Remember how the food-trend fortune-tellers claimed that donuts were the new cupcake? Well, it seems that they’ve had another squizz into the culinary crystal ball and decided that, actually, marshmallows are the new cupcake. To be honest, I can’t see the pillowy little sweeties upstaging cupcakes at events (what’s a party without cake?) but they’re so lovely and soft, and it’s a shame that for the most part they only really come into their own around campfires and steaming mugs of hot chocolate. The regular gelatinous store-bought variety are so different to home-made – if you’ve never made them from scratch before, then you have missed out. It’s like the culinary equivalent of never having read an Enid Blyton book in your childhood (and if that is the case for you, then please book a counselling session, as well as purchase the Secret Seven and Faraway Tree books immediately).
Marshmallows used to be made with the mucilaginous marshmallow root, hence their name. Of course nowadays they are made with lots of sugar and a bit of gelatine to hold it all together and make them bouncy; also, a note to all those faux-posh people out there – it’s mAllow not mEllow. Few things irritate me more than people who speak in pseudo-brit accents and then use the word “marshmellow” as if “marshmallow” is incorrect and is on par with saying “birfday” and “i are wearing a jean pant”.
I’ve made marshmallows twice previously; the first time was in the time of the dinosaurs i.e. when I was in high-school – the marshmallows never really set, which we found enormous fun. They had to be slurped rather than eaten, and I still feel a little green when I think back to that day. The second time was at home, using a recipe that did not require egg-whites. I thought, well, there’s a whole process step cut out, awesome! Um. No. Not awesome – incredibly dense, heavy and tooth-achingly sweet.
Today I used a recipe (from the same issue of Ideas as the old-school fudge) which must be quite similar to the one issued by our Home Economics teacher back in the day, but I paid much more attention this time PLUS I’ve got shmancy equipment in the form of a digital thermometer and my beloved Hamilton Beach mixer (mwah mwah mwah!). When it came to pouring the gloopy marshmallow goo into the prepared 20 x 25cm container, I found that I had far too much – so instead of frantically trying to find and prepare another receptacle while the marshmallow set in the mixing bowl, I decided to make little glittery amorphous blobs – don’t you love them? I can already see them perched on top of a big mug of rich creamy Lindt hot chocolate (watch this space…). They are incredibly soft and delicate (which may have been a fault on my part? I didn’t mind too much since very little effort is needed in the eating :-). The very young and the very old (i.e. the toothless) would love these.
The magazine also suggests using a cookie cutter to cut out shapes, but then what happens to the leftovers I ask you? I know I’d scoff all the trimmings and that my teeth would not thank me, so I avoided that option.
For about 30 marshmallows, depending on how hefty you make them:
400g (470ml) sugar
a pinch of salt
15ml liquid glucose (or golden syrup, if you don’t have glucose)
250ml water plus extra for washing down
2 large egg whites
vanilla essence (optional)
rose water (optional)
food colouring (optional)
50g icing sugar
50g corn flour
Right, so there’s several smaller processes involved and it’s best to get everything nicely ready beforehand. Have a mixer ready and the egg-whites separated, pastry brush and water, etc.
Pour 100ml cold water into a small bowl, then sprinkle the gelatine over the top. It will look disgusting and smell like wet dog, but that’s how it’s supposed to be, trust me.
Then mix the glucose, sugar, salt and water in a saucepan, and heat slowly while stirring until all the sugar is dissolved; remember to brush down the sides with water to get rid of any crystals. Allow the mixture to simmer without stirring until it reaches soft-ball stage (115 degrees Celsius) – I am terrified of having to figure out which “stage” a syrup is at, and use a thermometer. Because honestly, if it reached hard-crack stage I would have a total meltdown and not know what to do, and cry.
When the syrup is ready, remove it from the heat and stir in the hydrated gelatine – stir to combine. Then whip the egg-whites to soft-peak stage (I have a vintage Hamilton Beach, neener neener neener!) (sorry) and add the hot syrup in a steady stream while beating.
Beat for about 10-15 minutes – it will increase in volume and become perfectly white and thick and glossy and voluminous. Add essences and colouring if using (I used a splash of vanilla and a few drops of rosewater) (if you use rosewater – don’t overdo it or it will be like gargling with perfume every time you eat a marshmallow). Keep beating until the mixture holds it’s shape.
Sift half the icing sugar and half the corn flour into a lined 20 x 25cm (or bigger) container, then pour in the gooey marshmallow mush; alternatively, sift the icing sugar and corn flour onto a lined tray and create little blobs of marshmallow – aren’t they sweet? The icing sugar and corn flour will prevent the marshmallow from sticking, so be generous with it. Sift the remainder over the top of your marshmallows and give them a few hours to set (if you can wait that long). Since you would have been doing a bit of “sensory evaluation” throughout this process, now would be a good time to brush your teeth.
When the marshmallows are set, cut them with a sharp knife and dust with some more icing sugar/corn starch if the cut sides are quite sticky. I gave my blobby little marshmallows a good once-over with edible glitter, but you could really go wild with these little cuties – I’m thinking mixing hundreds and thousands into the goo before setting, or plopping it onto cupcakes, or studding the top with dragees, or coating them in chocolate, or rolling them round in toasted coconut, oooh how about toasted coconut and toasted chopped hazelnuts….. I have a feeling that the Hamilton Beach and I will be in each other’s company quite a lot while this hot-chocolate weather lasts :-).
PS: You know the whole salty/sweet trend? This recipe for marshmallow caramel popcorn is where any leftover marshmallows are going this weekend. Sigh. Who am I kidding. I will make a fresh batch.
PPS: Oooh…. marshmallow vodka…