Forget sugarplums. Visions of marshmallows have been dancing through my head. It started last year with images of bouncy fluffy marshmallows, created by Deb at Smitten Kitchen. I mentally filed away the concept as one I wanted to pull out when temperatures started getting into cozy single digits. Then the idea popped up again just after Thanksgiving, when Allie at ScrewedUpTexan created a stack of pillowy beauties. I could resist no longer.
After sifting through many different recipes, I settled onthis one, recommended by Deb, and hunted down the ingredients. Corn syrup, gelatin, peppermint oil…these ingredients are not often found in my kitchen, but I trusted that when making candy I should set aside my feelings about corn syrup and dive in.
The steps were simple to follow and it was a lot of fun watching the sugar and gelatin meld into a fluffy voluminous mass. (Although be forewarned- hot gelatin puts off an odor that I found rather nasty and Oscar found fascinating).
Stiffly whipped egg whites are folded in and before you know it you have a bowl full of sticky marshmallow cream. Thanks to a brilliant tip from one of Deb’s readers I sprayed down my hands and spatula with cooking oil before transferring the sticky mixture to a pan. This meant that I only ended up with marshmallow stuck to a few places rather than creating a disastrous web of goo (which we all know would have happened to me!)
Just for fun, I also melted bittersweet chocolate and dipped half of the marshmallows into it, finishing them with a sprinkle of crushed candy canes.(Mark Bittman, just published an excellent article and video on how to temper chocolate.)
The plain marshmallows were light as air, with a bounce and softness which quickly convinced me that making marshmallows from scratch is worth the effort. However, my favorites, were the chocolate dipped marshmallows. Bittersweet dark chocolate balanced out the sweetness of the marshmallows perfectly. Sitting by a crackling fire with marshmallows melting into a mug of hot chocolate was the perfect way to spend a snowy afternoon!
Homemade Marshmallows (Printable Recipe)
Adapted from Gourmet, December 1998
Inspired by: SmittenKitchen and ScrewedUpTexan
Makes About 60 Marshmallows
Approximately 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup hot water (about 115°F.)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites*
1 teaspoon peppermint extract (or vanilla)
Neutral-flavored Spray Oil
6 oz Bittersweet Chocolate
2 Candy Canes, crushed into 1/2″ fragments
Spray a 13x9x2 baking pan with oil until the sides and bottom are well coated. Pour 1/4 cup of powdered sugar into the pan, and shake it around until the pan is well coated with a thin layer of the sugar.
Place cold water into a small bowl, and sprinkle gelatin over it. Let the mixture stand to soften.
Place a medium sized heavy saucepan over low heat, and add granulated sugar, corn syrup, hot water, and salt. Stir the mixture with a wooden or silicone spoon until all the sugar is dissolved. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, without stirring. Continue to boil the mixture until it reaches 240°F on a candy or digital thermomenter, about 12 minutes. If necessary use a pastry brush dipped in water to brush any sugar crystals stuck to the sides of the pan back into the mixture.
While the sugar mixture is cooking, place the egg whites into a mixing bowl and beat until they start to hold stiff peaks. Transfer the egg whites to a clean large bowl and set aside. Clean out the mixing bowl and beaters and scrape the gelatin mixture into the bowl.
When the sugar mixture has reached 240°F, take it off the heat and pour it into the gelatin mixture. Stir well, until all of the gelatin is dissolved. Beat the mixture on high speed until it turns white, thickens, and has almost tripled in volume, about 6-8 minutes. Gently add in the egg whites and peppermint extract and beat together until everything is just combined.
Spray a spatula and your hands well with oil. Carefully scrape and pour the marshmallow mixture into the prepared baking pan. Use your hands to gently press the mixture down into the pan in one flat layer. Sift 1/4 cup of confectioners’ sugar evenly across the top of the marshmallows. Chill the uncovered pan for at least three hours, until the marshmallows are firm (you can leave them chilled overnight).
Sift a thin layer of confectioners’ sugar on top of a large cutting board. Take a thin knife and run it all around the edges of the pan. Gently invert the pan over the cutting board and carefully, ‘peel’ the marshmallow layer out of the pan onto the cutting board. Use a large knife to trim the edges into straight lines. Dip the knife in confectioners’ sugar as necessary to help prevent sticking. Evenly cut the marshmallows into 1″ cubes (or your desired size). Sift the remaining confectioners’ sugar into a big bowl. In small batches, toss the cut marshmallows in it, to coat all sides and eliminate sticky edges. Store the marshmallows in an airtight container in a cool place (not the fridge) for up to a week.
Place a double-boiler over medium heat and bring the water to a gentle simmer. Place bittersweet chocolate into the top, and stir until it is evenly melted (do not exceed a temperature of 115 degrees). Use tongs or your fingers to dip the top of a marshmallow into the chocolate. Set the marshmallow with chocolate side up on a rack or plate. Sprinkle with crushed candy cane. Repeat until you have coated as many marshmallows as you desire.