I've been meaning to share one of Laura's new, easy 4H recipes, perfect for frosty December afternoons -- homemade marshmallows.
I'd been intrigued since first hearing Martha Stewart talk about them -- who knew you could make marshmallows, and that they were made out of real food? -- but they seemed so darn complicated. I tend to prefer dessert recipes that don't require me to keep an eye out for the "hard ball stage", and much as I enjoy kitchen chemistry, I'll leave cooking for engineers to hardier souls; though the pictures at the website are handy, especially if you don't have the chance to watch a bunch of 4H kids in action.
However, I was delighted to learn that in the capable hands of Laura's club leader the other month, the recipe is amazingly simple. So simple that we were able to duplicate the results on our own the next weekend, which was a good thing because Daniel and Davy quickly ate up the samples Laura brought home. Unlike most of the other recipes I've seen, this one includes no candy thermometer, wet pastry brushes, or corn syrup (in fact, a grand total of five ingredients -- water, sugar, gelatin, vanilla extract, and salt).
They're not only easy to make, but much tastier than the store-bought version. Especially if you insist, as we do, on gilding the lily -- rolling them in toasted coconut or crushed candy canes, or dusting with a mixture of confectioner's sugar and either cinnamon or cocoa (and you can make chocolate marshmallows by adding a tablespoon or two of cocoa to the recipe below). You could substitute the vanilla extract in the recipe below with some peppermint flavoring, too. My favorite way to serve, and eat, the marshmallows is to cut them in largish pillowy squares and roll them in toasted coconut, served alongside rather than in my hot chocolate. The kids like theirs with crushed candy cane, which does look spiffy before it starts to melt in the mug (see photo). By the way, homemade marshmallows make a lovely -- inexpensive too -- homemade Christmas present, especially tucked in a bag with a container of Ghirardelli hot cocoa mix or drinking chocolate.
Easy Homemade Marshmallows
Mix together (I do this in the measuring cup):
2 packages of unflavored gelatine (for example, Knox brand)
½ cup water
Then mix together in a large pan and heat over low/medium heat until dissolved:
2 cups white sugar
½ cup water
Add gelatin mixture to pot with sugar mixture, and bring to a boil.
Remove pan from stove and cool, for about 15-20 minutes. While you're waiting, you can grease an 8"x8" or 9"x9" pan with butter, vegetable oil, or Crisco and then dust with confectioner's sugar; I've also had good luck greasing the pan, then lining it with wax or parchment paper and greasing it again, with a final layer of confectioner's sugar. Then to the cooled mixture add
½ tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
With a hand mixer (or you can transfer the entire mixture to the large bowl in your stand mixer), beat the mixture until it's white and thick and looks like Marshmallow Fluff.; this should take about 15 minutes.
Pour mixture into the prepared pan and let the marshmallows set until cool. Either tip the marshmallows out (you may need a knife or spatula) or pull out and peel off the wax/parchment paper. Cut into squares, roll in toasted coconut, cinnamon, or more confectioner's sugar. Serve on a cold afternoon.