I really, really wanted to start this post by bitching about the weather. Something my poor family has to endure for much of the winter. But, I’ve decided to rise above the whining-chatter in my head and embrace the weather. It is easy today, at a balmy 42°F. A small, but welcome comfort after an epic freeze. Instead of complaining about the cold, I made hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows. It reminds me of being a kid, when I loved winter and playing outside. There is just something magical about the puff of a marshmallow and how it floats on top of hot chocolate, melting just a little to make a layer of sweet fluff. Totally comforting. Nothing beats that, except now I prefer my hot chocolate with a shot of whiskey and my marshmallows scented with a touch of mint or vanilla or even cardamom.
Last week I was gifted cardamom scented marshmallows by Lee, who owns l.c.finn’s Extracts. Homemade marshmallows are a brilliant idea and one I have never shared on the site. I’ve always made marshmallows by whipping egg whites and then suspending them with sugar syrup and gelatin until they are light as air and chewy. I adore the texture, but I can also detect the faintest taste of the egg white. This doesn’t bother me if I am layering the marshmallow with other bold flavors. But, when I am going for an adornment for hot chocolate, I prefer a recipe that has no egg. This recipe is just a combination of sugars and gelatin, simple as that. You can keep the marshmallows pure or play with flavored extracts and fun colors. They store for weeks in a dry spot, which is super easy this time of year in MN. Anytime you come home after braving the cold, just make up some hot cocoa and float a bit of happiness on top.
I am using sheet gelatin in my recipe, but I have also given the instructions for using the powdered variety. I got used to using sheets when I worked in restaurants and just find it easier to deal with. The sheets also have less of that kindergarten-glue flavor. You can find the gelatin sheets on Amazon if you want to give them a try.
1 cup powdered sugar
12 sheets silver gelatin (or 3 packets powdered gelatin)
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon flavored extract (mint, ginger, cardamom, almond, orange, lemon, or anything you like, but make sure it is an extract and NOT oils)
1+ drops of food coloring (I like to use the paste or gel colors)
To make the marshmallows:
Submerge the gelatin sheets in a large bowl of water. (If you are using the powder gelatin, dissolve the 3 packets in 1/2 cup of water in the bowl of your stand mixer.)
Once the gelatin has softened, squeeze some of the excess water out.
Place it in a small saucepan. (If using the powdered, just leave it in the bowl of the stand mixer, no need to melt it.)
Melt the sheet gelatin over low heat, stirring once in a while, until totally melted. Turn off the heat and leave in the pan until ready to use.
In a second saucepan cook the sugar, corn syrup and 1/2 cup water,
until it reads 245°F on a candy thermometer. Turn off the heat and quickly
pour the melted gelatin sheets into your mixer.
Turn the mixer on low-speed and carefully pour in the hot sugar syrup along the side of the bowl, being careful that it doesn’t hit the whip attachment.
Once you have all the syrup in the bowl, add the salt, turn the speed up to high and let it mix for about 10 to 12 minutes.
Generously dust a baking sheet, lined with parchment, with powdered sugar.
The marshmallow will be light, fluffy and cooled to nearly room temperature. This is when you add the vanilla, extract and food coloring.
Round Marshmallows: To make round marshmallows I used 2 1/2-inch molds made from PVC pipes. (I had them cut to the size I wanted from a long pipe that you can get at Home Depot. Or, you can buy pastry molds.) Line the molds with acetate strips that are cut to fit and really lightly wiped with butter, then dusted with more powdered sugar. This requires a bit more effort than the square or freeform marshmallows that I’ll talk about in a minute.
Using a pastry bag (I suggest using disposable, since it is very tough to refill the bags when working with sticky marshmallow) fitted with a large round tip. Pipe the marshmallow evenly into 12 prepared forms.
Allow the marshmallows to sit for several hours, or overnight before unmolding them.
Square Marshmallows: If you want to make square marshmallows, just lightly grease a baking dish with butter. Pour the marshmallow into the pan and allow to sit for several hours or overnight. To cut, dust the marshmallows and work surface generously with powdered sugar. Butter the blade of a knife and cut into desired shape. Dust with more sugar to prevent from sticking.
To unmold the set marshmallows:
Once the marshmallows are set, simply remove the acetate and roll the marshmallows in powdered sugar. (If they stick to the acetate, dip a paring knife in hot water and run it along the acetate.)
The marshmallows will hold their shape and can be stored in an airtight container for a week. You want to make sure they are well coated with powdered sugar or they will stick together.
Make your favorite hot chocolate recipe and float the marshmallows.
As they sit in the hot liquid they will begin to melt, that’s the best part!