Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Homemade Marshmallows

This is my favorite time of year. The days are still slightly warm, getting up to 65-75 degrees, but the mornings and nights are crisp and refreshing. The air just feels different. It becomes socially acceptable to wear flannel shirts (seriously the most comfortable things ever) and leggings. Although maybe not together. Hot chocolate and spiced cider are the preferred beverages. And oh yes, it's time to make marshmallows.

I first started making this recipe several years ago. One of my good friends is allergic to corn syrup, and I was determined to find a way to make marshmallows that she could actually eat (and that didn't include really weird ingredients). It ended up being so much simpler than I thought it would, and no weird ingredients at all! Besides gelatin, which to be honest, is kind of a weird ingredient. With these marshmallows, we made the best s'mores I have ever tasted. In my life. We used thick graham crackers from Trader Joe's, and good quality dark chocolate.

Since then, I have only made these marshmallows a handful of times. I've made them for holiday gifts, and put pretty red/green sprinkles on top. I tried cutting them into fun shapes one year, but they were just too sticky for that to work.

These marshmallows can be used for so many things! Obviously, they are amazing in s'mores. I made them at the end of the summer, and they were a HUGE hit at the party I brought them to. Like I said, they make really cute gifts over the holidays. Include them with a package of good hot chocolate (or make your own mix), and your friends and family will love you forever. I haven't tried baking with these marshmallows, so I don't know how they would hold up in something like rice krispies treats. Honestly, I'd probably use regular store-bought marshmallows for those.

As a general warning - these are very different from marshmallows you buy in the store. They are so much fluffier, and a lot taller. You can probably pour them into a larger pan to make them less tall. They also melt a lot more under heat, so you have to be careful when making s'mores. It's hard to get them toasty on the outside before they start falling apart (but it is possible!) I think the best part is that even people who say they don't like marshmallows, love these.

Recipe: Homemade Marshmallows (WITHOUT Corn Syrup)
From: Sugar Plum
Yield: About 36 marshmallows, depending on how they are cut

2 tbsp unflavored gelatin (2 Knox envelopes)
1/2 cup cold water
pinch salt
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
butter to grease the pan
powdered sugar to coat the pan

In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the gelatin in 1/2 cup cold water. Over medium heat, stir the sugar, salt and 3/4 cup water until dissolved. Once it comes to a boil, let it boil for 10-15 minutes, until it reaches 236 degrees F. This will depend on how hot your stove gets, so keep an eye on it.

Note: contrary to popular belief, you don't need a candy thermometer for this. I used a regular probe thermometer and it worked just fine. Make sure you are very careful when taking it in and out of the hot sugar, and that you run it under hot water after you take it out, to remove any sugar crystals.

Once the sugar syrup reaches 236 F, take it off the heat and slowly pour it into the mixing bowl. Have the mixer on low, with the whisk attachment. You want everything to be evenly mixed in, and you definitely want to avoid splatters. Add the vanilla. Turn the speed up to medium, and beat for 20 minutes. You want the mixture to be completely white (that change happens first), fluffy, and partially cooled. The mixture and the bowl will still feel warm to the touch. It's similar to making whipped cream, in that you want stiff, glossy peaks when you pull the whisk out of the mixture. If you don't get nice peaks, then it will never set up. On the other hand, if you overmix, it will be hard to pour into your prepared pan.

While the mixture is beating, prepare your pan. Use an 8x8 or 9x9 inch baking pan (can use larger pan for less tall marshmallows), and line with parchment paper or wax paper. Butter the paper, and then dust really well with powdered sugar.

When the marshmallow fluff is ready, pour/spread it into the prepared pan. It might be difficult. A large offset spatula works really well to smooth out the top. Resist the temptation to use nonstick spray with the spatula - it will discolor your marshmallows. Instead, just put the spatula under hot water if it starts to have marshmallow stick to it. Dust the marshmallows with another layer of powdered sugar.

Now, you are basically done! Let it set completely before cutting - either put it in the fridge/freezer for a few hours, or sit out overnight. Use a sharp knife to cut, preferably one that is large, so you can cut a whole row with just one slice. The top and bottom of the marshmallows shouldn't be sticky, from the powdered sugar, but the sides will be extremely sticky. I like giving them a roll in a bowl of powdered sugar, so every side is evenly coated. You can be creative here, and use colored powdered sugar, or sprinkles. Cocoa powder could be a nice touch for a subtle chocolate flavor.

The marshmallow fluff has just been poured, and the top is nice and smooth. It is still shiny, which means it hasn't been dusted with powdered sugar yet. 

I've started the process of cutting and rolling in powdered sugar. It makes a bit of a mess, and I find it to be a lot easier if you lift the whole thing out, and place the parchment paper or wax paper on a cutting board. I cut them kind of thin, so they would fit better on s'mores. 

I put some sheets of wax paper between the layers, to make sure they didn't stick together

We completely filled this container, and still had a bunch more!

Look how fluffy they are! They're almost a bit spongy. There are a few air pockets - you can probably prevent that by tapping the pan a few times before smoothing out the top. It won't affect anything besides appearance

Separate note - most of the recipes I post here are vegetarian, with the exception of anything with seafood (although you can usually just omit that and be okay). These are not strictly vegetarian - gelatin is an animal-derived product. Using gelatin in a recipe will definitely not be okay with anyone who is vegan, and is questionable for vegetarians, so make sure you check with anyone you will be making these for. In a separate note, gelatin is also not kosher under the Jewish dietary laws of kashrut. Here is a post about some alternatives to gelatin (that are still acceptable for kosher Jews and vegans alike).