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From the food editor: How to make your own marshmallows

I am the kind of person who would rather figure out how to make a graham cracker with what I have in the pantry than get in my car, drive to Publix and pick up a box of Honey Maid.

In fact, that's what I did on a recent "cool-ish" evening at our house, when we got the backyard fire pit going and the s'mores cravings soon followed. The crackers were good, more like very thin and not-as-sweet cookies than anything else, and I would make them again. No biggie.

But I had never attempted to make the other crucial part of the melty campfire sandwich: marshmallows. I wasn't planning on it, either, content to buy a bag at the store because I don't especially like the squishy sugar clouds anyway. Then this week's cover story happened, and the part of me that insists on making anything I can from scratch poked its head out and said, "Marshmallow time?"

So here goes.

I knew nothing about how marshmallows are made, and a couple of things surprised me right away. For one, recipes for homemade marshmallows are ... rather simple? There aren't many steps at all: Bring some stuff to boil in a saucepan, add that to some other stuff in a stand mixer, let the mixer whirl away, pour into pan. You don't even need to turn your oven on.

The ingredient list is forgiving, too, the weirdest one being unflavored gelatin. This is easy to find at grocery stores, and it's the key to making marshmallows marshmallowy. If you've never worked with it and are intimidated at the thought, don't be.

Before I made the 'mallows, I went to Cake Affection in St. Petersburg to talk to owners Aaron and Ivy Lippard about how they make their handcrafted marshmallows. I learned valuable tips that helped me fare much better than I probably would have on my first try. You can read those tips and more about the artisanal marshmallow trend here, but the two lifesavers were this: Prepare your ingredients ahead of time so you can move from one thing to the next immediately, and turn the mixer on high when it's time to do so and let it do its job all the way.

When I got home, I got to work. And it was a fluffy dream.


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Marshmallow recipes will tell you to use a candy thermometer to get an accurate temperature on the sugar-water-corn syrup mixture that makes up most marshmallow bases. Full disclosure: I didn't use one, because I always forget I don't have one until I need one. Ivy doesn't use one either. It's advisable, for sure, because getting the right temperature at this stage is crucial to forming the correct consistency. But the kitchen gods must have been smiling on me. I pulled mine off the heat after the suggested cooking time in the recipe below, at which point it was clear and sort of thick and super bubbly. That got mixed in the stand mixer with the gelatin, and this is where things got funky.

Little-known fact, at least to me: When gelatin is being mixed with a hot liquid, it really stinks. Like dirty laundry, or perhaps something related to the animal parts that go into making the stuff. My advice: Let the mixer go while you set a timer for 13 minutes and get far away from your kitchen. The smell dies down eventually, and you'll need to let the whole thing whirl for longer than you think.

At this point, it was basically marshmallow fluff. Very sticky fluff that you should take care not to get on many surfaces. Into a pan it went, doused with confectioners' sugar. And then it sat, on my counter, overnight, ready and waiting in the morning to be cut into snow-white, squidgy, s'mores-ready squares.

medium

Homemade Vanilla Marshmallows

Ingredients

  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup ice-cold water, divided
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup confectioners' sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • Nonstick spray

Instructions

  1. Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with ½ cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the remaining ½ cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium-high heat, cover and allow to cook for 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees, about 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.
  3. Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute. Meanwhile, prepare the pan as follows.
  4. Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13- by 9-inch metal or nonstick baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add half the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan.
  5. When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
  6. Turn marshmallows onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with sugar-cornstarch mixture. Once cut, dust each marshmallow with remaining mixture. Store in an airtight container.
Source: Alton Brown

From the food editor: How to make your own marshmallows 10/10/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 10:20am]
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