Serious Eats: Recipes

Pumpkin-Spice Marshmallows

Marshmallows are one of my favorite things to make. Though I've made them literally hundreds of times, the act of transforming little more than sugar and gelatin into fluffy, springy cubes of goodness never ceases to be deeply satisfying.

I enjoy pulling the cut pieces apart (the way they cling and stretch and then suddenly, they're apart, bouncing back into geometric perfection) and I love the way they feel (cool and silky) as I toss them in their coating. Having both over- and under-cooked their base syrup, occasionally being a little sloppy with measurements, tinkering with flavors and additives, and only once or twice being forced to scrap the batch and start over, I also appreciate the fail-proof nature of marshmallows.

They're also rather simple to make (easy to whip together in about 20 minutes) once you've made them a time or two and can be made in mass. On top of all that, people are always so impressed by them; shocked and amazed that marshmallows can be made in a kitchen, not in the confines of some space age factory.

Being such a lover of marshmallows, it's no surprise I was drawn to a book devoted to the subject: Marshmallows by Eileen Talanian.

A former bakery owner and pastry consultant, Talanian peppers her prose with learned, useful tips and information, providing a comprehensive guide to ingredients and techniques before digging in to the recipes. She explains, for instance, why she decided to use a homemade invert sugar as the basis of all of her marshmallow recipes, rather than corn syrup.

As Talanian points out, the one real trick to successful marshmallows is thorough, organized preparation. To that end, her recipes (broken into roughly three sections: marshmallows, marshmallow fluff, and uses for marshmallows or marshmallow fluff) are clear and well-structured, ensuring that all components will be on hand as needed. Because techniques are similar from recipe to recipe, it should be noted that the most thorough description of procedures is presented in the very first recipe for vanilla marshmallows (the recipes that follow, provide slightly annotated procedures).

With plenty of interesting flavors and flavor combinations illustrating the methods by which fruits, spices, wines and other flavoring agents (mint julep marshmallow, anyone?) may be incorporated, the book provides plenty of choices to suit any palate and a thorough enough understanding of the various techniques to allow for well-informed experimentation.

Though I find the section on applications of marshmallow and marshmallow fluff a little lacking, it shouldn't be difficult to come up with plenty of ideas for these homemade sweets on your own.

About the author: Amanda Clarke is a recovering restaurant pastry chef with a background in architecture. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes, tests, and develops recipes and works on freelance food-styling gigs between walkings and feedings of her two dogs and husband.

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