Squishy & White

I should maybe feel delighted that at my advanced age, I’m still discovering things about myself.

But, because this realization was pretty much a gimme, I instead feel resigned and annoyed.  The sound “duh” comes painfully to mind.

What, Gentle Reader is this thunderbolt of personal awakening?It concerns marshmallows. 

I’ve always disliked the fluffy cylindrical confections. I’m not a fan of s’mores.  I’ve always steered clear of those seasonal chocolate covered candies.  And when toasting them over a campfire, I’d toast, eat the crispy caramelized shell only, and repeat.

But.But, I’m a fiend for rice crispy treats.  Those Lucky Charms marshmallows make my heart skip a beat. I even enjoy toasted marshmallow Jelly Bellies.

I have actually bought them like this before.  Spoiler alert: eat ’em quick, they go sad and soft quickly.

It took more than half a century, but I finally figured out my beef with those pillow-y confections.

I’d begun making marshmallows.  I packaged them in Christmas bags to go with homemade hot cocoa.  They’re kind of impressive, but once you get a reliable recipe (Alton Brown’s; natch), they’re easy to make.

Alton’s Homemade Marshmallowsmarshmallows 2018

3 packages unflavored gelatin

1 cup ice cold water, divided

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 vanilla bean, scraped, reserving pod

½ cup confectioners’ sugar

Nonstick spray

Place gelatin into bowl of stand mixer with ½ cup water.

In small saucepan combine remaining water, granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, and empty vanilla pod. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto side of pan and cook until mixture reaches 240 degrees, approximately 7 minutes. Once mixture reaches temp, immediately remove from heat and remove vanilla pod.Turn on mixer.  Using whisk attachment, turn on low speed and, while running, slowly pour sugar syrup down side of the bowl into gelatin mixture. Once you’ve added all the syrup, increase speed to high. Continue to whip until mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 10 to 13 minutes. Add the vanilla bean caviar during last minute of whipping. While mixture’s whipping prepare pan:Put confectioners’ sugar into small bowl. Lightly spray 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with cooking spray. Cover with a piece of oiled foil.  Add sugar and swirl to coat bottom and sides.  Save remaining sugar for later.

When ready, pour mixture into prepared pan, using oiled spatula for even spreading. Dust top with enough remaining sugar to lightly cover. Reserve the rest again.  Allow marshmallows to sit uncovered for a few hours before cutting.Once candy’s set, place a piece of parchment onto large cutting board.  Turn marshmallows out and peel off foil.  Dust bottom and sides with more powdered sugar.  Using powdered sugar dusted pizza cutter, cut 8 pieces wide and 4 long.  As you cut, place into zip-top bag with powdered sugar in it.  Gently shake to coat.  Place onto parchment to fully set.

*For fancy flavored candies, switch out vanilla for other flavors, such as peppermint, almond or orange.  You can also put spices into the confectioners’ sugar, like cinnamon, Chinese five-spice, or cayenne.  Or use cocoa powder instead of powdered sugar.What I discovered about marshmallows is I love the flavor.  It’s the texture that weirds me out.  That spongy, bounce-back, “it’s alive and will devour you” feeling—I can’t even.  I do not like food that feels like it’s fighting back.

And I’ve discovered and begun making two scrumptious items that have all the marshmallow taste and none of that marshmallow-y “sentient and plotting against me” consistency.

Next week I’ll talk about them and share the recipes.Thanks for your time.

Hot Cha-cha-colate

I told Petey the other day it doesn’t matter who you are, or how much experience you’ve had, making marshmallows is a messy, sticky, sticky business.  Did I mention it’s sticky?All you can do is try to minimize damage.

Because I have more time than money, I make many gifts in my kitchen.

Our cocoa mix is easy and delicious.  Stirring in a small handful of chopped chocolate will make it crazy rich.

Special Dark Cocoa

In a food processor, mix until texture is powdery and homogeneous:cocoa

¾ cup powdered milk

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¾ cup sugar

½ cup Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder

Then add:

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Store in airtight container.  To make a cup, mix ½ cup cocoa mix into 1 cup milk.  Makes 4 cups.And here are the marshmallows that go with the cocoa.  It’s a recipe adapted from Alton Brown. The response you get from people is worth all the heat and mess.  Most people don’t even realize they can be made at home.

Homemade marshmallowsmarshmallows-2

3 packages unflavored gelatin

1 cup ice cold water, divided

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 vanilla bean, scraped, reserving pod

½ cup confectioners’ sugar

Nonstick spray

Place gelatin into bowl of stand mixer with ½ cup water.

Prepare pan:

Put confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Cover it with a piece of oiled foil.  Add the sugar and swirl to coat bottom and sides.  Save remaining sugar for later use.

In small saucepan combine remaining water, granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, and empty vanilla pod. Place over medium-high heat, cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto side of pan and continue to cook until mixture reaches 240 degrees. Immediately remove from heat and take out vanilla pod.Using whisk attachment, turn mixer on low speed and slowly pour all the sugar syrup down side of the bowl into gelatin mixture. Once added, increase speed to high. Continue to whip until mixture becomes fluffy, white, and increases in volume approximately 500%; approximately 10 to 13 minutes. Add the vanilla bean caviar during last minute of whipping.

When ready, pour mixture into prepared pan, using oiled spatula for even spreading. Dust top with enough of the remaining sugar to lightly cover. Reserve the rest again.  Allow marshmallows to sit uncovered for a few hours before cutting.Once the candy is set, place a piece of parchment onto large cutting board.  Turn the marshmallows out and peel off foil.  Dust bottom and sides with more powdered sugar.  Using powder sugar dusted pizza cutter, cut the candy; 6 pieces wide and 8 long.  As you cut, place into a zip top bag that has some confectioners’ sugar in it.  Gently shake to coat, and place onto parchment to fully set.

Make sure you have everything out and organized.  Once the candy is ready to go from mixer to the prepared pan you have waiting, don’t fool around.  Move deliberately, but with a sense of controlled urgency.

Even if you do everything right, there will still be a mess.  During both the cooking and mixing stages you’ve got time room to load the dish washer and wipe down the stove, the counters, your dog, and mischievous family members.

I leave you with three simple words: Hot.Soapy.Water.

But then hand the out marshmallows and bask in the praise that will fall upon your genius shoulders like warm summer rain.Thanks for your time.