Dec 21, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Homemade Marshmallows

Ever had a homemade marshmallow?


To quote Ham from The Sandlot, "You're killin' me Smalls!" (You DO remember the s'mores scene, yes?)
"Pay attention! First you take the graham.  You stick the chocolate on the graham. Then you roast the 'mallow..."
As Ham summed it up, they're kind of messy, but good.  And I would add, the only thing better than a s'more is a s'more made with homemade mallows.

There is some work involved - you'll need a candy thermometer (see tip below) and a heavy-duty mixer (or a REALLY strong bicep to beat these things.)  But the end result is a marshmallow that is creamier and smoother than anything Stay-Puf or Jet could dream of making.  Each year I make a batch, cut them into squares and package a few to tuck in with hot cocoa mix and a cute Christmas mug for each of my third grade Sunday School students.  Sweet dreams!

The leftover squares (and there are always a few) are coveted and fought over by middle son and swimmer girl to float in their hot chocolate while they last.  These sound complicated (most candy-making recipes do), but it's like riding a bike - it's easier than the instructions sound.

Homemade Marshmallows

3 each 1/4-ounce packages unflavored gelatin (I buy a big box of these and it lasts forever)
1 cup water, divided in half
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons vanilla (see note below)
vegetable oil
powdered sugar
crushed peppermints (optional)

Place 1/2 cup water in a large mixing bowl.  Sprinkle the unflavored gelatin over the top and let sit.  Lightly oil the bottom and sides of a 9x13 pan (I prefer a metal one with straight sides, but glass pans work, too.)  Place a piece of parchment paper in the oiled pan, with at least an inch or two of overhang on the short sides.  Lightly spray or oil the parchment, then sprinkle lightly with a teaspoon or two of powdered sugar on the bottom.  (You can use foil instead of parchment, but parchment is a lot easier to lift and peel away.)  If you want to make peppermint marshmallows crush or chop peppermint candies with a rolling pin or heavy-duty food processor; set aside.

Place the other 1/2 cup of water in a heavy-bottom 1 1/2 or 2 quart saucepan. Add sugar, corn syrup and salt. Over medium-low heat, bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Once it begins to boil, cover with a lid and allow to boil unstirred for 3 minutes.  This will allow the moisture to condense and wash off any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan.

Uncover and turn the heat up to high.  Using the candy thermometer, bring to 240 degrees - do not overcook.  Remove from heat.  Begin to beat the gelatin and water mixture at a medium speed.  Slowly pour the hot mixture into the bowl in a steady stream.  After it has all been poured in, beat on high for 8-12 minutes or until the mixture is lukewarm and looks like marshmallow fluff.  Add the vanilla (I don't add any if I'm making peppermint mallows, but you can add some or all of the 2 teaspoons if you want slightly sweeter confections.)

Working quickly, scrape mixture from bowl into prepared pan and smooth top.  It will be hideously sticky and get on everything.  Just keep going until it's done.  If you're making peppermint mallows, sprinkle the chopped peppermints on top and press gently into mixture.

Allow to cool for several hours or up to 12 hours.  Turn out on cutting board or countertop lightly dusted with powdered sugar and cut.  I use a pizza roller to cut strips lengthwise, then into squares. Mine come out to about 1 1/2 inches square.  Roll your pizza cutter and the fresh-cut edges in powdered sugar to keep things from getting too sticky.  To store, place in airtight container with a layer of waxed paper or parchment in between.  They will keep at room temperature for up to two weeks.

*A tip for better candy-making. A friend alerted me to this helpful tip and I'm very thankful - it saves a lot of aggravation and failed candy.  Cheap candy thermometers are notoriously unreliable but they are still useful kitchen tools.  Regardless of how cheap or expensive, you should calibrate yours before you plunge into candy-making.  Here's how:  fill a 2-quart pan with water and bring to a rolling boil. Once the water begins to boil, insert or clip on the thermometer and monitor it.  It may take up to ten minutes but once it tops out, you'll know how close or far off yours is from 100 C or 212 F.  (in fairness, some of the difference is barometric pressure.) Mine was 6 degrees off this year; I simply adjusted my recipes by 6 degrees so I didn't overcook the candy.

Happy mallow-making!

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