Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Treat: Homemade Marshmallows

Mr. Fritz loves marshmallows. He's loved them ever since he was a child, when he'd go over to his grandmother's house and pour himself a big bowl of mini marshmallows and down them, three by three. So when we came upon an empty afternoon in his hometown, I didn't think twice about asking our niece, the eldest Miss Bowers, if she might like to make a batch from scratch. I figured that she and I could have some fun in the kitchen and Mr. Fritz (along with the rest of his family) could enjoy the outcome.

I've made marshmallows before. The first few times I made them, Mrs. Robertson was my partner in crime. A couple of years ago my sister, Mrs. Plourde, churned some out with me. Some time has passed since then, however, so I was a little rusty in my technique. Luckily Miss Bowers was a terrific helper and together we turned out a whole lot of marshmallowy goodness with very little effort.

Although there are a bunch of recipes floating around for homemade marshmallows, I have only used one, clipped from a Washington Post story from several years ago. It isn't available online, so I'll post it below. Suffice it to say, you need patience (Miss Bowers noted that it took a long, long time for the sugar and water and corn syrup to reach 240 degrees on the stove), a couple of different mixing bowls, and more patience (the marshmallows need to set for a few hours before you can cut them up). Fun cookie cutters are also a plus. We cut ours into stars, trees, hearts, bells, snow people, gingerbread men, even a big teddy bear.


Source: The Washington Post, Jan. 19, 2000

(Makes 45 to 50 marshmallows)

It takes only about 20 minutes to whip up your own batch of marshmallows, a relatively simple process that is greatly aided by the use of a candy thermometer.

Purists prefer the honesty of vanilla flavoring; substituting lemon extract cuts the sweetness of the confection. A bit of food coloring lends a festive touch, but we prefer a marshmallow that is snowy white.

Vegetable shortening for the pan

Confectioners' sugar for dusting, plus additional for the pan

2 1/2 packages (2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin

1/2 cup cold water

1/2 cup hot water

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

2 egg whites*

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (may substitute lemon, almond, orange, peppermint or other extracts)

Food coloring, if desired

Lightly grease a 13-by-9-by-2-inch metal pan and sprinkle with the confectioners' sugar; tap out any excess sugar.

Place the gelatin in a large bowl and add the cold water. Let the gelatin sit for about 5 minutes.

In a saucepan over low heat, stir together the hot water, sugar and corn syrup and cook, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Raise the heat to medium and cook, without stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil and threads; it should register 240 degrees on a candy thermometer (the soft-ball stage).

Stir the gelatin mixture into the sugar mixture. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the mixture until it triples in volume, about 8 minutes. Set aside.

In a medium bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites and vanilla or other flavoring (and optional food coloring) into the gelatin mixture just until incorporated.

Transfer the marshmallow mixture to the prepared pan, dust the surface with confectioners' sugar until it is lightly coated and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 3 hours or overnight.

To serve, use a sharp knife to cut around the edges of the pan. The bottom of the confection will be sticky. Cut the marshmallow slab into 1- or 1 1/2-inch squares (or whatever shape you prefer), then gently ease the pieces from the pan and toss them in a bowl of confectioner's sugar. This may be done in several batches. Transfer to a colander and toss again, to remove excess sugar.

To store: Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

* Note: Uncooked eggs may be contaminated with salmonella and should be avoided by young children, the elderly and anyone with immune system deficiencies.

Per marshmallow (based on 50): 38 calories, 1 gm protein, 9 gm carbohydrates, trace fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 gm saturated fat, 7 mg sodium, 0 gm dietary fiber

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