Have you ever reached for a bag of store-bought marshmallows, popped one in your mouth, and wondered if there was a better, less artificial-tasting alternative? I don’t know about you, but I have on many an occasion! Let’s just say Jet-Puff’s aren’t my favorite unless that fake taste is masked by scorching them to a crisp and nestling them between graham crackers and chocolate.
So when my boyfriend had a few friends over for a Mexican-themed dinner (quite gourmet!–pix later!), I decided I would make a tiny contribution by bringing over some chili/cinnamon hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows.
I’m not going to lie, candy-making type endeavors have always intimidated me, and looking back on the past, it’s easy to see why… OK here’s a little story for your entertainment:
Background info: Being the intellectually encouraging person that she is, Mom made us ask questions every night before we went to bed.
Young Ann & Sister: Mommy, what happens when you cook sugar?
[These were the types of questions we liked to ask. Not "How does food turn into energy?" or "How is light a wave AND a particle?" Instead, we asked questions like the aforementioned, and "How are Barbies made?" etc. Can't say we responded too well to her teaching techniques. Anyway, I digress...]
More Background info: Being the intellectually encouraging person that she is, Mom liked us to test out our questions and theories.
Mom: Well, why don’t we see what happens, girls?!
[All three run to kitchen, put pot on stove, put sugar in pot, put water in pot. Heat long time. Forget about the sugar.]
[As smoke begins to fill the apartment, Mom tackles the pot while Ann and Sister are forced to flee outside the door... and I was in my Belle costume. Neighbors proceeded to stare.]
… So there was this event. Then there was also the time in my frugal college days (which haven’t actually ended) when I “compromised” a lot of my recipes for want of kitchen tools, and I almost destroyed my roommate’s saucepan trying to make caramel topping. All in all, I had good reason to fear working with sugar and using candy-making methods.
However, in the past few months, I had recently obtained a candy thermometer, so there was no reason to run from the challenge! Then I started researching marshmallow-making techniques. It didn’t seem so bad at all, and truth be told, they’re actually pretty easy! A candy thermometer is not even required, and one could make these by just eyeballing the simple syrup that is heated to over boiling. Just make sure you are aware of the different stages to look for.
Assessing Syrup Stages
The first step is to drop a tiny bit of your syrup into cold water. Then evaluate using these guidelines:
1. Soft Ball/235-240 degrees F: Syrup will form soft ball that flattens in your hand.
2. Firm Ball/245-250: Syrup will form a malleable ball that maintains some of its shape.
3. Hard Ball/250-265: Syrup will form threads from your spoon as you drop, and will harden completely in the water. Malleable only when you apply a lot of force.
4. Soft Crack/270-290: Forms flexible threads in the water that break upon bending.
5. Hard Crack/300-310: Forms hard, brittle threads in the water.
On to the recipe!
*Note: If you use a candy thermometer, use a narrow pan so that the level of syrup will be higher and the thermometer can be more submerged to get a better reading.
1. Sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 of the cold water, and let stand.
2. Heat the granulated sugar, corn syrup, and other 1/2 c. of water over low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
3. After it dissolves, increase heat to medium, and boil the syrup to 240 degrees F, or Soft Ball stage, without stirring.
4. Meanwhile, whip the eggs whites to soft peaks.
5. When the syrup has reached the right temperature (about 12 minutes), remove from heat and mix in the gelatin.
6. Add vanilla to the egg whites, add the syrup to the egg whites and immediately start whipping them with your electric/stand mixer until it has mostly cooled and tripled in volume (this took me about 10 minutes with a handheld electric mixer… If you do the same, I give you permission to count this as your deltoid workout of the day).
7. To make a pastry bag with which to pipe your marshmallows, place a large plastic Ziploc bag in a tall glass, with the tip at the bottom and the zipper part open and cuffed around the edge of the glass. Transfer the marshmallow mixture to this bag. Seal it, twist the top, and cut off the tip.
8. Pipe the marshmallows onto a cookie sheet dusted generously with powdered sugar. Sift powdered sugar (also generously) over the top.
9. You can let these set for 1 hr/overnight, or place them in the fridge to speed up the process. You can also toss them around in a bowl with powdered sugar so they are fully coated and won’t stick to each other.
And there you have it–delicious homemade marshmallows that literally melt in your mouth from their pure, light, airy, goodness! They’re so small, reachable, and darn delicious that it’s easy to pop 10 in your mouth and still go back for more. Float them in your hot chocolate, skewer them and roast them on the fire, decorate a cake, make popcorn balls, or just eat them straight out of the tupperware. :) They should be kept in the fridge for no more than a couple days, but they go so quickly that I am sure you’ll have no problem with that! To me, the Jet-Puffs will never compare.