Friday, December 31, 2010

Festive Vanilla Marshmallows

Hello wannafoodie readers! Caitlin here from Some of you may recognize me from the wannafoodie header (I'm the one wiping my mouth in the stripes). I'm so excited to give you a peek into the marshmallow-making date I had with Christine last week! I wasn't sure we'd be able to get through making two batches of marshmallows in my teeny-tiny kitchen, but our mission was accomplished.

I was first inspired to make marshmallows when I was thinking of a Christmas gift to give the members of my book club. I wanted to make them something that they could drink or eat while curled up with a book on a cold winter night. Homemade hot cocoa and marshmallows seemed like my most adventurous bet. So, armed with my laptop, I set out to find the most manageable marshmallow recipe I could and I stumbled across this recipe from the Joy of Baking. The first batch went off without a hitch and I invited Christine over to make a second batch for stocking-stuffers. We decided to adapt the original recipe slightly using vanilla bean pods and food colouring for a more festive and flavourful feel.

Festive Vanilla Marshamallow
(adapted from the Joy of Baking)

1 c. cold water, divided
2.5 packets unflavoured gelatin powder (18g)
1 c. light corn syrup
2 c. granulated white sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
seeds from 1/2 of a 3" vanilla pod

To begin, empty the gelatin and 1/2 c. of cold water into a large mixing bowl. Stir and let set (approximately 15 min.). Meanwhile, take a 13" x 9" baking dish and line the bottom with parchment paper. Lightly spray with a non-stick cooking spray and generously sprinkle icing sugar over the bottom. Icing sugar keeps the marshmallows from sticking to the parchment when they set.

Once your pan is lined and you've poured yourself a drink (Christine and I chose wine), pour the corn syrup, remaining water, salt and white sugar into a heavy saucepan. Stir continuously over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Once sugar is dissolved, raise the heat and place candy thermometer into pot and let boil to 240F. Once the mixture has reached this temperature, immediately transfer to gelatin mixture.

NOTE: The first time I made the marshmallows I used my glass pots to heat the corn syrup/sugar mixture and it took far longer to reach boiling point than when I used my enamel cast iron pot. Don't walk away from the stove! This mixture can reach boiling point in no time at all depending on the cookware you're using and if you burn it, the marshmallows are toast.

Once you've combined the gelatin and sugar mix, take your electric hand beaters, stand mixer or big biceps to town and whisk the life out of the sugary sweetness on high speed for about 15 min., until medium-soft peaks form (not too hard, not too soft, tell yourself the story of 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears' as you do so, it'll help you get those peaks just right).

The mixture will triple in size as it beats!

When your arms get tired, your hand starts to vibrate from holding the beaters too long, or you are bored from just standing there (about ten minutes in), take a quick break. Slice open your vanilla pod length-wise and scrape out the seeds onto the tip of your knife. Take a quick sniff, before transferring to the marshmallow mixture. Don't those seeds smell incredible?

After you've added the vanilla pods, pour in the vanilla extract and finish mixing.

Once medium-soft peaks are formed, immediately transfer the marshmallows to your lined baking dish with a spatula. Spread mixture out evenly though the dish.

Add drops of food colouring to the top of your marshmallows and either create a manic tye-dye creation by whipping the colour throughout (like I did) OR delicately marble the colouring throughout the top layer (like Christine did).

My marshmallows

Christine's marshmallows (aren't they beautiful?!)

Next, generously sprinkle more icing sugar on top of the finished marshmallow mixture and pat flat with your hands. The icing sugar eliminates any stickiness. Magic!

Now you need to rest. So do the marshmallows. For 12 hours (I know, I know! You want stuff yourself with these RIGHT NOW, but you can't!).

Once you've had a good long 12-hour snooze, remove the marshmallows from the pan onto a lightly dusted sugary surface. Peel back the parchment and marvel at the fact that you've just made marshmallows from scratch!

Take a sharp knife or pizza cutter and cut marshmallows into desired size and shape.

Toss each marshmallow in a bowl of icing sugar (about 1/4 c.) This will allow you to store or package the marshmallows without them sticking together into one big delicious mess.

Voila! You're done. Now, go fix yourself a steaming cup of hot cocoa and throw a couple of these in. Or, just eat them straight (like I may or may have done with a few...).

Marshmallows are something you can really have fun with, so go crazy with the extracts and colouring. Cinnamon or peppermint would be a fantastic substitution to the vanilla. Right now, I'm eyeing these Dulce de Leche Swirled Marshmallows over at The Spiced Life...

Thanks, Christine, for having me here at wannafoodie! It's been a blast! Happy New Year, friends! I hope 2011 brings you all happiness and delicious food!

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