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Posts Tagged ‘marshmallow’

  1. Making Marshmallows: Part 2

    January 28, 2015 by Daniora


    So, in the last post, we went over the basics of how marshmallows are made. Once you have a good grasp of the concept and a couple of successful batches under your belt, you can start expanding your marshmallow prowess.

    Before I get back into the marvels of marshmallows, you’re gonna need something to do with the piles of them you’ll be creating. Sure, there are lots of possibilities.  You can absolutely just eat them as they are. Dip them in chocolate or melt them on cookies. There are even entire cookbooks dedicated to various permutations of s’mores that can be made. As there is about two feet of snow outside my door right now, though, I’m going to suggest the classic choice:

    Hot chocolate.

    Here at the Nerdly Home, however, we do not stop at powdered packets of Swiss Miss. Not that there’s anything wrong with powdered hot chocolate. It is certainly convenient in a pinch, and many of them can be quite tasty. No, what I’m suggesting is actual drinking chocolate.

    ‘What’s the difference?” you may ask. And if you do, I’ll know that you’ve never had drinking chocolate before.

    There seems to be no real consensus on the ‘proper’ way to make drinking chocolate. This actually works in our favor. We can now adapt the recipe entirely to our own personal preferences. Try new things. Experiment! With chocolate! For science!

    It's schmallow time!

    It’s schmallow time!

    The basic building blocks of drinking chocolate are 2 ounces of finely chopped chocolate and 8 ounces of milk. The milk is heated and the chocolate is melted into it. Simple enough, yes? Good. Now comes the fun part.

    Your choices in chocolate are almost endless. You can choose your preference of milk or dark (or white, I suppose, but that’s not really chocolate). Or try a mix. Use leftover chocolate chips or candy bars. I’ve even used a few slices of a chocolate orange. Some recipes call for also adding cocoa powder and sugar to the mix. I personally haven’t found either of these necessary; I generally prefer to simply add more chocolate if it’s lacking flavor.

    There are also options when it comes to your milk. Skim, whole, something in between, all fine. I haven’t tried using non-dairy milk, but I’m sure it would work just as well. Some even suggest using half and half, but that’s a bit much for me. A little splash of cream at the end is decadent. Whipped cream on top? Why not!

    The final step is deciding if you’re going to add any extra flavorings to your chocolate. Cinnamon and chili turns it into Mayan chocolate. A tiny pinch of salt can help balance the sweetness of the chocolate. Cloves, cardamom, and allspice are also contenders. Maybe a shot of espresso to give it a kick. And you’ll rarely go amiss with a splash of vanilla. These are all options you can change based on your taste and mood.

    Of course, there is one other way to add extra flavor to your already decadent drinking chocolate. You can always float a few flavored marshmallows on top. Yes, that’s right. Flavored marshmallows. While vanilla is a classic flavor, it is by no means the only one. The possibilities, I have discovered, are endless. Some are certainly more successful than others, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying things. Because science.

    The simplest way of changing the flavor of your marshmallows is to substitute a different extract in place of the vanilla. Peppermint marshmallows are a popular choice, since mint and chocolate go so well together, and they are the result of this kind of simple swapping of flavorings. You can also add a couple of drops of food coloring to the mix to tint them, helping to indicate the flavor. There are a variety of other extracts available that you could use to make your marshmallows a little less ordinary.

    I was looking for something a bit more involved.

    My first foray into alternatively flavored marshmallows was a big one. With my love of all things pumpkin, I took a leap and tried out pumpkin spice marshmallows.

    It's like a pumpkin pie, only light and fluffy.

    It’s like a pumpkin pie, only light and fluffy.

    The process was very similar to the vanilla marshmallows, just with the addition of pumpkin puree into the gelatin and the extra spices. The resulting marshmallows were yummy. They had that classic pumpkin spice flavor that I, as a dyed-in-the-wool New Englander, crave the second there’s that first hint of crisp autumn chill in the air. The consistency of these was tricky, though; they were extra sticky. No matter how many times I tossed them in the powdered sugar, they would inevitably wind up all stuck together into one mega marshmallow again. I have a feeling that this is the result of the extra moisture added by the pumpkin puree.

    The less-than-ideal solution that I eventually stumbled upon was letting them sit out in the open air for a couple hours. This let the very outer layer get just stale enough to keep the moisture contained. They lost some of that heavenly soft texture, but they didn’t stick together anymore.

    Browsing through marshmallow recipes, I found lots of interesting options. The next one that caught my eye enough for me to decide to give it a try was a gift from my new favorite organization: the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers (seriously, they have maple recipes for everything). Yup, that’s right. Maple marshmallows.

    From top to botom:  Coffee, maple, vanilla

    From top to botom:
    Coffee, maple, vanilla

    The cool thing about this recipe is that you replace the sugar and the corn syrup with maple syrup, which you then cook down. For this recipe, I do recommend using the candy thermometer as recommended. It’s basically the only way to know when you’ve boiled enough water out of the syrup. Added benefit of making these: the house smells like maple syrup for hours. Delicious.

    I happened to have some leftover maple sugar in the cabinet from a previous baking project. I remembered learning that if you found yourself in need of powdered sugar, you could put granulated sugar in a food processor and pulverize it. I was a little concerned about the confectioners’ sugar overpowering the maple flavor, so I did make a little bit of maple powdered sugar to mix in. It worked perfectly, with one exception. I opened the top of the food processor too soon and inhaled quite a cloud of maple powder. It’s alright, though. I have Canadian heritage; that stuff’s probably in my blood already.

    The third and final marshmallow adventure for this round was completely irresistible. Coffee marshmallows. When melted into a nice, rich hot chocolate, the resulting beverage is a mocha delight.

    Gelatin blooming in cold espresso.

    Gelatin blooming in cold espresso.

    The flavoring for these beauties comes from replacing the cold water used to bloom the gelatin with strong, cold espresso. It’s a neat way to add flavor without changing the process or consistency. This recipe also adds a little cocoa powder. This helps add color to the finished marshmallows and balance out the harsh coffee flavor with smooth chocolate notes. I also added some cocoa powder to the powered sugar I used for dusting. It helped them retain their identity as ‘not vanilla’ marshmallows and added just a little more flavor.

    This is certainly not the last time we’ll talk about marshmallows. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m rather a fan. I’ve got a lot of things that I still want to try. Almost any flavor out there, there’s probably a marshmallow recipe for it.

  2. Making Marshmallows: Part 1

    January 26, 2015 by Daniora

    Marshmallow pile

    Some people will tell you that cooking is art. Some say that it’s science. There are plenty of valid arguments for both sides.

    Making marshmallows is freaking magic.

    No, I’m serious here. It is one of the most delightful feats of alchemy turning sugar, water, and gelatin into light, fluffy marshmallows. It’s something that requires a little bit of know how and the proper tools, but really, what doesn’t require those things.

    Telling people that I’ve made marshmallows is invariably met with a level of incredulity that none of my other endeavors face. I’ve made a name for myself as someone who can do anything. I’ll chalk this up to my vastly varied interests and eclectic skill set. Somehow, though, these same people who tell me that I can do anything are the same ones who say “You can’t make marshmallows”.  As if somehow to imply that these confections simply appear from some other dimension to make gooey s’mores or melt in our hot chocolate.

    Not that the truth is much less miraculous.

    So, let’s start at the beginning. There are five basic ingredients to a marshmallow: gelatin, water, sugar, corn syrup, and flavoring. Simple enough and readily available. The real secret lies in how you put them together.

    Vanilla marshmallow

    Vanilla Marshmallows


    • 3 (1/4-ounce) packages unflavored gelatin
    • 1/2 cup cold water
    • 2 cups granulated sugar
    • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


    1. Prepare a 9″x9″ baking pan with cooking spray and plastic wrap (more about this in a bit)
    2. Bloom the gelatin: Place the 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Sprinkle the unflavored gelatin over the water. Let stand for 10 minutes.
    3. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water. Place saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil; boil rapidly for 1 minute. Remove from heat, and, with the mixer on high, slowly pour the boiling syrup down the side of the mixer bowl into gelatin mixture.
    4. Beat on medium high speed for 12 minutes until white and fluffy.
    5. Add vanilla extract and stir for 1 additional minute until well combined.
    6. Spray a spatula with cooking spray. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly with the prepared spatula. Cover with additional plastic wrap. Allow to sit for 4 hours or overnight.
    7. Dust a cutting board with confectioners’ sugar. Turn the set marshmallows onto the cutting board. Remove all plastic wrap. Cut marshmallows into desired size (I like mine about 1″ square) using a sprayed sharp knife. Place confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl. Working in batches, add marshmallows to bowl and toss to coat. Finished marshmallows can be kept in a plastic bag or airtight container.


    And just like that, you’ve made marshmallows from scratch. Now, there are a few little tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way that make the job easier.

    Marshmallow is extremely sticky stuff. Preparing your pan is one of the most important steps. I usually use a glass pan, but as I was making several batches, I wound up moving to aluminum pans, which worked out just fine. I first spray the pan with a light coating of cooking spray. This will help keep the plastic wrap in place. Next I line the pan with plastic wrap, leaving enough overhang on the edges that I will be able to fold it up to cover the marshmallow while it sets. Don’t worry about getting it smooth; the wrinkles won’t be noticeable in the finished marshmallows. Once the pan is lined, I then spray the plastic wrap with cooking spray.

    Prepared pan

    Aluminum pan lined with plastic wrap and generously sprayed with cooking spray.

    I’ve been through a few different recipes for marshmallows. Many of them require using a candy thermometer to bring the syrup up to the proper temperature. None of the recipes agreed on exactly what that temperature should be. Getting ingredients to the right temperature for the right amount of time is, of course, the trickiest part of any sugar work. However, it seems to me that this more simple process of letting it come to a rapid boil for 1 minute resulted in the best texture and consistency. Some of the other batches wound up a bit tougher, almost rubbery. These were soft and fluffy.

    Double, double toil and trouble;  Fire burn, and 'shmallows bubble.

    Double, double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn, and ‘shmallows bubble.

    I know a stand mixer is rather a large item to be a necessary piece of equipment. I suppose this could be managed with a hand mixer, but it’d be a trickier proposition. It’s nice to have that 12 minutes of ‘set it and forget it’ to clean your cooking utensils of hot sugar syrup before it hardens. It’s this process of whipping air into the sugar syrup as it cools that turns it into the fluffy, sticky mess we’re looking for. This is so magical, in fact, that I made a time lapse of it…

    The beginning is a little rough from all the steam clouding the lens as the initial heat is released from the syrup. And right at the end, if you watch the side of the bowl carefully, you can see a big splatter… That would be the part where I was focused so much on capturing the time lapse, that I neglected to think about how hot the mixture still was and how volatile vanilla extract is. So, yeah, that’s basically the result of all the alcohol in the extract I thoughtlessly dumped into the bowl vaporizing immediately. Whoops. They turned out just fine in the end, though.

    Now this is some professional set up...

    Now this is some professional set up…

    Stay tuned for more marshmallow talk where we’ll talk about just some of the flavor possibilities.