Who knew making marshmallows would be so much fun? Judy chose marshmallows as our TWD recipe this week, and while I didn’t think I’d be excited about eating them, I was interested in making them. And even though I know making marshmallows is common, and I trust Dorie’s recipes, I was surprised when I took my first bite, and it was, well, marshmallowy. Spongy soft, sugary sweet, coated in fine powder.
I was wrong about not being excited about eating them. Topping off of mug of hot cocoa, lightly charred and melted on a s’more, and plain in a pillowy mound are all satisfying methods for munching marshmallows. I’ve had to resist grabbing “just one more” every time I pass them in the kitchen.
And I found them relatively easy to make. Egg whites are whipped, a sugar syrup is made, gelatin is dissolved, and everything is beaten together and allowed to set. For the first time since I joined a blog baking group, problems arose with the recipe that I didn’t have. After months of curdled coffee buttercream, soupy lemon curd, flat party cakes, not-so-gooey gooey chocolate cakes, and a lemon cream that just wouldn’t reach the recommended temperature, my marshmallows whipped up nicely and solidified without separating. There was some confusion over Dorie’s instructions to beat the egg whites until they were “firm but still glossy”, and I almost always underbeat when I see “do not overbeat” in a recipe, and I think the problems people had may be attributed to that.
The rest of us were lucky enough to create pillowy soft sweet treats that are ready for any of your favorite marshmallow applications, or just dissolving pleasantly in your mouth without any accompaniment.
Marshmallows (from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours)
Including marshmallows as a spoon dessert may seem like cheating – after all, they’re eaten with fingers (or, by campers, from sticks picked up in the forest) – but making them at home is too much fun to miss. And in fact this dessert is related to others in this chapter: the base is meringue – sweetened and strengthened by a cooked sugar syrup and fortified by gelatin.
There’s nothing difficult about making the marshmallows, but the meringue does need a long beating. While you can use a hand mixer, a stand mixer makes the job easier.
Makes about 1 pound marshmallows
About 1 cup potato starch (found in the kosher foods section of supermarkets) or cornstarch
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 ¼-ounce packets unflavored gelatin
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¾ cup cold water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1¼ 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. Have a candy thermometer at hand.
Put 1/3 cup of the water, 1¼ 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.
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. 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.