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…

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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. ckn

    I’m not a huge marshmallow fan, but these were really fun to make and rather tasty. I made them with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. I had the girls measure the ingredients and then I took care of heating up the syrup. When the batter was ready, they each smoothed a big scoop of the “batter” into their own small foil bread pan. They took the pans home and the next day they were able to cut them up. It was a lot of fun.

    Reply
  2. karikilgore

    Well, these are indeed addictive to make AND to eat! I’d never done anything with boiling sugar before, but in the last couple of days I’ve made four lovely batches of these for various work parties and as gifts. A lot of folks enjoyed the ones I made with just a bit of vanilla, Fiori Di Sicilia, and orange oil. Those had green sugar on one side and red on the other, quite festive floating in a cup of coffee! My favorite so far is the chocolate ones made with double dutch cocoa, then rolled in spicy hot chocolate mix. Those you have to pause and savor…

    I’m intrigued by the maple and honey ideas, keep those wonderful suggestions coming! I’m actually lugging my stand mixer on a ten hour drive so I can show my sister-in-law how easy and fun they are this weekend! Well, that and quite a bit of bread making.

    Peace.

    Reply
  3. jhardy4581

    After seeing all the comments I made these last night and really enjoyed them. My 5 year-old keeps asking for more! I was wondering if any one had tried molasses in place of the corn syrup?

    Reply
  4. milkwithknives

    Woohoo! Made them! The good old Grade B worked like a charm, and the maple flavor is nice and subtle. I probably should have let them whip longer, but I suddenly panicked and thought they were setting up in the mixer bowl. Next time I’ll give them a few more minutes and see if they come out taller. Thanks a ton for such a fun Sunday afternoon project.

    Reply
  5. milkwithknives

    I hope this isn’t a dumb question, but has anybody tried these using maple syrup instead of corn syrup? I know that would change the taste, but do you think it would work? Maple marshmallows sounded good all of a sudden, and I don’t have any corn syrup in the pantry.

    Yes, I’ve tried this with both Maple Syrup and Honey. Both work. Give it a try. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  6. Mike

    A GREAT book on marshmallows: http://www.amazon.com/Marshmallows-Homemade-Gourmet-Eileen-Talanian/dp/1423602498

    It also has a recipe for a corn syrup substitute (I have yet to try it) Here’s a recipe/article for invert sugar (what us pros use). it will provide a much better texture than corn syrup to your marshmallows. http://www.chefeddy.com/2009/11/invert-sugar/

    The marshmallows I always get requests for is a mint marshmallow sandwiched between two chocolate mint cookies (thin mints, grasshoppers, make-your-own). Just use some peppermint extract and a bit of vanilla for flavoring. 🙂

    Reply
  7. susanmcnamee

    thanks Frank – I will try that. I’m not giving up! the recipe says mix on high – and you said a little slower – so on the Viking what speed would you suggest?

    I think that I would use #8, as the top speed for marshmallows. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  8. susanmcnamee

    I am on round 4 of making these. first 3 came out 1/4″ thick. ugh.
    So this time they are much better (except by being so paranoid of another failure I forgot to add the vanilla!). I find it ever so difficult to get these out of my mixer bowl into the pan. is there a trick? I end up with so much marshmallow on me as well as all over. I use the Viking mixer I bought from KAF – highest setting, for about 11 -13 minutes. the mixture was a bit stringy – we’ll see how they taste tomorrow after sitting all night. I’m just wanting to make pretty marshmallows so badly!

    Sorry to hear of your difficulty. Next time try running the mixer a bit slower, this will help the marshmallow set up a structure and take in more air. To make “the pour” a bit smoother. Spray the spatula, or any thing that is in the path, with a spritz of vegetable spray. The marshmallow will stick “less”. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply

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