… but, I do know a good marshmallow when I meet one. In my child-like idealism, the perfect marshmallow prompts an uncontrollable inner squeal that erupts when the light, airy wonder deflates, with just a teasing fluffy resistance, in the mouth.
I had never given much thought to attempting marshmallow in my kitchen. I mean, the thrill can be had so predictably so cheaply, why would I bother?
Jean Georges, that’s why.
Ever since I first experienced the magic of getting fresh house-made marshmallows snipped with sheers at his restaurant, I’ve been yearning to master the wizardry.
Moreover, the one thing that these house-made marshmallows have that store-bought ones don’t have, are unique flavors. At restaurants around the world, I’ve been served espresso, grapefruit, orange blossom, cocoa, licorice, and banana-flavored marshmallows.
So, when I saw the recipe for “Toasted Coconut Marshmallows” in this (December, 2007) issue of Gourmet Magazine, I had to make it. The strange thing is, I’m not particularly enthusiastic about coconut. But, it was a novelty, and the recipe seemed like a simple and straightforward way of getting along on my marshmallow-making journey.
The long and the short of it is: they were good, but not great. The marshmallows were too dense – not airy, not fluffy – more chewy and gummy. Moreover, they were a *mess* to make.
I am no scientist. While some of my peers geeked out over the periodic chart, I nerded poetically over British genealogy, dead painters, cookbooks, and spent way too much time in the dark room. So, using nothing more than common sense, I played with a few marshmallow recipes and came up with my own recipe and technique that yielded those fluffy wonders that I dream about. Blissfully, the recipe below involves no candy thermometers and requires very little gray matter – just a watch with a second hand.
The key to a soft, fluffy marshmallow is not letting the sugar boil too long. Supposedly, sugar crosses a magical line somewhere between 240 and 260 degrees F that sends it sailing from a “softball” stage into “hardball stage.” Maybe some of you geeks out there can tell us nerds exactly where that line is. All this nerd needs to know, is to not let the sugar mixture boil vigorously for more than a minute. This also makes cleaning up a lot easier, as the fluff doesn’t get as mastic and gooey as it does when the sugar flirts with that magic line of scrimmage. Believe me, you will pay a heavy penalty for a false start or offsides violation here.
I can’t take all the all credit for this recipe. Truth be told, most of it is based off a technique offered by Thomas Keller.
These festive and delightfully pink peppermint marshmallows are best floated on a cup of hot cocoa on a cold night. Enjoy!
u.e.’s Peppermint Marshmallows
Makes about 8 dozen medium-sized marshmallows
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 tablepsoons unflavored gelatin, approximately 3 packages
1 Pinch of salt
3/4 cup water, divided 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 or 3 drops of red food coloring (optional)
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar for dusting
1. Coat a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with oil and dust with confectioners’ sugar.
2. Pour 1/2 cup of cold water into a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let it stand for 10 minutes.
3. Put the granulated sugar, corn syrup and 1/4 cup water a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring lightly at first to ensure that the sugar dissolves completely. Let the mixture boil (bubble vigorously) for approximately a minute to a minute and a half – no more. Remove from heat immediately. With the stand mixer on low speed, carefully drizzle the hot sugar syrup in a small, steady stream into the gelatin mixture. Add a pinch of salt and gradually increase the speed to medium. When the mixture has begun to froth and stabilize (approximately 1-2 minutes), increase the mixer speed to high and beat until fluffy, approximately 8 minutes.*
4. With the mixer still set on high speed, add the peppermint extract and red food coloring, if using, and beat for another minute, but no more.**
5. As quickly as you can, scrape mixture into the prepared oiled and coated baking dish with a spatula. Smooth the top of the mixture with slightly moistened hands and leave to cool for at least 2 hours or overnight. If you are cooling for longer than 2 hours, you will need to cover the baking dish with plastic wrap. If doing so, either oil and dust the plastic wrap with confectioner’s sugar, or be very careful that the plastic wrap does not touch the top of the marshmallow fluff (stretch the wrap taut by clinging it to the edges of the pan). Otherwise, it will be nearly impossible to get the plastic wrap off later.
6. Dust the top of the marshmallow fluff with confectioner’s sugar and turn out onto a surface lightly dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Using kitchen sheers, large scissors, or pizza cutter, cut fluff into approximately 1-inch strips (or other desired size). Cut each strip into cubes, each, about 1-inch in width to make a 1-inch cube. Dredge the marshmallows through confectioner’s sugar, to coat.
7. Marshmallows will keep for up to one month in an airtight container lined between layers of parchment paper.
*Most recipes tell you to mix the marshmallow fluff on high for 15 minutes. I find that this is too much time; it lets the fluff cool and harden just enough so that it’s harder to get out of the bowl. Also, the cooling and extra beating seems to over-work the fluff. I found the marshmallows more fluffy after beating for a mere 8 minutes on high.
** Depending on how pink/red you want your marshmallows, you may need more than 2 drops. I find that 3 will give you noticeable, but still light pink. Another option is to drop in a couple of drops with the mixer on low, which gives a swirling affect.