Marshmallows: an ode to Elsie

On any given Friday night, you’ll find our family racing out the door to our favorite trendy hot spot to rub elbows with the movers and shakers in our community. That’s right, we’re headed to the diner, and to see Elsie.

I know you may not have met my Elsie, but you do know her. She’s in her mid ’50s , the prime of her life, and loving every minute of it. She works her day job at the local dentist’s office, and nights and weekends at the diner to make ends meet.

She has grown children, and grandchildren too, and is happy to share stories and photos, but is just as interested in what you and yours have been up to. She knows how you like your tea, your burger, and will give you the big slice of chocolate cream pie to go, so you don’t have to rush through it.

Elsie is the first waitress Shannon ever gave an order to by herself, and we’re always sure to go in about an hour before closing time, so that things have slowed down and Elsie can sit with us for a bit and chat. Last month, she let us know the business is up for sale, and darned if we weren’t tempted to make an offer then and there, because Elsie said she would work for us anytime.

This past Mother’s Day, we gave Elsie a gift card to our King Arthur Flour Baker’s Store, as she’s a big fan of the bakery’s éclairs. The card read, “To our Friday night Mom.” She said no customer had ever done that before, and hurried off to get our drinks a little misty-eyed. Yep, I love Elsie.

On a recent Friday, Elsie asked what I’d been up to.

“Making marshmallows,” I said.

“Marshmallows? You can make those? I’ve never heard of such a thing!” she said.

After explaining how easy it was, I knew I needed to write a post here on marshmallows. So, I dropped off a bag of “shmallows” (as we say at our house) to Elsie, who was delighted, and headed home to make a new batch (or two). I even fancied them up a bit for the holidays. They’re still so easy, you’ll be amazed; and the flavor beats any store- bought imitators hands down.

Do plan on making these the day before serving, or at least in the early morning, as they have to sit for several hours (or overnight) to firm up. So, let’s make Homemade Marshmallows. Here goes…

gelatin.jpg

Place the powdered gelatin in the bowl of your mixer, and get out the whip attachment. You can use the paddle, but it will take longer to beat and your marshmallows will be a little less fluffy.

wet-gel.jpg

Add 1/2 cup of the cool water, and stir until the gelatin is thoroughly wet. It won’t dissolve at this point, but will stay grainy.

gelled-gel.jpg

In just a few minutes, the gelatin will begin gelling. It’ll still appear grainy, but will be firm like pudding.

set-temp.jpg

Marshmallows require a cooked sugar syrup. You’ll need an accurate thermometer. I use my Thermometer Timer. You can set the temperature at which you want the alarm to sound, so you never miss a crucial stage. I like to set mine just under the final temperature I need, so I can be back at the stove just before my target temp.

set-probe.jpg

Next, secure the probe to your pan. You want the tip of the probe just above the bottom of the pan, but deep enough to be in the syrup.

corn-syrup.jpg

While I do have a Wonder Cup that’s excellent for sticky foods like corn syrup, I just couldn’t put my hands on it, so I sprayed the inside of my glass liquid measure with cooking spray, and wiped most of it out. Works like a charm.

sugar-bucket.jpg

Recognize this? I love our dough rising buckets for storage. They’re translucent, so you know what’s inside; they hold a TON; and they’re stackable. I have at least 4 at any given time, and several 1-cup measures as well, so each bucket has its own cup.

start-heating.jpg

Heat the remaining water, corn syrup, salt, and sugar over medium heat until it boils. It will sound like Rice Krispies as the small bubbles burst.

cubed-gel.jpg

Check on the gelatin; it should be fully jelled. I like to break it up into cubes, partly because it’s more surface area to melt faster, and partly because it’s fun to play with.

nearly-done.jpg

In about 15 minutes the syrup will be nearly the right temperature. Now’s not the time to walk away; stay near the stove for the last few degrees.

bubbles-pan.jpg

The bubbles are now much larger, and the syrup has colored slightly.

bubbles-close-up.jpg

The snapping now sounds like bubble wrap, and the temperature will be 240°F. Take the pan off of the heat.

slow-pour.jpg

With the mixer bowl and whip in place and the mixer on low, slowly pour the hot syrup into the bowl. You’re aiming for the space between the whip and the side of the bowl, so the syrup isn’t splashing onto the bowl or the whip.

ready-to-whip.jpg

The gelatin will now be dissolved, and the hot mixture is ready to whip.

steamy.jpg

You’ll want to start off on a low speed and gradually increase to high. Keep yourself back a little, as the mixture is going to steam.

whipped.jpg

Whip on high for about 5 minutes, until the marshmallow mix is thick, white, and nearly room temperature. Now it’s time to add the flavoring(s).

vanilla.jpg

I buy my vanilla in a big 32-ounce bottle. it really is the most economical way to buy; but it’s also cumbersome at times, so I purchased a small bottle, as well, and some vanilla beans. I leave the beans steeping in the small bottle of vanilla, which keeps them soft and pliable, and makes the vanilla extra-strong. I just refill from the big bottle when needed.

If you want mint marshmallows, you could add peppermint oil or extract. Ditto for cherry, or eggnog, or any flavor that catches your fancy.

color.jpg

If you want plain white marshmallows, continue with the recipe exactly as written. If you want to have a little fun with your ’mallows, you can divide the mix into 1 or 2 bowls and add some gel paste food coloring. You need to work fast, as the mixture thickens and sets quickly. I use the back of a spoon to add some red and green to some of the mix, and like to leave a little white, too. A silicone spatula works best for mixing in the color.

layers.jpg

Line a pan with parchment, spritz with cooking spray, and start layering the colors. You can see that I was a little uneven in dividing my mix into equal portions, so my pink filled the pan, but the white was a little sparse. Oh well, the green will cover it, and no one will complain, right? Let the marshmallows set for several hours (or overnight) before de-panning.

sugar1.jpg

To add sparkle to the outside of the marshmallows, instead of using a confectioners’ sugar coating, sprinkle your work surface with colored sugar.

flip-layers.jpg

Next, flip the layers onto the sugar, peel away the parchment, and sprinkle with more sugar, for an even coating.

cut-layers.jpg

I have owned many pizza wheels, but I love this one we carry now. IT DOESN’T WOBBLE!!! Spritz your wheel with cooking spray, and cut strips, and then cut those into squares. I make pretty generously sized squares, but you can choose your own sizes.

layers-close-up.jpg

Ohhh, lovely layers and lots of sparkle. They look great in a footed glass dish or candy dish, and can be eaten out of hand like candy, or added to a cup of hot cocoa.

wet-spread.jpg

Being an “over the top” type girl at times, I whipped up another batch of marshmallows, and spread half of the mix into a spritzed glass pan. I wet my hands to make the spreading easier.

warm-nutella.jpg

Next came the Nutella. This chocolate hazelnut spread is becoming more and more popular, and you can find it in most major grocery stores now. I heated about 1/2 cup in the microwave to make it more spreadable. Do work quickly, as the rest of the mixture needs to be layered on top of the Nutella. Let the marshmallows set for several hours or overnight before turning out of the pan.

cocoa-coating.jpg

To coat the marshmallows, mix about 2 tablespoons of Double Dutch Dark Cocoa with the confectioners’ sugar. Yep, I’m on a chocolate kick this holiday season!

Using a sieve, coat the table with a layer of the sugar/cocoa mix, and prepare to turn the layers out. Reserve about 1/2 cup to coat the top, and to toss with the marshmallows to coat them fully.

loosen.jpg

I find it helps to loosen the edges of the pan with a plastic scraper before de-panning.

slab.jpg

Again, once the slab of marshmallows is turned out, be sure to coat the top to prevent sticking as you cut. Spritzing the cutting blade will help, too.

nutella-plate-full.jpg

Mmmm… Soft, tender marshmallows, scented with vanilla and filled with creamy chocolate hazelnut spread. Bring on the graham crackers!

I hope I’ve inspired you to try marshmallows at home. They’re easy, delicious, and can be dressed up or down for any occasion. Enjoy!

MaryJane Robbins
About

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...

comments

  1. Michelle

    Hi, we just made marshmallows but sadly they seem quite grainy. The top has a beautiful glossy finish, and we waited 2; hours to take out of the pan, but they kind of crumbled out :(. Any ideas where my daughter and I might have made our errors?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel

      Michelle, it’s possible the syrup boiled to too high a temperature. Thermometers vary in accuracy; you might try testing yours in boiling water. If you’re not at high altitude, water boils at 212°F. Marshmallows can be tricky; check out this troubleshooting guide that might help. Good luck — PJH

  2. Mandy

    I was wondering about the accurate measurements for this recipe, some of them don’t quite add up. For instance, it calls for 1 cup (11 ounces) corn syrup. Which one of these measurements do I follow? Some of the other measurements are off as well.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel

      Mandy, 1 cup corn syrup does indeed weigh 11 ounces (by weight, when you put it on the scale – not fluid ounces). If you could call our Hotline, 855-371-2253, I’m sure they’d be happy to talk over the other measurements in question with you. PJH

  3. Mandy

    With Valentine’s coming up, I’m thinking about substituting the water with 100% pure cranberry juice. I figure this way I’ll get a beautiful, all-natural pink color, and yummy flavor. Do you think this will work?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We haven’t tested marshmallows with fruit juice as the liquid, but the best method for pink Valentine success may be to color the white recipe with gel paste food coloring like we did in this blog/recipe. Happy Baking – Irene@KAF

  4. Lynne

    Hi,

    I’ve made ‘mallows for decades with the same ingredients and a very different recipe – no cooking a sugar syrup to a specific temperature (which technique I am very bad at).

    Anyway, the recipe calls for lightly greasing the pan, then ‘flouring’ the 8″ x 8″ pan with a tablespoon of the same powdered sugar/cornstarch mix the marshmallows will eventually be coated in (1/4 c cornstarch + 1/3 c powdered sugar). You leave any excess powder on the bottom of the e pan and they never fail to turn out easily. (Sometimes the sides need a bit of help with a case knife ’cause the coating is a bit thinner on the sides.).

    For a 13×9 pan double the coating amount and use 2T for the pan.

    Also, I have never owned one of those whip/paddle mixer things. My Mixmaster works just fine for whipping marshmallows. (I do wish recipe writers would realize that not everyone has a KitchenAid and would give instructions on using alternate mixers.)

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins, post author

      Thanks for the hints and feedback Lynne. Currently we don’t have a Mixmaster in the test kitchen, but maybe Santa will bring one to us? 🙂 ~ MJ

  5. Michele

    I live in the North Bay of California, about 30 miles from the coast, which means we get quite a bit of humidity. There was a post in the KAF Community that suggested marshmallows should be well covered to protect from moisture. Is this possible for the drying process, or does it affect how the marshmallows dry? I am almost to the point of having a box made to dry them in with packets of desiccant. If it is as simple as covering them, life would be so much easier.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins, post author

      Hi Michele,
      Humidity will definitely effect how the marshmallows dry. You might want to try putting your ‘mallows in the oven to dry. Don’t turn the oven on but just use it like a small enclosed sealed container. That may help get them dry enough to cut and store. ~ MJ

  6. Leslie Fulton

    Hi MaryJane, I just made my first batch of Marshmallows – yum, but I had a tough time getting all of the marshmallow out of the mixing bowl (kitchen aid 6 qt). I felt like I left half of the recipe in the bowl and no matter what I did I just could not scrape the rest off. Please help. Leslie

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel

      Leslie, I always use a bowl scraper for getting sticky, stubborn doughs, etc. out of a bowl. With its perfect flex and thin/beveled edge, it scrapes the bowl absolutely clean – ANY bowl. Totally worth the $1.95 investment… PJH

  7. cassandraoftroy

    Just to toss another idea out there, last Christmas I made gingerbread marshmallows, using a combination of honey and molasses in place of the corn syrup, and adding the same spices you’d put in gingerbread cookies (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice I think). I put them in little treat-bags to accompany the homemade hot-chocolate-on-a-stick I made as gifts. Everyone seemed to find them really tasty. I might try making them with maple syrup sometime.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins, post author

      What a great idea! I bet they would be wonderful in a mug of white hot chocolate. If you are willing to share the recipe, I’d love to try them myself. ~ MJ

  8. Betsy

    I cut them out with cookie cutters. For Valentine’s day I used a heart shaped cutter and dipped half the heart in melted chocolate. Very pretty and of course tasty.
    Great idea with the chocolate. I’m definitely putting that on my list. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  9. AnneInWA

    I am so excited to make these! I will be making these for my family as well as gifts. I was wondering though, is there a way to make chocolate marshmallows? Would I just add some melted chocolate? I am not sure of the adjustments I would have to make – if any. Any tips? Thanks KAF!
    Instead of melted chocolate, I would just use a little cocoa powder. This will give the marshmallows some color, but will not have a huge impact on the flavor. For the best chocolate marshmallow experience, it is most ideal to dip the marshmallows in coating chocolate as you would a chocolate-dipped strawberry. ~Amy

    Reply

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *