I feel like I’ve just been initiated into a religious cult.
How did I walk around all these years completely unaware of the wonders of homemade marshmallows? And how could I have been satisfied with those tasteless foamy things squished into bags on the bottom shelf of the supermarket?
I’m so glad my eyes have been opened, especially now that hot chocolate season is in full swing. I’ve got a lot of lost time to make up for.
Part of what is so much fun about making these is that the texture is unlike any other food, from the gleaming white liquid marshmallow that flows from the beaters to the plush cushiony squares of the finished product. Even cutting them is an adventure. If they squish down, they plump right back up, if they stick, a little confectioner’s sugar gives them a unique pillowy finish. Before these, I wouldn’t have eaten a plain marshmallow on a bet. But just try to resist as you plunge your knife into row upon row of this vanilla bean bliss.
This is not a difficult process at all, but here’s a little fair warning—- you do need a thermometer, and it helps a lot if you have a stand mixer. You can do it with a hand held mixer, but be prepared to stand around beating for 10-15 minutes. It’s a great project to do with kids, as long as you keep them well away from the hot sugar syrup.
There are a couple of different methods floating around out there, one involves corn syrup, and another uses egg whites in place of the corn syrup. My friend Mary of Barefeet in the Kitchen has a great version of the egg whites recipe, check it out here.
- Vegetable oil, for brushing
- 4 envelopes unflavored gelatin (3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons)
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
- 1/4 tsp salt
- seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
- 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- confectioners' sugar for dusting
- Line a 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper, leaving overhanging paper on the ends so you can easily lift out the marshmallows after they've firmed up. Brush the paper with oil so the marshmallows won't stick.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, put 3/4 cup of water. Sprinkle the gelatin over it and let it sit. Add the vanilla bean seeds on top.
- In a medium saucepan, put the sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Begin heating it, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Then stop stirring and let the sugar syrup come up to 238 degrees. It will boil for a while before it gets there.
- Then, with the mixer on low, slowly pour the hot syrup into the gelatin. Gradually increase the speed until it is on high. Beat on high for about 12 minutes until the mixture is stiff. Beat in the vanilla.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared dish, smoothing it out evenly.
- Let sit, uncovered, for 3 hours (or overnight)
- Turn out the marshmallow block onto a surface covered with confectioner's sugar. Peel off the paper and dust the whole top surface with more confectioner's sugar.
- Spice the marshmallows into squares using a sharp, oiled knife or pizza cutter. They will resist a bit, but keep at it. As you cut each strip, turn it to coat the cut ends with sugar, and as you cut each individual marshmallow, do the same. All the sides should be well coated and not sticky. Lay the marshmallows out on a tray.
- Store in an airtight container and eat within the week.
For a great gift pile some marshmallows in a pretty mug and wrap it all up in cellophane. Package it along with some really good cocoa powder.
I’m off to make the perfect cup of hot chocolate…
UPDATE: I’ve been surprised at how well and how long these marshmallows have kept. I put one batch in cellophane bags with twist ties and they are still fabulous. Now that I know this I may make some ahead of time next year and stash them away for last minute gifts.