If I were a betting gal, I’d wager that a lot of you are looking at that title thinking, “Well, why make it yourself when you can buy it?” Or perhaps, “Because I have a life!,” in which case: shame on you! What a sour thing to say. But I hope some of you are intrigued and saying to yourselves, “You can make marshmallows at home?” And you, inquisitive souls, are the ones I want to hang out with today.
Since we’re now among friends, let me confess: I am not a marshmallow junkie. I didn’t make these because I am constantly mourning the lack of jumbo marshmallows in the house, and I did hit not upon this as the obvious solution to their absence. I am not going to go through this six dozen marshmallows in a week. I am not like Michelle Pfeiffer in “I Am Sam,” who stuffs jumbo puffs into her mouth, like a hamster, by night.
All told, it’s a good things I have friends to foist these terribly large batches of delightful confections upon.
No, I made them because I read the recipe, and it took hold of me. Candy thermometers? Gelatin? No time in the oven? I was intrigued. I sought out an occasion. Perhaps like you, I did not know marshmallows had any homemade potential at all, and adventure beckoned.
And sometimes, as you know, I just like making a fuss.
So after pushing the recipe aside all winter break in favor of rolled chocolate logs and carrot cakes, I finally made them for New Year’s Eve dessert. We toasted them over our living room fire and smooshed them between two graham crackers and a generous chocolate square. Fun, messy and sweet. Who says you need a campfire? Who says s’mores and champagne don’t go together? It was a great start to 2011 . . . and I’ve found some other uses for them since.
Oh, you want to know about the recipe? It is undeniably fussy, but more short-burst fussy than hours-long fussy. (If you want that, may I recommend a chocolate mousse and ganache yule log? Should do the trick.) From corralling the ingredients to wiping the bowls dry, it’s about 45 minutes. A candy thermometer is an absolute necessity, but don’t let this put you off: they are widely available at Amazon and Target, not to mention almost any grocery store and cost less than $10. You don’t really need any other special equipment, but promise me you’ll use a KitchenAid mixer if you have it. These taste exactly like the soft, sweet, and fluffy marshmallows you remember, only without the stale hardness that quickly overwhelms the store-bought kind. They are buoyantly bouncy, enthusiastically sproinging around the pan of their final sugar dusting, and they are, of course, delicious.
If you’re in an enterprising frame of mind, press on! It’s not as easy as snapping your fingers, but it’s fun. And then there’s the second-best thing, after eating homemade marshmallows: telling people about it. (I hear it’s impressive!)
(The way I cut them — large — I got about 60.)
- About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 3 1/2 envelopes (2 tbsp plus 2 1/2 tsp) unflavored gelatin
- 1 cup cold water, divided
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 large egg whites or reconstituted powdered egg whites
- 1 tbsp vanilla
Butter a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking dish and dust the bottom and sides with confectioner’s sugar, shaking out the excess. (Note: if you want to halve the recipe, use an 8 x 8 x 2 inch pan; not quite a perfect half, but close enough. I think I will do this next time.)
In the bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup of cold water. It will activate (though I think it’s called softening in this case), a bit the way yeast blooms.
In a heavy pot, combine the remaining 1/2 cup water with sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Clip a candy thermometer to the side, so it is immersed in the liquid but not touching the bottom of the pot. Warm over a low flame, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, without stirring, until the temperature reaches 240 degrees, or “soft ball” stage. (This mixture is quite flammable, as I learned the hard way last week, so take care not to spill!) Remove from heat and pour over gelatin mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until the gelatin has dissolved.
With standing or hand-held electric mixer, beat the mixture on high until it is white, thick and tripled in size, about six minutes with a standing mixer and ten with a hand-held.
In a separate bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Add vanilla extract (this will deflate them slightly), and beat them back up.
Add the egg whites to the sugar mixture and whip together until combined. Pour this into your prepared baking dish, using a rubber spatula to scrape out the bottom. Very sticky stuff here, and it will stick to anything, fingers absolutely included. Chill in the fridge, uncovered, for at least three hours and up to a day.
Run and knife around the edge of the pan and pull out the marshmallow pad. Using a large knife, cut it into squares. Sift the remaining confectioner’s sugar into the now-empty baking dish. Working in batches, bounce the cut marshmallows around it until they are completely coated and no longer tacky.
Marshmallows will keep in an airtight, room temperature container for one week.