Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Treats 2009: Homemade Marshmallows, Part 1

In the winter, CCO loves to make cocoa almost as much as I love to drink it. My only qualm is that I am often so eager to drink it that I burn my mouth (I know. I'm such a child). But if you serve the cocoa at a cooler temperature, it's not warm enough to melt the marshmallow. They just bob around in the liquid until you give up and chomp them.

The best way to solve this problem? Homemade marshmallows. They melt much better than store-bought ones, giving you that delicious layer of foamy goodness on the cocoa that immediately gets all over your face. (I told you I was a child)

A couple notes: first, you really need a thermometer for this. You have to boil the liquid to a particular temperature in order for it to work. But you don't have to go buy a fancy candy thermometer. I actually just use a meat thermometer. You also really need a mixer. A hand mixer will work (though your arm will get tired). A stand mixer is preferable.

Second, this recipe uses gelatin so it's not vegetarian or kosher. (You'll want one box of Knox Gelatin per recipe. You can usually find it with the Jello at the supermarket). I read online that you can make vegan marshmallows using agar in place of gelatin. I meant to try it, but the only place I could find agar was at the organic market where it costs $14 for a tiny pack. So I decided to leave that for another day.

The recipes I used came out of a book: Marshmallows by Eileen Talanian. (Yes I did actually buy an entire cookbook devoted to marshmallows). The way she structures the book is not conducive to making just one batch -- basically she has you make 1 quart of marshmallow syrup to start and then each recipe uses about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the syrup. I still have a glass jar of marshmallow syrup on my counter even after making about 250 marshmallows, so I'm cutting down her initial syrup recipe here.

Part 1 is a recipe for traditional vanilla marshmallows. It makes about 50-60 medium-sized marshmallows.

Adapted from "Marshmallows: Homemade Gourmet Treats" by Eileen Talanian

Eat Rating: Awesome.
Difficulty: Medium to hard. Requires thermometer, mixer.

1 cup water
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp cold water
1 tbsp vanilla extract (LN: The recipe calls for 1 1/2 tbsp. I ran out of vanilla, so I just used 1 and they taste plenty vanilla to me. Use your judgment)
3 tbsp unflavored gelatin (LN: She wants you to empty the packets and measure it out. I will not blame you if you find this a silly step. 3 tbsp = 4 packets or 1 box)
3/4 cup water
1 1/4 cup marshmallow syrup
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup corn starch
1 vanilla bean

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, place the 1 cup water with the sugar for the syrup and the cream of tartar. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring as the sugar melts. Once the mixture is boiling, remove the spoon and place a lid on the pot. Allow to boil with the lid on for 2 minutes. This will remove any sugar crystals that may have stuck to the sides of the pot. (LN: Some other recipes you may see suggest using a pastry brush dipped in water to wipe the crystals off the pot. I prefer the boil-with-a-lid method because it's much easier)

After the two minutes, remove the lid. After this point, do not stir the liquid. If you do, crystals may form in the syrup. Place your thermometer in the syrup and continue to boil until it reaches 240 degrees. Once it reaches the temperature, remove from heat and take out your thermometer. (I also suggest you wash your thermometer right away lest the syrup get stuck on there). Let the syrup sit for 15 minutes to cool slightly, then pour into a clean quart-sized jar. Do not scrape the sides of the pot to get more syrup. Just pour.

The syrup can sit out at room temperature for up to 2 months, so this step can be done ahead. To keep it for another recipe, once it has cooled, cover loosely with saran wrap and a rubber band. In the meantime, set it aside.

In a small bowl, combine the 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp water with the vanilla extract. Add the gelatin and stir with a fork until all the granules are wet. Set aside.

Spray a 9x13 glass baking dish with oil (or if you don't have spray, put a little oil on a paper towel and wipe the inside of the dish. Set aside.

In a large, heavy bottomed pan, add 3/4 cup water. Return to your marshmallow syrup. If you just made it, the syrup should still be viscous enough to pour. Measure out 1 1/4 cups of the syrup and add to the pan. (If you made the syrup ahead of time it will be a solid mass. In a separate saucepan, boil about 1 cup of water and then place the jar into the water for 1-2 minutes. This should heat the syrup enough so you can pour it). Add the 1 1/2 cups of sugar and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to melt the sugar. Once it boils, remove the spoon and place the lid. Continue boiling for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, remove the lid and do not stir. Place your thermometer in the mixture and continue to boil until it reaches 250 degrees. Once it's at temperature, remove the thermometer and turn off the heat.

Go get your gelatin. At this point, the gelatin will probably be a solid mass and smell pretty awful. Break it up into medium-sized chunks with your fork and then add to the sugar mixture. The sugar mixture will likely bubble up as you add the gelatin. Don't worry, it's just melting. Just your spoon to stir in the gelatin until no large lumps are remaining.

If using a hand mixer, do the next steps right in the pan. If you are using a stand mixer, attach the whisk-head to the mixer. Carefully take the pot over to the mixer and pour the liquid into it. Again, not a big deal if some clings to the side of your pan. No need to scrape. Be very careful not to get any liquid on yourself because it's super hot. Turn on the mixer to high and beat for 10 to 12 minutes. At first, the liquid will be translucent. As the mixing continues, it will turn bright white and start to get fluffy. It should double or triple in size. Once the mixture is bright white and the blades from the mixer leave clear streaks that do not immediately reincorporate themselves, it is done.

Pour the marshmallow batter into your prepared pan. It will need to sit for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

While the marshmallows are resting, combine the powdered sugar and cornstarch in a sealable plastic container. Using a knife, cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and the vanilla bean to the plastic container and close it. Shake a few times, then let sit until your marshmallows are dry.

Once your marshmallows are ready, set up a workspace. Sprinkle some of the vanilla powdered sugar on a cutting board and flip the marshmallow pan onto it. You may need to use your fingers or a knife to separate the marshmallows from the side of the pan. They shouldn't stick to it. Once they are out of the pan, use a pizza cutter or large knife to cut the marshmallows into pieces. Alternatively, you can use cookie cutters (oil them first). Once the marshmallows are cut, roll each piece in the vanilla powdered sugar.

Immediately dunk several marshmallows into a hot cup of cocoa.

The marshmallows will keep for up to 2 weeks in a sealed plastic container at room temperature.


  1. This is one amazing recipe and details, you do seem a thorough cook, not taking things too lightly as other recipes do on the internet. Thank you so much for sharing that! I did try the vegan recipe with agar but it's a total scam(I got cheap Agar on Ebay, £8 for 500 grs or something like that) , all it does is a gloop that doesnt set.
    It is odd, is the sugar syrup too hot or what, maybe agar doesnt have enough protein (or the right sort of protein) for the whisking to incorporate air into it? It just was a waste of time, and I did it twice (I had forgotten I had tried last year with no result!!)
    I was looking at other vegan recipes with odd ingredients like the soy protein (but I dont trust soy due to OGM treatments) so was looking into pea proteins etc... a lot of research, perhaps not today!!) but it does contain so many odd ingredients you wonder if they are good for you! (not that it should matter too much in a healthy mind..)
    Anyway, thank you for your photos and blog, it was really interesting. Blessings from Wales, in the Uk!