Homemade Marshmallows, updated for 2012

People think marshmallows are complex, difficult things to make. “Jet puffed!” implies some magical thing that “marshmallows” sugar and gelatin into fluffy goodness.

Not so. Marshmallows are candy, and they require a strong mixer, but your average stand mixer will do the job just fine.  The only way you could “jet” marshmallows would be to use the engine as a mixer, I suppose. Really, like meringue or whipped cream, marshmallows depend on the incorporation of air into a matrix, in this case sugar and gelatin, beaten at high speed for about 11 minutes. Science is important with candy, and temperature is critical.

Work fast, work smart, and be prepared for things to be very, very sticky. 

Tools needed:

Candy thermometer
Stand mixer with a good motor (Using anything else may result in your arms falling off and the mixer breaking)
2 quart saucepan
Measuring spoons, cups, heat-resistant spatula, chopping knife
9×13 pan
Plastic wrap or foil

3 packets gelatin
1/2 cup water very cold
AND 1/4 cup water (temp not so important)
1 cup unbleached granulated cane sugar
1 cup brown sugar and/or sucanat (I might use 1/4 cup sucanat and 3/4 cup packed brown sugar) (other raw, unprocessed sugar from cane or beets is fine. Using alternate sweeteners will create unpredictable results.)
2/3 cup corn syrup (non-HFCS, just plain corn syrup or glucose syrup. Light is fine. The glucose is the important factor as it helps keeps things moist and not too sweet.)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Unflavored cooking spray
Confectioners’ sugar and/or cocoa, carob, and/or tapioca, potato starch, to taste.

Spray the 9×13 pan liberally with cooking spray

In the stand mixer bowl, pour the 1/2 cup cold water and sprinkle 3 packets of gelatin over the surface
In the saucepan, put the sugars and corn syrup and 1/4 cup water. Stir until mostly blended, turn on heat, medium high or high. Clip the candy thermometer to the side of the pan so the tip is not touching the side or bottom of the pan but is in the sugar mixture. While the sugar mixture is heating, do not stir. Heat until candy thermometer reads 238-240 degrees (soft ball stage).

Remove syrup from heat quickly, turn the mixer on, and carefully pour the sugar syrup in.

Turn mixer on high, sprinkle in a tiny bit of salt

All parts of this process are important, but this is the “secret” most of them don’t tell you and will in some cases make the difference between success and failure in marshmallow making.

Put on a couple of oven mitts on, and holding the bowl’s handle with one hand and the other hand under the bowl to stabilize it, lift the bowl up a small amount so that the beaters hit the sides and bottom. This will help all the gelatin to mix in well. Do this every 1-2 minutes for the first half of mixing, then every 3-4 minutes during the last half.

Beat the mixture for 11 minutes, then add in the vanilla and peppermint extracts and beat for 1 more minute.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Spray the plastic wrap or foil (same size as the pan is needed) with cooking spray, put it on top of the mixture, and use it to smooth out the marshmallow.

Alternative: before pouring the mixture into the prepared pan, sprinkle the pan with crushed candy canes. This adds a delightful crunch. I’m going to try a mix of candy canes and white chocolate chips this year.

Let sit for at least two hours, as long as 12.

Cover a surface (counter or cutting board, be prepared for powdery mess) with one of the following mixtures, to taste:

Pure confectioners sugar (sweet and simple)
A mixture of confectioners sugar and cocoa (1:1 ratio approximately) (if you like chocolate, also works well in hot cocoa)
Pure carob powder (no need to add sugar, carob is sweet)
A mixture of powdered sugar and tapioca or potato starch (makes it less sweet overall)
Plain potato or tapioca starch (good mouth-feel, doesn’t add sweet to the already-sweet marshmallows)

Remove the plastic wrap or foil from the pan, cover your hands with cooking spray, and turn the marshmallow out onto the powdered surface.

Spray a long chopping knife with cooking spray.

To cut marshmallows, press the knife straight down, rock it a tiny bit, the marshmallow will separate after a second. Make all of your cuts in one direction, then cut in the other direction to make small squares, we find 1×1 inch squares to be about perfect, other people like 2 x 2 inch squares, but I find that unwieldy and large.

Turn each square in the powder until it is covered on all four sides.

I store them in a large ziplock bag, but they will go well in tins too. They are freshest in the first 3 days or so, but will last up to a month.

These are delicious for s’mores and cocoa, but also just for eating, they are much more flavorful than store-bought marshmallows, even so-called “homemade” ones.

To make rice crispy treats, put a bit of shortening or butter (I use non-hydrogenated shortening) in a metal bowl, pour the marshmallow directly onto that from the mixer, then add rice crispies or other crisp cereal, stir until coated and then pour into pans.

Other flavoring combinations can be used. Suggestions:

2012 Special! Peppermint Bark marshmallows

I bought natural peppermint chips (basically broken candy canes colored with beet juice rather than food coloring) and Peppermint Bark Chips from Trader Joe’s (pulverized peppermint bark, which is layered dark and white chocolate with natural candy cane fragments)… spread that over the bottom of the pan after greasing and before pouring in the marshmallows (about half peppermint bark and half peppermint chips).
Just vanilla (use 2 teaspoons)
Almond (use 1/2 – 1 teaspoon)
Root beer marshmallows are divine, especially if you put pecans in. I mixed my own blend, but the essential ingredients are a drop or two of wintergreen extract, (only a drop! TINY TINY), vanilla, licorice or anise extract, a drop of clove oil, a tiny bit of ginger, maybe a little cinnamon. Taste test your mix in a little fizzy water with sweetener before making marshmallows. Use brown Karo syrup, brown sugar, and sprinkle chopped pecans into the prepped pan before you pour the marshmallow in.

This recipe is adapted substantially from Martha Stewart’s recipe for Peppermint Marshmallows.

I find that while her pure-sugar version is whiter, mine tastes better with the brown sugar. Much richer. And she just adds peppermint, not peppermint and vanilla. The vanilla gives a richer, “rounder” flavor and takes a bit of the bite from the peppermint, it’s truly delicious.

Please note: A candy thermometer is really important for this. You can get them for as little as $3-$4. My favorite cost $9.99 and is very long, it looks like an oversized meat thermometer. Meat thermometers will not work, as they only go up to 220 degrees and we need at least 238. NO MORE than 250, period, or you will get taffy. Trust me on this.

If you want to put in maple syrup, do not try to substitute it for the corn syrup, as the texture will be very odd (nougat comes to mind.) It can be substituted for part of the table sugar and a bit of the water.

Posted in Food, Recipes, Sweets.

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