Stay Puft, Marshmallow Man
April 3, 2011
Marshmallows. Food of the gods. They don’t grow on trees, contrary to popular belief. So we set out to uncover the secret to making marshmallows because frankly, we eat a disgusting amount of them. So what does it take to make a marshmallow you ask? The answer is easy: Water, air, cornsyrup, gelatin, vanilla (or flavor), and air. Lots and lots of air.
First, always prepare your pan ahead of time. For this you’ll want a 9×13 glass pan, oiled more than a bp oil spill.
Then take a piece of parchment paper (with overhang) and place it in the oiled pan. Oil the heck out of that too. Set aside.
Next soften your gelatin by sprinkling it over cool water. This allows the granules to absorb the water and become gummy. It’s really kind of gross.
It takes a few minutes for them to soften, so in the meanwhile, you take your sugar, water, and cornsyrup and place it in a heavy-bottomed pan. Whisk the ingredients together, moving them gently but constantly until it comes to a boil or turns clear. Clip a candy thermometer on the pan (not touching the bottom or sides) and heat the mixture WITHOUT stirring until it reaches 238 degrees F. If you’re like us and live at high-altitude, knock off ten degrees and cook it to 228 F.
As the syrup gets close to temperature, place the now-softened gelatin in a mixing bowl and begin beating gently to break it up. Take the syrup off the heat and poor very slowly in to your gelatin mixture, being careful not to pour against the sides or beaters. You are trying to avoid setting of a crystalization reaction and seizing up your mixture. Also, you don’t want to hit the sides to avoid having crunchy sugar chunks in your marshmallows. Pouring slowly, beat in the syrup mixture, and beat it to stiff peaks, much like you would meringue, increasing the speed as you go.
Once you reach stiff peaks, add in your flavoring. We chose to do 1 tsp of vanilla and 1 tablespoon of honey.
When your mixture is stiff and glossy, pour it all in to your oiled pan. Using an offset spatula, smooth the mixture down.
Allow it to set for 3 hours uncovered. The longer you let your marshmallows sit, the firmer they will be. Three hours makes a nice, spongy marshmallow. If you want to swirl in some color, you could do so now for a marbled effect, by dotting color on top and dragging a toothpick through it, or for an even color, add it during the beating process with the flavoring,
Once you’ve allowed your marshmallows to set, liberally powder your counter space. We chose to omit this step and turn our pan out on to wax paper. Bad idea. The powdered sugar gives the marshmallows something to hold on to so that they’re not insecure and sad, holding on to the counter for dear life. They are very sticky. Very very sticky.
Turn your pan out on to the powdered counter and oil a sharp knife. Cut the marshmallow block in to small cubes. Or big cubes, as we did. Take each cube and toss in powdered sugar. We also tossed in some vanilla sugar we made a while back and it really gave them nice flavor. Keep in an airtight container- or in colorado. We’re not sure how long they’ll be good for. Ours only lasted a week before we ate them all.
Sidenote: If you want good toasting marshmallows, these aren’t it. They’re soft and will melt all over the place. Try letting them sit out for a couple days before toasting. Let us know if that works.
Marshmallows (Martha style):
Vegetable oil, for brushing
4 envelopes unflavored gelatin (3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons)
3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
To make vanilla sugar, we save the vanilla bean pods when used in other recipes. You can use them solely for the sugar, but it’s always nice to multi-task. Place a vanilla bean in approximately two cups of sugar and let it sit for at least a week. Shake the container (mason jar, tupperware, etc) every day to keep the sugar from clumping. The vanilla will infuse the sugar. The longer you let it sit, the stronger the flavor.