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.
- Yield:about 80 or 90 1-inch square marshmallows
- 1 cup pumpkin puree, fresh or canned (~240g)
- ½ cup cold water (115g)
- ¼ cup powdered gelatin* (40g)
- ½ cup cold water (115g)
- 1 ¼ cups corn syrup **(380g)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons cornstarch (~20g)
- 1 teaspoon sweet curry powder, optional***
Lightly spray a standard baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray, then rub gently with a paper towel to distribute the spray and leave just the merest sheen of oil on the sheet. Similarly, lightly spray a large offset spatula and set beside the prepared tray.
Combine the first three ingredients in a medium bowl and mix until well blended and smooth. Set aside.
Combine second quantity of water, corn syrup, salt and sugar in a 4-quart saucepan and place over medium heat. When mixture boils, brush down the sides of the pan above the upper surface of the syrup with a clean, moistened pastry brush, or cover the pot with a lid for two minutes to allow the condensation to dissolve any lingering crystals.
Place a candy or instant read thermometer into the syrup and continue to cook, without stirring, until syrup reaches 255F (hard ball). Remove pan from heat and carefully stir in pumpkin-gelatin mixture.
Pour this mixture into the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Quickly cover bowl with loosely draped plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel in order to avoid splatters, and gradually increase the mixer speed to "high".
Whip mixture for 10 minutes. At the beginning of the final minute of whipping, sprinkle in ginger, cinnamon and cloves and continue to whip.
Scrap mixture into prepared pan and spread out smooth with oiled offset. Set marshmallow aside, uncovered, at room temperature for at least 4 hours to over night before cutting.
Before cutting the marshmallow, sift the three remaining ingredients together into a medium mixing bowl. Cut marshmallows with a lightly oiled knife or pizza cutter and break into individual pieces. Toss with cornstarch mixture to completely coat, shaking off excess as much as possible. Store in an airtight container with the lid slightly ajar for up to three days.
* This is little more than 1 ¼ standard boxes of Knox gelatin, so be sure to purchase enough.
** The author provides a recipe for a homemade sugar syrup to replace the corn syrup, but the corn syrup recipe version has been provided for brevity's sake.
***The curry powder is my addition. I like the way it adds another layer of flavor and a subtle savory note to the finished confections.