Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Powdered Sugar on My Pajamas (Making Marshmallows)

Since I work from home, my morning routine doesn't include guzzling coffee and battling traffic. Instead, I stumble downstairs, make a cup of coffee, and sip on it while catching up on emails.

Depending on what I have planned for the day, I might be wandering around in my pajamas for quite a while before I clean myself up and get dressed.

Sometimes that just means more time online, reading, writing, or editing. Sometimes that means I do a few things in the kitchen.

The other day, that meant cutting up some marshmallows that I had made the night before. It wasn't long before I was brushing powdered sugar off my pajamas.

Which was perfectly fine with me.

If you've never made your own marshmallows, you should give it a try. At least once. After that, if you want to start playing with more exotically flavored marshmallows, don't blame me. They're sort of addicting.

Unlike commercial marshmallows, home made marshmallows are still sort of moist inside. Not wet, exactly, but soft and smooth and fluffy.

I'm never tempted to eat commercial marshmallows. They're just not that appealing. But fresh homemade ones are a whole different story.

The primary flavor in most marshmallows is vanilla, but it's very subtle. I like vanilla a lot, so to amp up the flavor, I used double-strength vanilla. If you've never tried a double-strength vanilla and you like the flavor, I suggest you give it a try.

Or, if you want to experiment, you can try other extracts. Lemon marshmallows? Why not? Almond? Sounds good to me.

And instead of using plain old powered sugar to dust your finished marshmallows, you could use powdered candy canes for mint flavor, or mix some cocoa with your powdered sugar for a burst of chocolate.

But there's a reason why vanilla marshmallows are so popular. They work perfectly in your s'mores. And they're great if you poke them with a stick and roast them over a campfire.

Home Made Marshmallows
While this is a very simple recipe, I don't suggest attempting it without a stand mixer. A hand-held mixer might not survive the mixing.

3 packages unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon double-strength vanilla
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Nonstick cooking spray

Place the gelatin in the bowl of your stand mixer and add 1/2 cup of the water. Let this stand while you work on the rest of the recipe.

In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar and cornstarch.

Spray a 9x13 glass or metal baking pan with baking spray. Sift the powdered sugar into the pan, making sure that the entire pan is covered in a thin layer. Set aside the excess.

Put the granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, and the remaining 1/4 cup of water into a medium saucepan. Cover the saucepan and heat on medium-high heat until it comes to a boil. Let it cook for another minute at a boil.

Uncover the pot and attach a candy thermometer to the pot. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches 250 degrees, then turn off the heat.

Attach the whisk attachment to the stand mixer and begin mixing the gelatin on low speed. Pour the hot sugar mixture into the bowl slowly, down the side of the bowl so it doesn't splash. Don't worry about getting every last bit of the sugar mixture out of the pot - it's very hot and probably not worth handling for a few tablespoons. To make cleanup easier, fill the pot with water right away.

Turn the mixer up to high speed and beat until the mixture is thick, no longer increasing in volume, and has cooled to lukewarm. Add the vanilla in the last minute or two of mixing.

Now comes the fun part. Or the messy part. Pour the marshmallow mixture into your prepared pan, trying to pour it somewhat evenly. Spray a spatula with the nonstick spray and use to to even out the top as much as possible.

Sift the reserved powdered sugar mixture over the top. If you want to flatten the marshmallows even more, put a sheet of plastic wrap on top and press gently to flatten it. Then remove the plastic wrap and let the marshmallows sit uncovered for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Dust a cutting surface with powdered sugar, then turn out the marshmallow block. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, slice the marshmallow block into strips. It's best to cut quickly rather than deliberately. As you cut each strip, dust the cut edges with powdered sugar. After all the strips are cut, cut the strips into squares, dusting the cut edges again.

Store the marshmallows in a sealed container.

And on chilly nights, these marshmallows are great in a steaming cup of hot chocolate.