Marshmallows of Glory

Marshmallows

I do hope you’re prepared for the fact that you’ll hear the phrase “How do you make marshmallows?” again and again and again. People seem to think that marshmallows are simply plucked from Marshmallow Trees somewhere, probably in Morocco. The thing is, it’s very simple. Boil sugar and corn syrup and then put it in a mixer with some gelatin and mix for a while before pouring it into a pan. Yeah, that’s it, good luck!

Okay, it’s slightly more complex than that, but not by much. And yet, people will look upon you as though you had conjured the marshmallows out of thin air and will expect you to perform further feats of magic. Understand, you WILL be asked to bring poor Mittens back to life, to stop the seas from raging and if at all possible, to put things to right like they were in the old days that never actually existed. If you can handle the responsibility, then make these marshmallows with my blessing. If you’re worried about being able to perform the requests people will make of you, then you may wish to wait until I post my “How to stop the raging seas” and “How to bring kittens back to life” instructions. The only way to stop requests to bring back the old days is a short, sharp smack upside the head and a pronouncement that someone needs to understand reality. It’s helpful to have one of these marshmallows on hand after you smack someone, as anything can be forgiven after eating one of these things.

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Yeah, I buy at Kroger.

Here is the method, so that you might make some on your own. Get three envelopes of unflavored gelatin. All gelatin envelopes are a standard amount, ¼ an ounce. At least this has always proven to be true wherever I’ve traveled and found the need to make gelatin products. If France, Germany, Japan, America and Canada can get along with the idea that a packet of gelatin should only contain so much, than I think Spain and Australia can be trusted to follow along with this program. So you want ¾ of an ounce of gelatin. If you’re of the vegan persuasion, you can get some agar powder, which I’ve been told can be substituted on a one-to-one ratio. Agar is kind of expensive, and I have no reason to need it, so I can’t say I’ve actually tested it. However, I don’t want vegans to think they can’t have any marshmallows, so I’m including this information. Either way, get the gelatin/agar and put it in your mixing bowl with half a cup of water to bloom for a while. It doesn’t mater if it turns into a mass of gel at the bottom of the bowl, it will melt when the hot syrup is poured on it. Speaking of syrup…

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CHEAP!

You’ll need about 1 and ½ cups of sugar, or 12 ounces if you prefer. You will also need 1 cup of light corn syrup, which presumably doesn’t need to be weighed as I’ve never seen a weight measurement attached. One might presume that as a liquid, it can be trusted not to change volume when shifted, but as nothing else is measured by weight I think someone was just showing off. You’ll notice a moment ago I mentioned honey. Good for you spotting that, well done, three points for you. You can replace the corn syrup with honey, which will give the marshmallows a strong honey flavor. If you go for honey, you don’t need any other flavoring, although you can try to mix in things that will compliment the honey flavor. Also remember that depending on what kind of honey you use, the resulting marshmallows will not be white but a shade between very pale yellow to a nice light gold color. The darker the honey, the darker the marshmallow, but they’ll only get really genuinely yellow with food coloring. I would add food coloring to the gelatin while it blooms if I were you, if you desire coloring that is. You can experiment with this for a while because sugar, gelatin, corn syrup, and food coloring are all pretty cheap if you buy right. If you buy wrong, it could run into the millions. The only problem will be getting rid of all the marshmallows, which actually can be pretty easy as well. Once people have real home made, they seldom want to go back to the jet-puffed variety.

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Now, you put those two items into a pan with half a cup of cold water and a pinch of salt, put the heat to them. You’re looking to achieve a maximum of 240° which can be divined with a candy thermometer, or a digital thermometer. It can be a bit lower than that, but only by a few degrees and it should not be any higher or you’ll have some real trouble down the line. I aim for 237° myself, but don’t worry too much. If it gets too hot, you can just re-add water. This should take seven minutes. If you don’t have a thermometer on hand, you can look up what the softball method means and use that. I have done both and they work equally well provided you know what the hell you’re doing, which I do. See, what you’re doing is boiling off the water to produce a perfect ratio of sugar to water. The temperature is a good indicator, because of a lot of science-y things that I’m not going to go into right now. Just be careful, because we are talking first and possibly second degree burns should you spill any of this on your skin.

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DOOOOOO IIIIT!

When the mixture is to the proper temperature take it directly from the stove to the mixing bowl. I do hope you have a standing mixer, because otherwise you will be standing in one place for a long while. Ten to fifteen minutes, depending on the power of your mixer. Let’s assume you have a standing mixer, let us further imagine you have put the whisk attachment on and now allow us to imagine you are aboard a starship in orbit around an alien planet and have been asked to whip something up for the chief ambassador of the Jatravartid people that might really impress them. Hell, if we’re imagining, why pretend we’re in your kitchen hiding from your Aunt Margret? Start the mixer on low, to break up the gelatin and then slowly pour the syrup into the bowl. Don’t pour it into the middle, let it slid down the side of the bowl. Safety first. Remember what I was saying about second degree burns? Yeah, I wasn’t joking about that, and this stuff will stick to you and keep burning for months.

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HOT!

Once the mixture in completely in the bowl, then turn up the mixture to full power, or maximum warp if you’re on that starship I mentioned earlier. Then walk away because you’ve probably got 12 minutes if your standing mixer is anything like mine. If you leave it longer, you’ll get slightly stiffer marshmallows, leave it a shorter time and you’ll get denser, squishier mallows. Either way, you’ve got time to spray a 13 inch by 9 inch baking pan with nonstick spray and then put ¼ cup cornstarch and ¼ powdered (confectioner’s if you must) sugar together into a sifter and sort of tap out just enough to cover the pan. Put a cover on the pan, either a cover that came with it or aluminum foil. Then shake it to make sure the sides are nicely dusted. Now, you don’t need exactly 13 by 9 inches, you can use two smaller pans, or a 12 by 10 or even a 10 by 8 in a pinch. However, the thickness will be affected, so keep that in mind. Just make sure you thoroughly dust the pan. Putting too much of the powder mixture on the pan is frankly preferably to having not enough. Not to put too fine of a point on it, but these things stick like crazy and if you haven’t dusted your pans properly then I wish you every bit of luck in your endeavor to remove them from the pan properly, but will offer no actual help.

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Dust that bitch

By now, your mallows should have gone through their 12 minutes in the mixing bowl. During the last minute, you can add vanilla extract. If the mixture is a big massive ball hanging to the whisk and looks like it would be very hard to get off the tines of the whisk, you left the syrup boiling too long. This is not a problem, the marshmallows will just be a bit stiff instead of light and fluffy. If you watch carefully, you can add a little water during the mixing process and thin the mix out a bit, but that’s advanced class stuff and I suggest just dealing with the stiffer mallows for now. If it’s a thinnish mixture that doesn’t hold to the tines hardly at all, you didn’t boil long enough and I’m not sure if anything can help. If there is too much water, the mallows will keep being sticky and sort of slimy. You can use them to make rice crispy treats though, so don’t abandon hope just yet. If it looks mostly like liquid in the pan, but it’s holding tenaciously on to the tines of the whisk then you’re just about perfect. Now spray a spatula with nonstick spray and work fast. I’ll talk about clean up later.

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Mix it up, get in there!

You need to get the mixture off the tines as fast as you can without worrying too much. You won’t get it all, just try not to waste much. Then pour the contents of the bowl into the pan, scooping out as much of the mallow-mix as possible, and then flattening out the mixture into the pan as well as you can manage. This will be a bit of a pain because the mixture doesn’t want to flatten out. That’s okay though, just try to get the top as flat as you can manage, we’re not looking for perfection here. Okay, I’m not looking for perfection from you, I always look for it in myself. Take some more of that sifter with the cornstarch/powdered sugar mix and dust the top of the marshmallow slab. If you powder your hands, you can press it with your fingers to achieve an even distribution. Now comes the easy part, walk away for 8 hours. You can cut in as little as 3, but I’m going to go ahead and suggest waiting the full 8 or even 10 hours before de-panning the marshmallows. Cover lightly with the foil to keep the dust off, but allow some air flow.

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Imagine that this photo has the foil on the pan.

When it comes time to de-pan, get a cutting board bigger than the pan. Put a little more powder mix down on the board and then do something for me. With your fingers (which I would pray are clean but as I’ve never found and god to be greater than me, and thus never found one worthy of worship, I’ll simply hope are clean) gently pry the sides of the marshmallow mass away from the side of the pan. Just reach touch the edge and gently pull to see that it all comes away. If it does that easily, then you’re ready. The top of the marshmallow should be dry, there should still be powder mix on top of it. If you didn’t boil long enough, it will be wet and have absorbed the mix. If you’ve done it just right, it should be sort of springy, but firm. Now, turn the pan over and let the large marshmallow slip from the pan and onto the board. OR! If you’ve done this right, you should be able to just pull the mallow from the pan. Either way, it depends on how dramatic you feel. A good swirl and bang of the pan onto the board sure does get the cats’ attention. Complacent bastards need waking up now and then.

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DUST ALL THE THINGS! ALL OF THEM!

Now, do you have the powder mix at hand? Good. Because you’ll want it. Now don’t mistake this giant marshmallow for your pillow, or you will have lived the reverse of that joke. Instead, using a pizza cutter, cut the mallow into long strips. You may need to put a little powder onto your pizza cutter. Once you’ve cut one way, gently pull the strips apart and lay them on their sides. There should be powder below them and the sides laying next to each other should be well powdered, there is but one thing left to do… powder the tops! Then, get back in there with your pizza cutter and cut them into cubes. Again, carefully pull them apart and roll them around the board with more powder until all sides are gently powdered and no longer sticking together. With luck, this can all be done on the cutting board and you can toss them back into the pan when done. Without luck, none of us can hope to survive past the age of three months. That being said, you can put the powder mix into a bowl and toss the marshmallows a dozen at a time if you like. Hell, you can drizzle hot sauce into the mix during the mixing stage and serve them up as a practical joke to the Jatravartid ambassador if it blows your skirt up. This is entirely up to you. I’m not here to tell you how to make your marshmallows, nor am I the marshmallow police. I am simply trying to tell you how you can make them at home, everything is up to you.

GET ‘ER DONE!
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Cut a bitch!

So let’s talk about adaptation for a moment. Almond extract is good, but you only need a quarter teaspoon because it’s strong stuff. Peppermint extract is nice, and though I’ve never tried it, I’ve been told that you can add Dutch process chocolate to the mix at the flavoring stage without much trouble. Just remember to add your flavoring within the last minute or two of mixing. Most extracts are made with alcohol, which has a low boiling point and will evaporate if left in the heat too long. You can even use pomegranate juice instead of water, which lends an interesting flavor and color to the mallows. I assume that cranberry, grape, apple, and prune juice would also work. As for clean up, this is 98% sugar. Just leave things to soak, they’ll more or less clean themselves. You’ll have to put things in the dishwasher, or go at them with a sponge, but just let them soak awhile and most the clean up work will be done for you.

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I have no idea what the yield on this is. I can fill a gallon zip lock bag with them. Yeah, that’s your measurement, one gallon zip lock bag. They store for about three weeks, I presume, I’ve never had occasion to find out how long before they go stale. I will say though, don’t leave them out of the bag too long, they get… funky. The outside gets hard and ugly while the inside stays moist and it’s just unpleasant.

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Okay, let’s try for the card sized version…

3 packages unflavored gelatin (or ¾ an ounce of agar)
1 cup ice cold water, divided
1 & 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup (Or possibly honey)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or other things)
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Nonstick spray

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Place the gelatin in a bowl with 1/2 cup of the water. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, sugar, corn syrup and salt in a saucepan. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook until the mixture reaches 235°-240° (F) approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Turn the mixer to high for approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the flavoring during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans. Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the powder mix to coat the pan.

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When ready, pour the mixture into the pan. An oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Allow the mallow mass to sit for at least 4 hours and up to overnight. Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza cutter dusted with the powder mix. Dust all sides of each marshmallow with the powder mix.

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