December 3, 2012

Lessons in Marshmallow Making

For starters you may wonder, what on earth processes one to make marshmallows when perfectly puffy ones are available at every store in sight. I wondered the same when I first encountered homemade marshmallows for the first time at my friend Dina's house about a decade ago. And then one day I woke up thinking: "Marshmallows."

Among  the some 5,800,000 or so search results for "homemade marshmallows" I chose this recipe from Martha Stewart - if anybody can do it, Martha can! Plus this version is simple (more about that later) and eggless. But not so fast.

Lesson 1: Sugar Pitfalls On my first try I used powdered sugar rather than plain granular sugar. Big mistake, my friends. Turns out powdered sugar contains starch and my mixture, heated up to just the right temperature, just would not fluff. Instead I ended up with with sticky gross goo.


A few days later I summoned the courage to try again. While my gelatin mellowed in water, I started heating up granular sugar, corn syrup, and the rest of the water with a pinch of salt. With thermometer clipped to the side of the pot I felt like a pro!

Lesson 2: Not all corn syrup is created equal. Plain corn syrup might be ok, but some bottles have caramel color and high fructose corn syrup (there is still debate about the health impacts but I just try and avoid it!).


 
The mixture begins heating up quickly and then the heating process suddenly slows down. The last ten or fifteen degrees seem to take forever! Apparently that's just what should happen.


But back to the marshmallows. Once the mixture in the pot heated up to the magic 244 degrees "firm-ball consistency," it went in slowly into the water/gelatin swirling in KitchenAid. A few minutes later the mixture in the mixture begun to fluff! The fluffed mixture went into a glass pan generously sprinkled with powdered sugar. Lesson 3: this is SERIOUSLY sticky stuff. Don't give the bowl to lick to your kid unless they are headed for the shower. And you may want to pull your hair in a ponytail or something.
 
Just a few minutes into whipping, I knew that this batch of marshmallows just may work! It quickly turned glossy white and thick.

Let the mixture dry uncovered  for a day or two before attempting to cut marshmallows into squares. Kitchen shears are your weapon of choice. Lesson 4: You are not Martha, you marshmallows will not look perfect, as evidenced by lumpy specimen below.



Ingredients:
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

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