Archive for December, 2008

The Marshmallow Recipe (sort of)

I have NO idea if anyone ever checks Oh For Fun anymore, but just in case, here’s a tasty marshmallow recipe! I originally posted this on The Willful Caboose.

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As you know, I am a big fan of marshmallows. I love them. I love them a lot.

Last winter, Schnookie and Pookie published this marshmallow recipe from the Culinary Institute of America “Baking and Pastry” cookbook on their food blog. I was too disheveled last year to make them myself, but for an entire year they were on the top of my “to make” recipe list.

Trouble is, I didn’t understand the measurements in the recipe. I have an admission to make: I do not understand measurement conversions. I think I must have killed the “conversion” portion of my brain with vodka sodas, because I’m not sure if I could convert ounces to cups if my VERY LIFE depended on my ability to do so. Like, if Tim Connolly held a gun to my head and said “Tell me how many tablespoons are in this bottle of Zima, or you’re going to die,” I’d probably just have to let him shoot me. Unless I can measure the ingredients with my measuring cups or my normal little measuring spoons, I AVOID THE RECIPE AT ALL COSTS.

The ingredients in the original recipe are measured by weight, and since my bathroom scale does not seem to register ounces, I had no idea what to do. I decided my best course of action was to whine to Schnookie, which turned out to be a great move, because in her enthusiasm for homemade marshmallows she almost immediately sat down and rewrote the recipe so that it was not only written in measurements that I could understand, but she also HALVED the recipe (which was important because apparently the original recipe makes forty million marshmallows). Schnookie is the best, no?

So, I followed the recipe exactly. I’d never worked with a candy thermometer before, so was a little nervous about the temperatures, but the process just wasn’t that difficult, and at the end, everything seemed to have gone as planned. After I made the marshmallows, I had to let them “set” for a few hours (there is gelatin involved). This is where the trouble began. After about four hours it did not seem like my marshmallows were going to stiffen enough. I was disappointed, but I just figured I hadn’t been exact enough with the temperature, or I hadn’t accurately guessed what constitutes a “medium peak” in marshmallow fluff during the whipping process. “Oh well,” I thought.

It was during this time of “I guess I effed up the marshmallows,” that Schnookie emailed me to explain that she had made a terrible miscalculation in the measurements. Sound the alarm bells! She had halved all the ingredients EXCEPT for the water. Instead of using one cup of water, she had instructed me to use TWO. This mistake seemed like a good explanation for why my marshmallows had failed to stiffen. We had a good laugh, I promised to try the marshmallows again the next day, and we chalked the whole thing up to experience. Because I’m lazy, I left the failed pan of marshmallows on the counter overnight, which the intention of throwing them out the next day.

WELL (could this story about marshmallows be any longer, by the way?), I woke up the next day, and they had TOTALLY stiffened overnight (that’s what she said). I had marshmallows! Not only did I have marshmallows, but I had totally PERFECT marshmallows. Fluffy, delicious, and all around FAB.

This lead to a lot of emailing along the lines of, “WHAAA? How did they WORK when you used an extra CUP of water? Are marshmallows some kind of miracle “no fail” substance? What is UO with marshmallow chemistry?!” I enjoyed the marshmallows, treated my friends to extra special cups of cocoa, and everyone was happy.

Everyone was happy, that is, UNTIL I tried to make another batch of marshmallows. That was decidedly UNhappy. At this point I figured that it was literally impossible to screw up marshmallows. I thought that if you add some combination of the ingredients, and heat them up and then whip them for awhile, eventually you’d have perfect marshmallows. It was with this new carefree marshmallow attitude that I set about to make the marshmallows with the correct amount of water.

From the get-go I knew my second batch was doomed. The pre-whipped marshmallow gunk was too thick. When I put it into the mixer it went directly from liquid to taffy. The first batch had gotten increasingly fluffy and voluminous in the mixer, the second batch just got stickier. There was way LESS of the goo when I poured the second batch into the pan to set, and after twelve hours sitting on the counter, the texture was just ALL wrong. They were…..chewy.

I’m sure you can see where this is going. Last night I made a third batch, using the INCORRECT amount of water, and today I have perfect marshmallows. People, I don’t know what to tell you. Schnookie, who I know to be a great cook, has been making these marshmallows for years, and she claims the recipe is good. I figure one of three things is going on here:

1. Schnookie and Pookie don’t know the difference between “marshmallows” and “taffy”. (unlikely)
2. There is some sort of dramatic altitude difference between Princton, NJ and Buffalo, NY. Altitude can make cooking wonky, right? Princton must be on a mountain range.
3. Something went wrong in the halving of the recipe and the conversion of the ingredients from weight to volume, and Schnookie’s original “mistake” was not really a mistake at all.

Anyhoo, a lot of you have asked for the marshmallow recipe. I want you to have it, because I want you to have homemade marshmallows, but I don’t know what to tell you about the water. I have had great success with an error in my measurements (and not just an error, a MAJOR error). Schnookie has had great success with the original recipe.

It’s a Marshmallow Mystery! (I should call the Pommerdoodle Detective Agency and put them on the case.)

So, without further ado (and honestly this post HAS to constitute the most ado in the history of marshmallows) I present to you the marshmallow recipe with the allegedly correct measurements. If you make these, please let me know how much water you used and how they turned out. All in all, I think this it’s extremely easy to make marshmallows.

The Marshmallow Recipe (kind of):

As written by Schnookie with notes by Katebits.

First step: Line whatever pan you’re using with parchment paper, or oil the pan liberally with cooking spray. I also try to dust the parchment with confectioner’s sugar, and today even mixed some cornstarch in. The fact is, it’s REALLY hard to un-mold these things, so worst case-scenario is that you’ll have to eat mangled chunks of marshmallow that you’ve wrestled or scraped out of the pan. They will still be delicious, though, so whatevs, right? [Katebits: Schnookie uses a big baking pan for the marshmallows, but I don’t have one of those with a deep enough lip, so I just used a normal glass cake pan lined with parchment paper]

Okay, that done, you’re going to need:

–1/2 cup of cold water [Katebits: I use a FULL cup of water here]
–2 1/2 quarter-ounce packets of gelatin (they come in boxes of packets, each packet is 1/4 oz. You can TOTALLY eyeball the half-packet, but the whole recipe calls for five of them. Sorry.)
— 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Bloom the gelatin in the cold water in a microwave safe bowl. Just sprinkle the powder over the water and let it stand for about five or ten minutes, or while you work on the other steps. It’ll get awesome and spongy.

Then:

–1/2 cup of cold water [Katebits: Again, I use a FULL cup of water.]
–3/4 cup of corn syrup
–3/4 cup of honey
–1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar

Combine these four ingredients in a deep saucepan, and stir enough to ensure all the sugar is moistened. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When it comes to a boil, stop stirring. (When it comes to a rapid boil, it will foam up, which is why you want a deep saucepan. Don’t worry — it’ll settle back down again.) Let it boil, undisturbed, until it registered 252 degrees F (122 C). Remove it from the heat and cool it to approximately 210 F (this can be pretty imprecise, but I think the gist is you want it to not be going straight into your mixing bowl scorching hot.)

While the sugar mixture is cooling, microwave the gelatin for about 45 seconds to a minute to melt it. Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Pour the cooled sugar mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer (with the whip attachment) and add the gelatin. (You can use a hand mixer for this, but it’s going to take a while.) Then whip the mixture on high speed until medium peaks form. (When I make the full recipe, this takes well over five minutes, but will probably go faster when you have less of the stuff.)

Spread the mixture into your prepared pan.

Let everything set for a few hours (I’ve let them sit as long as two days, which may be why they don’t ever want to come out of the pan), then turn onto a work surface liberally dusted with cornstarch or confectioner’s sugar. Cut the marshmallows with a sharp knife or scissors into your desired shapes. [Scissors have worked swimmingly for me.] We then dredge the marshmallows in confectioner’s sugar (the recipe says to use cornstarch, but who wants cornstarch in their cocoa?) on all the sticky sides and then knock the excess sugar off.

These can be stored in airtight containers for about a week (they start to get gooey after that long), and I recommend putting them in layers with wax or parchment paper between each layer. [Katebits: These did not last a week in my house. Try three days. Tops.]

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Good luck