Midterms, Marathons, and Marshmallows

Vanilla Marshmallows


Long time no see! Many apologies for my absence. Between character analyses for theatre rehearsals and Aggregate Demand derivations for Macroeconomics, the flogging has slipped through the cracks. But fear not, I will be updating far more frequently. After all, if Mrs. Smitten Kitchen can have a baby and still make Quiche Lorraine, then surely I can muster up the strength to put out an entry or two.

Homemade marshmallows sounds like a oxymoron, right? Much like Stone Hedge or Spam, only a few people have the slightest idea of how marshmallows are made. This recipe is relatively easy to understand and perform. Makes about 48 1-inch marshmallows.

I was still quite the culinary “noob” when I first came across this recipe in Bon Appetit last summer, proven by confusion over a “candy thermometer.” I had asked my mom why our thermometer only went up to 200ºF. She informed me that I would need a candy—not meat—thermometer. I remember how that sense of accomplishment filled me up after I made my first fluffy batch. With all the stress of classes, I felt the urge to revisit this fail-safe candy on Satuday morning.

Sofa or Prep Station? How about both!

Sofa or Prep Station? How about both!

Our “kitchen” here in Wren Hall has lost its table. This wouldn’t be an issue except for the fact that the table was my only counter space. Now my prepwork has been relegated to the electric stove-tops (not turned on!), the sofa, and the ground (cue Andy Samberg song). Not having gas stove vexed me. Not having a sink angered me. But no countertop? No table? Come on! Hermione of Harry Potter fame would always say that “the wand is only as good its owner.” The same probably applies to kitchens. All it’s gonna take is a little more elbow grease and creativity. And as Kevin Garnett would say, “anything is possible!!!!!” See that—a basketball quote in the same paragraph as a Harry Potter reference!

Please note the missing stove stop to the right of the saucepan

Please note the missing stove stop to the right of the saucepan

Making candy requires precision and attention to detail—marshmallows are no exception. The only difficult part of this is maintaining a boiling temperature of 240ºF. Should the sugar mixture exceed this by too much, the texture will adversely change. Same goes for too low a temp. The higher the temperature, the higher the sugar concentration and the harder the candy. The mixture also will pause at certain temperatures and quickly increase at other points. So don’t freak out when the liquid sits at 180º for a full minute. Similarly, keep an eye out for those quick jumps in temp.
Once you let past the boiling stage, you’ve got some mixing to do. Whipping air into the mixture turns it into what is essentially Marshmallow fluff, only better and ten times as sticky. Just go into this knowing that you’re gonna get fluff on your workspace, which in my case was the sofa. It’s a very tasty but potentially dangerous mess. So if you’re the kind of person that likes to use Internet recipes, please print out a hard copy instead of stationing your laptop near your workspace. Your computer will thank you later

The aftermath

The aftermath

I should mention that this recipe would probably work better with a standing mixer, but it isn’t a necessity. The three or four times I’ve made this I’ve done it with an electric mixer with decent results, but they might be fluffier and airier if you use a mixer with the whisk attachment. The other issue with the hand mixer is that once the fluff-like marshmallow mixture gains a certain loft, it tend to swallow up the beaters. The fluff then creeps up the beaters to the handle mounted motor.

See how the mixture worked its way up the beaters?

See how the mixture worked its way up the beaters?

The flavoring of these guys is totally open. As you can tell from the photos, I made half-batch of plain/vanilla and a half batch of peppermint chocolate chip. I’ve used coconut, peppermint, and vanilla extract, for different varieties. I think around thanksgiving I’ll make an orange flavored batch (using zest or extract) for the sweet potatoes. Putting in mini-chocolate chips is another great option, but they tend to melt quickly, so quickly and carefully incorporate them unless you want chocolate marshmallows (not a bad thing, but the chips have a fat content that negates some of the marshmallows’ loft. Dusting them with something other than the potato starch/confectioner’s sugar mixture can be add some nice depth to them as well. I took the Hostess-snowball route once by using shredded coconut. I cut the traditional dust with cocoa powder to up the chocolate flavor, but to each his own. Coloring them can be a nice touch too. So get creative with these guys. You can always buy the original variety in the store, so if you’re gonna make the effort to make them, you might wanna do some experimenting.

The last 200 meters

The last 200 meters

I also ran the Cape Cod Marathon on Sunday (10/25). I had never run a race before in my life (not even a wee 5K), so this was a pretty big deal for me. Much like my first batch at marshmallows, the race was an emotionally and physically draining. As I crossed that finish line, satisfied tiredness and pride overwhelmed me. I was ready to go to bed the moment I arrived back at campus. But not until I update the flog…

Homemade Peppermint Chocolate Chip Marshmallows
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg, Bon Appetit magazine, July 2008
Peppermint Chocolate Chip
A candy thermometer
13x9x2-inch pan
Aluminum Foil
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 cup cold water (you use 2 ½-cups at different intervals)
3 ¼-ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin (Knox brand or any other really)
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
¼ cup potato starch
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 or so cups of bittersweet mini morsels (the tiny chocolate chips)
An electric mixer
OPTIONAL: Green (or red) Food Coloring

Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil. Make sure to have the aluminum foil extend beyond the pan itself, so that it will be easy to remove later on. Coat foil lightly with nonstick spray.

Pour ½ cup of cold water into large bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand until gelatin softens and absorbs water, at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, you should combine 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt, and the other ½ cup of cold water in medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Make sure to stir the bottom, and brush down the sides to prevent burning the sugar. Attach a candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat and bring syrup to boil. Boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches 240ºF, about 8 minutes. Be careful not to exceed 240ºF, as a higher/lower temperature has an adverse affect on the texture (too hot and it could become more like taffy, not hot enough and it stays as a syrup)

With mixer running at low speed, slowly pour hot syrup into gelatin mixture in (don’t let it splash onto you unless you’re in a particularly masochistic mood). Gradually increase speed to high and beat until mixture is thick, about 12 or so minutes. At this point you basically have a big bowl of fluff. Add peppermint extract, chocolate chips, and about 10 drops of food coloring and beat to blend, about 30 seconds longer. NOTE: A swirl effect can be nice if you’re using red food coloring, since it gives off the candy cane vibe. If you wanna do this, add the food coloring at the same time as the chips and fold them in.

Scrape marshmallow mixture into prepared pan. Smooth top with wet spatula (wet with water). Let stand uncovered at room temperature until firm, about 4 hours.

Stir potato starch and powdered sugar in small bowl to blend. Sift generous dusting of starch-sugar mixture onto work surface, forming rectangle slightly larger than 13×9 inches. Turn marshmallow slab out onto starch-sugar mixture; peel off foil. Sift more starch-sugar mixture over marshmallow slab. Coat large sharp knife (or cookie cutters) with nonstick spray. Cut marshmallows into squares or other shapes. Toss each in remaining starch-sugar mixture to coat. Transfer marshmallows to rack, shaking off excess mixture. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Vanilla Marshmallow

3 Responses to Midterms, Marathons, and Marshmallows

  1. […] as truffle oil. I may make my own vanilla extract, but I’m a sucker for ketchup. I make Marshmallows from scratch, but I’d pick up a Twix bar before snagging a […]

  2. Milly Cagley says:

    Let me start by saying great post. Im unsure if it has been talked about, but when using Explorer I can never get the whole blog to load without refreshing many times. Maybe just my connection. Thanks

    • sofraichesoclean says:

      I’ve never encountered this before. I use Firefox, so I dunno if that plays a role. I’ll look into this. Thanks for bringing it to my attention and thanks for reading!

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