Friday, May 06, 2005

It's a (homemade) marshmallow world

I know what you're thinking. "You can make your own marshmallows?" And once that thought leaves your befuddled brain, it's followed closely by: "Why would you want to make your own marshmallows? You can buy them for 69 cents a bag at the local grocery store."

The answer to the first question is, as you can see below, "yes." The answer to the second question is, well, those 69-cent marshmallows you buy at the store are dry, chewy (if you're lucky) bits of nastiness. Homemade marshmallows, on the other hand, are soft, tender, pillows of perfection ready to be put to any number of tasks. You can eat them "plain," put them in a steaming hot cup of cocoa (or, like my sister-and-law, add them to a cup of coffee), dip them in chocolate or white chocolate for a simple confection, or use them in any of the recipes listed below.

If your goal is to eat them out of hand, though, you may want to skip by the "plain vanilla" version and move straight on to the chocolate variation instead. They're dense and decadent in a way no store-bought marshmallow will ever lay claim--a perfect amalgamation of marshmallow and fudge.

Vanilla Marshmallows
One note of warning here: You must have a candy thermometer and a stand mixer (a splash guard's a good thing to have, too) to make these. Not only would it take forever to whip these up with a hand-held mixer, I'm sure you'd be risking bodily harm. And that's never good.

4 envelopes gelatin
1 ½ cup water
3 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract p
powdered sugar and potato (or corn) starch for dusting

Line a half-sheet pan with a 1-inch rim with aluminum foil (for thicker marshmallows, use a 9x13-inch pan). Coat the foil with vegetable oil or non-stick spray. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment.

Pour 3/4 cup of the water in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the gelatin over to soften.

Put the sugar, corn syrup, remaining 3/4 cup water and salt in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until it reaches the soft-ball stage (234-240 degrees F). With the mixer at full speed, pour all of the hot syrup slowly down the side of the bowl. Be careful as the mixture is very liquid and hot at this point and some may splash out of the bowl. Whip until the mixture is very fluffy and stiff, about 10 minutes. Add vanilla extract and mix for about one minute more.

Pour mixture into the foil-lined pan and smooth with an oiled offset spatula so that it's level with the top of the rim (it won't completely fill the pan). Allow the mixture to sit, uncovered at room temperature for 10 to 12 hours.

Mix equal parts powdered sugar and potato (or corn) starch and sift generously over the rested marshmallow slab. Turn it out onto a cutting board or counter, peel off foil and dust with more sugar/starch mixture. Slice with a thin-bladed oiled knife or oiled cookie cutters. Dip all cut edges in sugar/starch mixture and shake off excess.

Marshmallows will keep several weeks at room temp in an air-tight container.

Chocolate variation:
Replace initial 3/4 cup of water in mixing bowl with 1/2 cup of cocoa dissolved in 1/2 cup boiling water in a separate bowl. Soften gelatin in an additional 1/4 cup cold water in mixing bowl. Add cocoa mixture to mixing bowl and proceed with recipe as above.

To get a lighter texture as well as a lighter chocolate flavor, reduce cocoa to 1/4 cup.

Vegan Marshmallows
Why aren't the regular marshmallows listed above vegan, you ask? Well, gelatin is made from horse hooves--a no-no for most vegans (and vegetarians, for that matter). So, for those seeking an animal-friendly marshmallow, I give you the following recipe (found while perusing the great website, eGullet).

By the way, you can order the vegan/kosher gelatin on line at Barry Farm Foods.

3 tablespoons kosher/vegan gelatin
1/2 cup water
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Put the gelatin and ½ cup water in the bowl of a stand mixer and let it sit for about an hour.

Once about 30 minutes have passed, begin to preparing the "syrup." Place the sugar, corn syrup, ½ cup water and salt in a heavy saucepan over low heat and stir until dissolved. Raise heat to medium and bring mixture to a boil. (Helpful hint: When the mixture starts to boil, cover it about 3 minutes to allow any crystals which have formed to be washed down from the sides of the pan. Be careful, though, not to let the mixture boil over.) Uncover and continue to cook (without stirring) over medium heat until the mixture reaches the firm-ball stage (240-244 degrees F).

Remove saucepan from heat, turn on the mixer to high and slowly pour the syrup over the gelatin. Continue to beat mixture for about 10 minutes, until it is light and fluffy. Add vanilla extract and beat for another minute or so.

Pour the mixture into an half-sheet (jelly roll) pan or a 9x13-inch pan that has been lined with foil and coated in oil. When it has dried for about 12 hours, remove it from the pan, cut it into squares with a knife or pizza cutter dusted with cornstarch, and store the fully dusted pieces in a closed tin.

Confetti Squares
If you're going to make your own marshmallows, you have to make some rice Krispie treats, right? Well, you certainly could, butI prefer this colorful (and more flavorful) take on that old childhood favorite, cooked up by marshmallow maven (who would have thought?) Martha Stewart.

9 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
12 cups marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
6 cups Cap'n Crunch cereal
6 cups Froot Loops cereal

Grease a 9x9x2-inch baking pan with oil or shortening; set aside.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add salt and marshmallows; stir with a wooden spoon until melted. Remove from heat. Add cereal and stir until combined.

Press cereal mixture evenly into baking pan. Let cool, about 30 minutes. Cut into 3-by-3-inch bars. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

S'mores Squares
Here's another wonderful recipe developed by Ms. Martha. If you're going to make this one, I'd make thicker marshmallows to start with--using a 9x13-inch pan instead of the jelly roll pan mentioned in the first recipe.

1 batch vanilla marshmallows, cut into 2-inch squares
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 6 tablespoons room temperature, plus more for pan
1 ½ cups crushed graham-cracker crumbs
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush a 9x9-inch baking pan with melted butter.

In a large bowl, combine graham-cracker crumbs, 7 tablespoons melted butter, and remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Press mixture firmly into prepared pan. Transfer pan to oven, and bake until the crust has set, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove pan from oven, and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a simmer. In a medium heat-proof bowl, combine chocolate with remaining 6 tablespoons butter. Set the bowl over the simmering water, and stir until chocolate and butter have melted. Pour chocolate mixture over cooled graham-cracker crust. Using an offset spatula, spread chocolate mixture into an even layer. Transfer to refrigerator, and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the broiler. Cut chocolate crust into nine 3-inch squares. Top each square with a marshmallow, and place assembled s’mores under the broiler just until marshmallows turn golden brown, about 20 seconds. Serve immediately.

Fluffernutter Bars
The following recipe comes from my mom. They're another family favorite, though they're known at our house as "salty peanut chews." Not the most appetizing name. So, I changed the name to "fluffernutter bars," as they remind me a bit of the famed sandwich made of marshmallow creme and peanut butter.

1 package yellow cake mix
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups marshmallows
2/3 cup corn syrup
¼ cup butter or margarine
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12-ounce package peanut butter chips
2 cups Rice Krispies cereal
2 cups peanuts

Mix together first four ingredients (cake mix, melted butter, egg and vanilla) and pat into 9x13-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately sprinkle with marshmallows. Return to oven for 1-2 minutes or until marshmallows begin to puff. Cool while preparing topping.

In large saucepan heat corn syrup, margarine, vanilla and peanut butter chips just until chips are melted and mixture is smooth, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in cereal and nuts. Immediately spoon warm topping over marshmallows, spreading to cover. Chill and then cut into squares or rectangles.

No comments: