Sunday, December 16, 2007

Homemade Marshmallows

Every so often the Food Network offers some really good ideas. Last Sunday, I watched Tyler Florence make marshmallows, a food I never thought I would venture to make from scratch. But after seeing the two egg whites whip in the stand mixer until they tripled in size — until they nearly spilled out of the mixer — I had to try for myself. Plus, he packaged them in a cellophane bag tied with a festive ribbon and nestled the pouch into a basket with a jar of hot cocoa mix, his idea for a wonderful homemade Christmas gift. After tasting one of these sugary confections, I couldn't agree more.

Homemade Marshmallows: Worth The Trouble?
The Bulletin, Friday December 14, 2007

Once a word used exclusively to describe jewelry, furniture and model ships, "handcrafted" now labels breads, chocolates and countless other artisan products. Even marshmallows now don a handcrafted tag. Indeed, with bags of 20 white square puffs selling for nearly $20, marshmallows have become haute cuisine, the goods sold at upscale kitchenware stores and gourmet-food shops.

But making marshmallows at home is surprisingly easy, requiring few ingredients including two egg whites, which triple in volume when whipped, creating a white billowing cloud that nearly spills out of the stand mixer. Now, apart from witnessing the magic that happens in the mixing bowl, why would anyone venture to make marshmallows at home? It's a good question, one more difficult to answer than similar inquiries regarding homemade bread and chicken stock.

But like all questions involving mass-produced products, a taste of the real stuff can convert any skeptic. These sugary, homemade confections melt into hot cocoa, creating a rich, smooth layer unmatched by any Jet-puffed, Kraft product.

Homemade Marshmallows:
Adapted from Tyler Florence

This recipe requires the use of a stand mixer.
3 tablespoons powdered gelatin
2 cups cold water
2 cups sugar
2 egg whites
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted, plus more for dusting pan and marshmallows

In a medium sized saucepan soak the gelatin in the cold water. After the gelatin has softened, about 10 minutes, add the regular sugar, and gently dissolve over low heat, another 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold in the sifted confectioners' sugar. While the mixer is on low, slowly pour in the cooled gelatin mixture. Increase the speed and beat until white and thick. The volume should double (or triple) in size and should form between soft and firm peaks. (When the mixture fills nearly the entire bowl, it is ready.)

Coat bottom and all sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with confectioners' sugar. Pour marshmallow mixture in and top with more sifted confectioners' sugar. Leave out overnight or for at least 3 hours to set. The marshmallow should be light and spongy when set.

Loosen marshmallow from edges of tray and invert onto a large cutting board. Use a large knife to cut the marshmallows into cubes. Sprinkle each piece with more confectioners' sugar.