Monday, and marshmallows!
There's something sad about the ordinary supermarket marshmallow, laying lumpily in its undignified plastic bag on a grocery store shelf, small or large, perhaps cut into odd shapes or colors. Light, sweet, and very nearly tasteless, all the bag can advertise is 'A Fat Free Candy!' as if that was going to be your main motivation to buy it in the first place. S'mores, rice krispy treats, and rocky road ice cream all depend on the marshmallow, but how many of us just eat marshmallows plain? I think most of us, with the experience of adulthood, have moved on to more sophisticated pleasures.
But recent experience at The Dairy Godmother has suggested that there's a bit more to marshmallows than sugar-flavored air. With the aid of last July's Bon Appetit magazine, I whipped up my own batch. (You'll find that searching for more recipes online brings up very similar, or identical, formulae). Some recipes include egg white, but this one works just fine without.
nonstick cooking spray
1 C cold water, divided
3 1/4-oz envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 C sugar
2/3 C light corn syrup
1/4 t salt
2 t vanilla extract
1/2 C potato starch
1/2 C powdered sugar
Line 13x9 pan with foil. Coat foil evenly with cooking spray.
Pour 1/2 C cold water into bowl of mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand until gelatin softens and absorbs water, at least 15 minutes.
Combine 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 C water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush.
At this point, the syrup is still a little cloudy.
Attach candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat and bring syrup to a boil. Boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches 240dF, about 8 minutes.
(This is where precision comes in. My candy thermometer apparently was made for use with bigger batches of syrup, and didn't read accurately in this small amount. Get out a real cookbook and read their description of old-fashioned candy making, where you test the readiness of sugar syrup by dropping a small amount into a glass of ice water. 240dF is the 'soft ball' stage. Don't do what I did the first time and rely only on the thermometer! I burned the syrup, making a horrible mess.)
With mixer running at low speed, slowly pour hot syrup into gelatin in a thin stream down the side of the bowl (avoid pouring onto the whisk, as it might splash).
The syrup is still boiling - be careful!
Gradually increase speed to high and beat until mixture is very thick and stiff, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla and beat to blend, about 30 seconds longer.
At first the mixture doesn't look like much....
But soon it is brilliant white and fills the whole bowl! With the power of a KitchenAid on its highest setting, it probably needed less than 10 minutes, but we wanted to be very sure.
Scrape into foil-lined pan and smooth top. Let stand uncovered at room temperature until firm, about 4 hours.
(Obviously this isn't a 13x9 pan. The other half immediately went into rice krispy treats.)
Sift together potato starch and powdered sugar. Sift generous amount onto work surface, making a slightly larger than 13x9 rectangle. Turn marshmallow slab onto powder. Peel off foil. Sift more powder onto the slab. Coat large sharp knife (or cookie cutters) with nonstick cooking spray. Cut marshmallows into squares or other desired shapes. Toss with more starch-sugar mix to coat. Transfer marshmallows to a rack, shaking off excess powder.
Supposedly they'll keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container. I don't think they'll last that long.
Homemade marshmallows have a lot more flavor and character than the sad lumps in the supermarket. I'm looking forward to some s'mores... maybe coating these in a bit of dark chocolate... maybe even rocky road ice cream (oh wait, we just made 3 flavors of ice cream this weekend, oops). And next time - there will be a next time! How about lemon or orange?