Food & Drink

Forget the store-bought and experience marsh madness with homemade marshmallows

Homemade marshmallows spelling GO UK   on Thursday  March 8, 2012  in Lexington, Ky.  Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Homemade marshmallows spelling GO UK on Thursday March 8, 2012 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

When the madness on the basketball court gets a little tense, de-stress by making a batch of marshmallows. Yes, from scratch.

If a 9-year-old and a professional pastry chef can have fun making the sweet treat that most of us thought was available only in stores, you can, too.

But beware. Making marshmallows can lead to its own madness. Once you've tasted a homemade marshmallow, and made them yourself, you probably won't be able to stop with just one batch.

A look at Shauna Sever's new cookbook, Marshmallow Madness (Quirk, $16.95), will make you want to buy dozens of boxes of gelatin and bottles of Karo syrup, and play. All kinds of flavor combinations will start floating around in your head.

It's takes about 30 minutes to make a pan of marshmallows — and six hours for them to cure.

Stella Parks, recently named one of Food & Wine's best new pastry chefs in America, likes to make homemade marshmallows for guests at Lexington's Table Three Ten, where she is pastry chef.

"Homemade marshmallows let you become Willy Wonka for a day. With a few drops of food coloring and extract, you can have spectacular confections unlike anything you'd find at the store," Parks said.

"The only skill required is a little patience, which is the most important part of the process," she said.

Canaan Smith, 9, of Lexington has a profitable business making marshmallows. He started making them at age 4, with the help of his dad, Mike, to give as Christmas gifts. Canaan's The Marshmallows Company has been featured twice on The Suze Orman Show. His marshmallows are sold at Coffee Times, 2571 Regency Road, and at Themarshmallowscompany.com. Canaan is working on new flavors for spring.

Adding flavors to the basic marshmallow recipe is what makes it fun. Once you master the classic recipe, you can add peppermint extract, chocolate, fruit, tequila, rum, crème de menthe, fresh rosemary leaves, bubble gum candy oil, creamy peanut butter or maple syrup with candied bacon.

The key ingredients for plain marshmallows are sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, water, salt, vanilla and coating (confectioners' sugar and cornstarch to keep marshmallows from sticking together.)

Tools you need include a candy thermometer, small and large saucepans, measuring cups and spoons, heat-proof whisks and spatulas, a stand mixer and an 8- by 8-inch pan.

The ingredients for Sever's recipes are separated into the bloom (softening gelatin before using), the syrup (sugar, corn syrup, water and salt boiled to a certain temperature) and the mallowing (this is where the bloomed gelatin, hot sugar syrup and air come together with the help of an electric mixer).

It takes a while to cook the sugar syrup to 240 degrees and a while longer to cool it to 210, Parks said. If it's not cooked to 240, the syrup won't have the elasticity to whip into a cloud. If it's not cooled to 210, the high heat will destroy the gelatin, and the marshmallows won't set.

"You don't have to do anything to heat or cool the mixture, no magic stirring process, no complicated technique. Just waiting," Parks said. Sever's recipes do not call for cooling to 210 degrees.

Parks suggests starting with a small batch when experimenting with new flavors.

"Start with extracts, freeze-dried fruit (available at Good Foods Market and Whole Foods) ground into a powder, herbs and spices," she said. "You can replace the water in the recipe with things like coffee, tea or even champagne, but you have to be careful with things like fruit juice, which often take on a burned, strange flavor as their natural sugars are cooked to such a high heat."

To get started, try this classic recipe from Marshmallow Madness, then personalize your efforts.

RECIPES

Classic vanilla marshmallows

The bloom:

4½ teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin

½ cup cold water

The syrup:

¾ cup sugar

½ cup light corn syrup, divided

1/4 cup water

1⁄8 teaspoon salt

The mallowing:

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

½ cup classic coating, plus more for dusting (recipe follows)

Lightly coat an 8-inch-square baking pan with cooking spray.

Whisk together gelatin and cold water in small bowl and let soften for 5 minutes.

Stir together sugar, ¼ cup corn syrup, water and salt in medium saucepan over high heat. Boil, stirring occasionally, until temperature reaches 240 degrees. Meanwhile, pour remaining ¼ cup corn syrup into bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Microwave gelatin on high until completely melted, about 30 seconds. Pour it into mixer bowl. Set mixer speed to low and keep it running.

When syrup reaches 240 degrees, slowly pour it into mixer bowl. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat for 5 minutes. Increase to medium-high and beat for 5 more minutes. Beat on the highest setting for 1 to 2 minutes more and beat in vanilla; the finished marshmallow with be opaque white, fluffy and tripled in volume. Pour mixture into the prepared pan, using an offset spatula to smooth it into the corners. Sift coating evenly and generously over top. Let set for at least 6 hours in a cool, dry place.

Use a knife to loosen the marshmallow from the edges of the pan. Invert slab onto a coating-dusted work surface and dust it with more coating. Cut into whatever size pieces you wish. (A pizza cutter works great for squares.) Dip sticky edges of marshmallows in more coating, patting off excess. Makes about 2 dozen 1½ -inch mallows.


Classic coating

1½ cups confectioners' sugar

1 cup cornstarch or potato starch

Sift ingredients together in large bowl or combine them in a food processor.

Kool-Aid marshmallows

The bloom:

1 packet (0.16 ounce) unsweetened Kool-Aid drink mix, any flavor

1/2 cup cold water

5 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin

The syrup:

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup, divided

1/4 cup water

1⁄8 teaspoon salt

The mallowing:

1/2 cup classic coating, plus more for dusting (recipe above)

4 packets Pop Rocks, for sprinkling (optional)

Lightly coat an 8-inch-square baking pan with cooking spray.

Whisk together Kool-Aid mix, cold water and gelatin in small bowl. Let it soften for 5 minutes.

Stir together sugar, 1/4 cup corn syrup, water and salt in medium saucepan. Bring syrup to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 240 degrees. Pour remaining 1/4 cup corn syrup into bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Microwave gelatin on high until completely melted, about 30 seconds, and pour it into mixer bowl. Set mixer to low and keep it running.

When syrup reaches 240 degrees, slowly pour it into mixer bowl. Increase mix speed to medium and beat for 5 minutes. Increase to medium-high and beat for 5 more minutes. Beat on the highest setting for 1 to 2 minutes more. The finished marshmallow will be tripled in volume. Pour it into the prepared pan, using an offset spatula to smooth it into the corners. Sift coating generously over top. Let it set for 6 hours in a cool, dry place.

Use a knife to loosen the marshmallow from the edges of the pan. Invert slab onto a coating-dusted work surface and dust it with more coating. Cut into shapes and dip sticky edges in Pop Rocks or more coating, patting off the excess. Makes about 2 dozen 11/2-inch mallows.

Note: As close to snack time as possible, roll the mallows in Pop Rocks so they'll be cracking when you serve them.


Sea salt caramel swirl marshmallows

The swirl:

1⁄3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon light corn syrup

3 tablespoons heavy cream

1⁄8 teaspoon sea salt

The mallowing:

1 batch classic vanilla batter (recipe above)

1/2 cup classic coating, plus more for dusting (recipe above)

To make swirl: Stir together sugar, water and corn syrup in small saucepan over high heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved and syrup comes to a bubble. From this point on, don't stir syrup; just occasionally swirl the pan gently. When caramel is light amber, remove pan from heat and quickly whisk in cream. The caramel will bubble violently, so be careful. Whisk in salt. Transfer caramel to medium bowl.

Make a batch of classic vanilla batter. Working quickly, scoop about a quarter of the finished batter into bowl with the caramel. Whisk mixture until well blended. Scrape caramel marshmallow back into the bowl with the remaining vanilla batter and, using a large spatula and a figure-eight motion, fold and swirl the two together. Pour marshmallow into prepared pan, using an offset spatula to smooth it into the corners and flatten the top. Sift coating evenly and generously over top. Let it set for 8 hours in a cool, dry place.

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