Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Bit of Fluff

If your experience with marshmallows has been limited to Campfire, Jet Puff or Marshmallow Fluff brands, you need to take a walk on the wild side and try making your own. Why bother? It’s all about texture, first, then taste. Industrial marshmallows are made to hold their shape while being tossed about in transit to our supermarket, so they’re firm and gummy, and somewhat tough. Homespun marshmallows, in contrast, are pillow-soft and airy and sort of melt in your mouth. They are also versatile. While I made a simple Honey Vanilla flavor, you can add some fruit puree (about ¼ cup for this recipe) or extract at the end and a few drops of food coloring to transform the basic recipe into something exotic. You can also spread them onto a half-sheetpan to make thinner marshmallows, and use a cookie cutter to cut them into cute shapes. In fact, I might even make some heart-shaped pink raspberry or passion fruit marshmallows for that big holiday coming up in February. Who knows?

Honey Vanilla Marshmallows

Makes 28 large marshmallows

3 envelopes powdered gelatin
1 1/2 cups water, divided
1 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons honey
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup cornstarch

1. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the pan with plastic wrap and spray the wrap.
2. Place the gelatin in the bowl of an electric mixer and stir in 1 cup of the water. Set aside in the mixer stand, fitted with the whisk attachment.
3. In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the corn syrup, honey, sugar and remaining ½ cup water. Cook over medium heat, stirring just until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat to high and cook to 248°F. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool to 220°F.
4. Once it reaches 220°F, turn the mixer to low speed and slowly add the hot syrup in a steady stream to the gelatin. Once all the syrup has been added, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and vanilla and continue to beat at medium-high speed until the bottom of the bowl is cool to the touch, 10 to 15 minutes.
5. Scrape the marshmallow into the prepared pan and use an offset metal spatula to smooth top into an even layer. Set aside to set at room temperature for at least 2 hours.
6. Gently whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a bowl. Spoon some of the mixture into a sieve and sift it over a work surface, coating it well. Invert the marshmallow slab onto the work surface and peel off the plastic wrap. Sift more confectioners’ sugar/cornstarch over the top of the slab. Spray a long knife with nonstick cooking spray and cut the slab into 28 rectangles (or 1 ½ inch squares). Coat the cut sides of each marshmallow with confectioners’ sugar/cornstarch. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.