Marshmallows were originally made using sap from the roots of the marsh mallow plant. The sap was cooked with egg whites and sugar and whipped into a foam. The foam hardened as it cooled and was used as a type of throat lozenge (marsh mallow sap was thought to be a cough suppressant). Today the sap has been replaced with gelatin, egg whites have been phased out of most recipes, and the restorative properties of marshmallows are limited to curing a sweet tooth! You can easily make these delightful confections in your own kitchen. Delicious on their own or even more decadent dipped in chocolate and garnished with nuts, sprinkles or toasted coconut.
Lightly oil the foil (or parchment), and set aside until needed.
Pour 1/2 cup of the water into the mixing bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface of the water, and set aside.
Combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt and remaining water in a 2-quart sauce pan over medium-high heat. Stir just until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to the boil (Note: It is important that all the sugar is dissolved before the liquid comes to the boil). Place a lid on the pan, and cook for 3 minutes to allow any sugar crystal on the sides of the pan to dissolve. Uncover the pan, increase the heat to high, and attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan so that the tip is submerged but is not resting on the bottom of the pan. Let the syrup boil, without stirring, until the thermometer registers 244°F (firm-ball stage). Remove from the heat.
With the mixer at medium-low speed, carefully pour the hot syrup into the spongy gelatin mixture in a slow, steady stream. Once all has been added, increase the speed to high and whisk until the mixture has cooled to lukewarm, is snowy white and the consistency of marshmallow fluff, about 15 minutes. Add the vanilla extract in the last minute of mixing. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Use a lightly oiled offset spatula to smooth the mixture into an even layer. Let stand uncovered, at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.
Sift about one-third of the confectioners’ sugar onto a large cutting board. Invert the pan of marshmallows onto the board. Peel off and discard the aluminum foil (or parchment paper). Sift confectioners’ sugar over the marshmallows, covering the surface evenly. Sift the remaining confectioners’ sugar onto a large plate (or shallow, flat dish) and set aside.
Brush the blade of a long, heavy knife lightly with vegetable oil (or spray lightly with vegetable oil spray). Cut the marshmallows into 1-inch wide strips. Dip the cut sides in the confectioners’ sugar on the plate, then cross cut the strips into 1-inch squares. (Note: Alternatively, use a small, lightly oiled cookie cutter to cut the marshmallows into festive shapes.) Dip the cut sides of each marshmallow into the confectioners’ sugar, then shake gently to remove any excess.
To Coat Marshmallows with Chocolate: Place the marshmallows in the freezer briefly (5 to 10 minutes). Using a skewer, chocolate fork or toothpick, dip the chilled marshmallows into the tempered chocolate, either coating them entirely or coating only one half, whichever you desire. Allow any excess chocolate to drip off, then place the chocolate-covered marshmallows onto a lightly oiled wire rack (or piece of parchment paper or foil). Alternatively, place the melted, tempered chocolate in a piping bag, and drizzle chocolate "stripes" over the marshmallows. Sprinkle the tops of the marshmallows with chopped nuts, toasted coconut, sprinkles or jimmies, if using. Allow the chocolate to set completely, then store in a single layer in a tightly covered container at room temperature. Marshmallows will keep for 1 week. Plain marshmallows (not coated with chocolate) may be frozen in a freezer zip-top bag for up to one month. The marshmallows will compress slightly but will be fine once they are defrosted.
Tips and Techniques
Variation: Insert a slender pretzel rod into each marshmallow. Use the pretzel as a "handle" for dipping the marshmallows and for eating. The combination of sweet and salty flavors is a favorite.
* Melt two-thirds of the chocolate in a double boiler over hot, but not simmering, water. Melt the chocolate until it reaches a temperature of approximately 118° (use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature; do not go over 120°F, or the chocolate will separate). Remove the top of the double boiler containing the chocolate, and place it on a towel on the counter. Stir in the remaining one-third of the chocolate, stirring to melt and cool the mixture to approximately 80°F. Once the chocolate has cooled to this temperature, it must be reheated. Place the bowl back over the double boiler and heat to 91°F for dark chocolate and 85 to 87°F for milk chocolate and white chocolate. The mixture should be smooth and glossy.
Makes about 99 (one inch) marshmallows
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