Maybe it’s the plethora of multi-colored peeps lining the grocery store shelves, but the beginning of spring always makes me crave marshmallows. Not those tough bland round things you find in plastic bags, though. I want big fluffy melt-in-your-mouth and full of flavor marshmallows – the kind I can only get from making them myself.
So on the vernal equinox, I presented all my friends with little packages of puffy white squares. Most people don’t even know that it’s possible to make your own marshmallows. My friends looked at me with suspicion and wrinkled noses when I explained what they were. They gingerly held them in their hands and sniffed before daring to take a small nibble. Then the magic happened. A smile spread across their faces, and their eyes rolled back in their heads. They shoved the whole thing in their mouths, smiled at me with powdered sugar-covered teeth and longingly asked, “Do you have any more?”
So I made more. And more. And still they demanded more.
Suddenly I became tired of only making plain vanilla marshmallows. Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I’m a girl who likes to explore. I realized if I was going to be on a marshmallow-making spree, I needed to shake it up. Go a little wild. Let my marshmallow freak flag fly.
So I’ve decided to undertake a marshmallow experiment. I will be creating a different flavor every week or so and will post the results until I run out of ideas…or get bored…or move on to experimenting with something – or someone – else.
On this Marshmallow Monday, none of you will be the least bit surprised as I present to you:
You’ll also need a stand mixer like a Kitchenaid. Don’t even try to make marshmallows with a hand mixer. You need to whip them for at least fifteen minutes, and a hand mixer just can’t take it. Yep, marshmallows like to be whipped – long and hard. Just like the baker. Mmmmm hmmmmm. Oh yeah. Wait, what was I talking about? Mixers. Right. You need a stand mixer. Here’s mine. The lovely yellowish greenish mixer on the right is one my mom got before my 1st birthday which was a very long time ago. It still kicks ass in the kitchen. Kitchenaids rock. You also need a candy thermometer. I like the kind that you can attach to the side of the pan. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can always do it the old fashioned way, but a thermometer is much easier.
First you put 3/4 cup of liquid in the bowl of the mixer, sprinkle four packets of gelatin over the top and let it sit for a few minutes. This is called “blooming” the gelatin which means it turns it into a gooey mass. For vanilla marshmallows I would use water, but for these I substituted limoncello for the water. After several minutes I realized the gelatin was not blooming. Having not paid much attention in pastry school to the actual chemistry of things, I didn’t know exactly what but figured that something must be wrong with using all limoncello. See how this is liquid and there are granules all around the side of the bowl? This is not what you want.
So I dumped the mess and started again, this time using 1/2 cup of limoncello and 1/4 cup water. I also figured that the lemon flavor wouldn’t be as strong, so I added two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. See how this looks sort-of firm and gooey? That’s what you want to see. When it looks like this, stick the bowl on the mixer with the whip attachment all ready to go.
Then in a saucepan you put 1 and 1/4 cups of corn syrup, 3/4 cup water, 1/4 tsp. of salt and 3 cups of sugar. Only I didn’t have 3 cups of sugar. I only had about 2 and 1/4. Groaning because the closest store is 40 minutes away I decided to improvise. I had a box of sugar cubes in the pantry and grabbed those. Each sugar cube is 4 grams. A cup is…um…..hmmmm. Another moment where paying attention in either math or pastry school would have been to my benefit, but alas, my philosophy of “life is an art not a science” always won in the end. So I grabbed a couple of handfuls of sugar cubes, threw them in, said a little prayer to the candy making gods, turned on the burner to medium high and stuck the candy thermometer to the side of the pan. I’m sure that you will have 3 full cups of sugar in your cupboard and will use that.
You need to stir this mixture at first so the sugar doesn’t burn and smell up your house and ruin your saucepan and cause you to swear you’ll never make another marshmallow as long as you live. Within minutes the sugar will be dissolved, and the mixture will be boiling. It needs to reach a soft ball stage which is 235 – 240 degrees Fahrenheit. This is supposed to be a picture of the syrup boiling and the thermometer at 240 degrees, but the steam kept fogging up the camera. You get the idea.
When the syrup reaches this stage, take it off the heat. Make sure the splash guard is on your mixer and turn it on the highest setting. Then slowly pour the hot syrup down the inside of the bowl so that it gradually mixes into the gelatin. Make sure the splash guard is on. Did I say that already? Boiling hot sugar syrup splashing into your eye is not a pleasant experience. Trust me.
Let this whip for fifteen minutes. This will give you plenty of time to clean up the sticky mess on the stove and counter and do the dishes. Or you can be like me and use the time to sit on the couch and have a lovely glass of what’s left of the limoncello. There’s always time later for dishes but limoncello waits for no one. You also need to prepare a pan by rubbing it with oil and dusting it with a mixture of powdered sugar and cornstarch in equal parts that you’ve mixed in a bowl. Cover this bowl and save it. You’ll need it later.
Now just use a spatula to help pour the pre-marshmallow goop into your prepared pan and smooth the top. I didn’t get a picture of that step because I lost focus when the spatula made its last swipe across the top of the goop. There it was in my hand begging to be licked. A person with self-control would toss the naughty thing in the soapy dishwater so the temptation would be gone. I’ll give you one guess as to which option I chose.
You now have to let them sit in the pan for at least four hours, but it’s better if you wait for eight. After your grueling wait that will feel like forever, spread a layer of powdered sugar and cornstarch on your work surface as if you were going to roll out pie dough, then turn the pan upside down and flip the marshmallow mass out. You should have a firm but squishy rectangle before you.
After you cut off each square, dip it into the bowl of powdered sugar and cornstarch so that all four sides are covered. They’re too sticky to handle if you don’t. Stack them on a pretty plate and amaze your friends and family. You’ll be surprised at how quickly they disappear.
WARNING: These limoncello marshmallows turned out delicious, but don’t leave them sitting out for just anyone to grab. Each one has quite a nice amount of still-potent alcohol in it. I made the mistake of leaving these on the table before running a few errands in town. When I returned to a much smaller marshmallow pile, Squirrel was holding his stomach, moaning and mumbling about two-headed cows in the pasture. Enjoy!
P.S. Especially for Ekovox and Ladyfriend: Use all water instead of limoncello and two tablespoons of vanilla instead of lemon juice, and you’ve got the makings for the best peanut butter cup s’mores you’ve ever tasted. xoxox
P.P.S. This week’s experiment will be either dulce de leche or passion fruit marshmallows. If you’ve got an idea for a good one please leave it in the comments. Thanks!