Monday, December 14, 2009

Marshmallow Monday

These cold and rainy days are perfect for a hot cup of cocoa and a homemade marshmallow. If you haven't had a homemade marshmallow, you are in for a real treat. The texture is AMAZING! As a convert myself, I was astounded to discover the pillowy soft texture of a freshly made marshmallow. They melt in your mouth and you can cut them into beautiful shapes.

So, I'll share an easy recipe with you as well as some fun food science facts about marshmallows.

First, marshmallows are actually a foam- they are a made with sugar and gelatin with plenty of whipped in air. Click here for the recipe link and below I'll show you the step-by-step.

1. Start by measuring the corn syrup with sugar, water and salt in a saucepan. You will need a candy thermometer for this step. Temperature is critical to make sure you bring the mixture to the appropriate sugar concentration. The temperature will affect the crystallization and texture of the candy.

2. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Then, without stirring, take the mixture to 238F which is the soft ball stage. Make sure the candy thermometer does not touch the bottom of the pan to get an accurate measurement. Be very, very careful as the sugar is molten and can cause serious burns if touched.

For more information about the different cooking stages of sugar, click on this link to the Exploratorium site on the Science of Candy. It's a great link and hilarious as well.

2. While you are waiting for the sugar mixture to come up to temperature, mix the unflavored gelatin and water in a bowl for at least 5 minutes. This step is hydrating the gelatin. Gelatin is a protein that will stabilize the foam and keep the air bubbles that you will whip in from collapsing. I think powdered gelatin has a stinky smell when it is rehydrated. Gelatin is typically an animal product in case you are vegan or vegetarian. Don't worry, the marshmallows won't taste or smell like that.

3. Once the sugar solution is up to 238F and the gelatin has been hydrated, carefully pour the hot mixture into the bowl with the gelatin and using the whisk attachment, gradually take the mixture to high speed for 12 min.

4. The mixture will transform from a transparent solution to a thick, white mixture that looks like a taffy marshmallow. Add the vanilla.

5. While the mixture is thick, it still flows.

6. Spread the mixture into an oiled 9 X 13 glass dish lined with parchment and oiled again. I use a spray oil to even coat the pan and even the spatula, to prevent sticking. The mixture is sticky and tacky!

7. The recipe says to let the mixture sit for 3 hours or more. I don't always wait that long though. Remove the marshmallow from the dish onto a cutting board with powdered sugar.

8.Using powdered sugar to prevent stickiness, I cut the marshmallows into shapes like stars, trees or snowflakes. Toss the marshmallows in powdered sugar to coat them.

And there you have it! These marshmallows are beautiful in a cup of hot cocoa or delicious on their own! Enjoy!