I'm not sure exactly what it is about marshmallows that makes them so appealing. Maybe it's that they remind us of childhood. I don't think I've met a kid yet who doesn't like them. Mine are no exception. I've never seen anyone inhale marshmallows as fast as my toddler, Gillian. I didn't even get any pictures of her, she ate them so fast. =) I wouldn't call them a favorite of mine, and yet I still can't stop sampling. Of course, it helps that I made chocolate ones, and I pretty much love all things chocolate.
This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe comes from Judy of Judy's Gross Eats. It was an interesting experience. I've made meringue before, and worked with hot sugar syrup and gelatin, but I've never put them all together. It wasn't an unqualified success, though they turned out okay. I was fine making the syrup, using my usual setup with my digital thermometer checking the temp.
I was fine beating the egg whites. Things got interesting when I went to add the syrup to the egg whites. Despite my attempts to pour carefully, I still ended up with some beads of sugar around the inside of the bowl and some strands attached to the whisk.
No big problems, though. I added the gelatin (the plain stuff sure does smell nasty) and beat the heck out of the whole thing. I read in the P&Q post that some people had trouble with the mixture deflating when other flavorings were folded in. To try to head that off, I thought I'd try whisking some of the marshmallow fluff into the chocolate/cocoa mixture to lighten it.
Then I added it to the rest of the marshmallow mixture and folded it in with my balloon whisk.
It mostly worked, but I ended up with a few solid bits of chocolate in there.
And when I transferred the marshmallow stuff to my prepared pan (I used non-stick foil coated with cornstarch), I think I spread it out too much. If I do this again, I'll try using an 8" square pan instead of a sheet pan so they'll be thicker.
All in all, I'm glad I gave these a try, even if they didn't turn out quite the way I wanted them to. It's one of those great things that make people go, "You made what?!" since it doesn't occur to them that you can make something like marshmallows at home. I'm not sure that I'll do it again soon, but who knows...
(from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)
About 1 cup potato starch (found in the kosher foods section of supermarkets) or cornstarch
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 1/4-ounce packets unflavored gelatin
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
GETTING READY: Line a rimmed baking sheet -- choose one with a rim that is 1 inch high -- with parchment paper and dust the paper generously with potato starch or cornstarch. (I used non-stick foil instead of parchment paper.) Have a candy thermometer at hand.
Put 1/3 cup of the water, 1 1/4 cups of the sugar and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar is dissolved, continue to cook the syrup -- without stirring -- until it reaches 265 degrees F on the candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.
While the syrup is cooking, work on the gelatin and egg whites. In a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the remaining cold water (a scant 7 tablespoons) and let it sit for about 5 minutes, until it is spongy, then heat the gelatin in a microwave oven for 20 to 30 seconds to liquefy it. (Alternatively, you can dissolve the gelatin in a saucepan over low heat.)
Working in the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in another large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until firm but still glossy -- don't overbeat them and have them go dull. (I added the other tablespoon of sugar to the whites as they were being beaten.)
As soon as the syrup reaches 265 degrees F, remove the pan from the heat and, with the mixer on medium speed, add the syrup, pouring it between the spinning beater(s) and the sides of the bowl. (I transferred the syrup to a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup to make it easier to pour. I should have warmed up the cup somehow, because the last of the syrup cooled too much and stuck to the cup. I would have oiled it to avoid that, but wasn't sure that was a good idea with egg whites.) Add the gelatin and continue to beat for another 3 minutes, so that the syrup and the gelatin are fully incorporated. Beat in the vanilla.
Using a large rubber spatula, scrape the meringue mixture onto the baking sheet, laying it down close to a short end of the sheet. Then spread it into the corners and continue to spread it out, taking care to keep the height of the batter at 1 inch; you won't fill the pan. Lift the excess parchment paper up to meet the edge of the batter, then rest something against the paper so that it stays in place (I use custard cups).
Dust the top of the marshmallows with potato starch or cornstarch and let the marshmallows set in a cool, dry place. They'll need about 3 hours, but they can rest for 12 hours or more.
Once they are cool and set, cut the marshmallows with a pair of scissors or a long thin knife. Whatever you use, you'll have to rinse and dry it frequently. Have a big bowl with the remaining potato starch or cornstarch at hand and cut the marshmallows as you'd like -- into squares, rectangles or even strips (as they're cut in France). As each piece is cut, drop it into the bowl. When you've got 4 or 5 marshmallows in the bowl, reach in with your fingers and turn the marshmallows to coat them with starch, then, one by one, toss the marshmallows from one hand to the other to shake off the excess starch; transfer them to a serving bowl. Cut and coat the rest of the batch.
SERVING: Put the marshmallows out and let everyone nibble as they wish. Sometimes I fill a tall glass vase with the marshmallows and put it in the center of the table -- it never fails to make friends smile. You can also top hot chocolate or cold sundaes with the marshmallows.
STORING: Keep the marshmallows in a cool, dry place; don't cover them closely. Stored in this way, they will keep for about 1 week -- they might develop a little crust on the outside or they might get a little firmer on the inside, but they'll still be very good.
LIGHT CHOCOLATE MARSHMALLOWS: Melt 3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate and stir in 2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder. Reduce the vanilla extract to 1/4 teaspoon, and after the marshmallow batter is mixed, fold in the chocolate mixture with a large rubber spatula. (I tried to lighten the chocolate mixture with some of the meringue before folding it back into the rest. I used my balloon whisk for the folding. I totally forgot the vanilla, but they were still good.)