corners. Sift coating evenly and generously over top. Let set for at least 6 hours in a cool, dry place.
Use a knife to loosen the marshmallow from the edges of the pan. Invert the slab onto a coating-dusted work surface and dust it with more coating. Cut into whatever size pieces you wish (a pizza cutter works great for squares). Dip the sticky edges of the marshmallows in more coating, patting off the excess.
Variation: Super vanilla-ize these mallows by adding a scraped vanilla bean or dab of pure vanilla bean paste along with the vanilla extract.
Makes about 2 dozen 1 1/2-inch marshmallows.
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cornstarch or potato starch
Sift ingredients together in large bowl or combine them in food processor. Coating can be stored forever in an airtight container. Makes 2 1/2 cups.
Kathryn Rem can be reached at 788-1520 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @KathrynRemSJR.
The first marshmallows were made by ancient Egyptians, who extracted the sticky, gelatinous sap from the marshmallow root and combined it with honey. The combo was used for medicinal purposes as well as being a sweet treat.
In the 1800s, French candymakers whipped air into a similar concoction to make it puffy. But using marshmallow root was expensive and laborious, and soon the root was abandoned in favor of gelatin. The American extruder machine –– which gives shapes to many food products –– made it possible to commercially produce marshmallows. By the late 1940s, bags of marshmallows were on grocery store shelves.