December 31, 2013

It's A Marshmallow World In The Winter

Don't tell anyone but I don't like marshmallows.  There is an exception, I LOVE s'mores, so I do have an affinity for toasted marshmallows sandwiched in between graham crackers and chocolate, but raw marshmallows without the crunchy caramelized crust, not my cup of tea or in this case cup of cocoa.

Lucky for you marshmallow lovers, I enjoy making them.  They are quite an adventure in the kitchen, from bubbling sugar, to whipping egg whites to the fluffy outcome.  Now, lets talk conventional marshmallows....seriously do we have to put food coloring and chemicals in everything?  
Especially, something as innocent as a marshmallow?  Many of us grew up with the bag of conventional marshmallows, purchased for summer vacations, holiday casseroles and the wintry hot cocoa.
Who knows what the ingredient list looked like when we were younger?  Nowadays that bag of marshmallows contains a few odd ingredients, "Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate," which apparently is a "whipping aid" and of course artificial flavors and the color Blue 1.  Food coloring, oh my, how many products on the market have food coloring?  I'm all for coloring food naturally with fun food-based dyes, but I'm saddened by the ever-growing artificial and over processed world we live in.  Whenever I see this as an added ingredient, I always think to myself, what would the color of the product be without the added color?  In this case probably not that bleached out white.

If you are up for an adventure, then please read the following before jumping in!

A note on ingredients: you must pull out the old corn syrup, try Wholesome Sweeteners, they have a GMO-free non-high fructose version on the market!  If you don't want to use it, then find glucose syrup, it works just as well.  Either way, you need an invert sugar.  Also, when I use gelatin in my kitchen, I only use sheet gelatin, for as many years as I've been cooking and baking I prefer sheet gelatin.  It is what I was taught to use in my professional training and it is the only gelatin that I can be sure of the outcome of the texture.  Don't fear, the internet is here, you can easily order sheet gelatin online at places like Amazon, or simply head to a specialty food store and ask them about it, or you can try to modify my recipe with a powdered version.  

A note on tools:  I use a scale for my sheet gelatin, it seems some versions are thinner than others, I know this recipe takes about 8 sheets of the type that I buy at my local Italian specialty store, but really gelatin weight varies, so a scale is a necessity.  
Other tools that will come in handy:
Candy thermometer
Electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment
Offset Spatula

Happy New Year! 
Buon Capodanno!

Victoria's Homemade Marshmallows
Makes a 1/4 sheet pan (13X9X2), cut to desired size

Marshmallow Powder: 
3/4 cups cornstarch or tapioca starch (if making GF make sure certified)
3/4 cups powdered sugar (again make sure GF, as conventional powdered sugars have corn starch, I purchase Wholesome Sweeteners made with Tapioca Starch or Whole Foods 365 brand)

21 grams sheet gelatin
1/2 cup water + more for gelatin
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup (Wholesome Sweeteners is certified GF)
3 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean scraped or flavoring of your choice (mint, almond, orange blossom, rose, coffee)

For the Marshmallow Powder mix together the corn starch and powdered sugar, set aside.  Line a quarter sheet pan with a silpat or lightly oil and line the pan with parchment paper.  Lightly dust the bottom and sides of the pan with the Marshmallow Powder.

Pour enough water over the sheet gelatin to cover completely. Allow to soften for a few minutes.  Once softened, squeeze the water from the gelatin and put the gelatin into a small bowl, discard all but a couple tablespoons of the water, add this to the gelatin and set aside.
In a medium saucepan warm the 1/2 cup of water, sugar and corn syrup over low heat stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved.  Once the sugar is dissolved, do not stir the mixture any longer.  Clip on the candy thermometer and increase the heat to medium-high.  Keep an eye on the thermometer as we are aiming for 245 degrees F.  
In the meantime, pour the egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk on low until frothy.  Add the sea salt and increase the speed to high, whisking until the whites reach medium peak or until thick and perky.
(You'll learn timing as you make this recipe a few times.  However if your whites reach medium peak before the sugar syrup reaches 245 degrees F then simply shut off the electric mixer and wait until the syrup reaches the appropriate temperature).
Turn the mixer to medium-low speed and slowly pour in the hot sugar syrup, aim to pour the mixture in a stream on the side of the bowl so that it doesn't hit the whirling whisk and send tiny beads of hot syrup all over the bowl.  Add the softened gelatin sheet mixture to the hot pan and swirl back and forth, the residual heat should melt the gelatin.  Pour the liquefied gelatin slowly into the whipping whites.  Add the vanilla or flavoring of your choice and increase to high speed,continue to whip until cooled to room temperature and stiff peaks form, about 10-12 minutes.
Using an offset spatula spread the marshmallow mixture evenly in the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Lightly dust the top with some of the Marshmallow Powder.
Let cool at room temperature, uncovered for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
Dust the top of the marshmallows with the Marshmallow Powder.  Run a thin knife or offspatula around the edges of the pan and invert the pan onto a large cutting board.  Dust again with the Marshmallow Powder.  Cut the marshmallows (it's helpful to lightly oil your knife) into desired shape and size and toss the marshmallows in the remaining Marshmallow Powder.  Using a strainer shake the marshmallows to remove the excess powder.

Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

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