I’m not sure why I tackled the homemade marshmallow last weekend. I was up for a challenge, and those little puffy pillows of sweetness – how hard to make can they be, really? – seemed like a worthy contender.
My mother-in-law was over that morning. She spent the night with us after the Florida-Arkansas football game, a night game that didn’t end until past my bedtime. I had skipped out on the game, preferring instead to lounge around at home with the kiddos, the Gator game on ESPN, and take-out Pad Thai.
While my mother-in-law sipped her first cup of coffee that Sunday morning, the kids helped me gather ingredients for the marshmallows. Oliver measured the sugar by the half-cup full, checking with me after each scoop. Madeline added the gelatin to water in the stand mixer. When she crinkled her nose at the funky, animal odor that arose from the bowl, I thought I’d lost her. The enticement of the eventual marshmallow was strong, however, and she rebounded.
While I stood over the stovetop, waiting for the boiling sugar syrup to reach 240 degrees, my mother-in-law joined me in the kitchen. Like an exotic gorilla behind glass at the zoo, I had piqued her curiosity.
“I would just never think to make marshmallows,” she said.
“It’s fun to try something new,” I said. “I like the challenge. And the kids will love them.” I was confident that these marshmallows would turn out perfect. I also knew that she would be impressed if I pulled this off.
And, so, it was under my mother-in-law’s doubtful gaze that I botched the first batch of marshmallows.
I followed the instructions of a recipe I found online, a Barefoot Contessa recipe for homemade marshmallows. It called for mixing the liquid marshmallow batter at high speed for fifteen minutes, so I did. After fifteen minutes of whirring at high speed in the stand mixer, I had created industrial-strength cement, not marshmallows. The mixture set up firm in the bowl. It wouldn’t budge.
“Well, that was interesting,” my mother-in-law said. Coffee in hand, she turned and headed back to the living room.
I wasn’t to be defeated, though. Later that day, after Sam’s mom left us to head home, I started over.
This time, I mixed the batter for only five minutes, not fifteen. Overmixing had been the problem, but I’d fixed that issue. I had marshmallow success, after all.
I’ve made more since last weekend. One might say that I’m fairly obsessed with the process now. The kids are thrilled. They’ve taken a few marshmallows each as a treat in their lunchboxes during the week. I’m not sure which they love more – the taste or the novelty of them.
“Why in the world would you want to make marshmallows?” my mom asked last week.
Because I can? That’s a good enough reason for me.
Homemade Vanilla Marshmallows
If you've never made marshmallows before, I feel that I must warn you: making them is addictive. My children would tell you that eating them is addictive.
3 (0.25 ounce; 7 grams) packets unflavored gelatin [such as Knox Gelatine brand]
1-1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup [such as Karo syrup]
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Food coloring, optional
Brush the sides and bottom of a 9-inch square baking pan or dish with vegetable oil. Using a sifter or fine mesh sieve, sift a generous dusting of confectioner's sugar over the sides and bottom until the entire surface is covered. Knock out any excess.
In the bowl of a stand mixer (fitted with the whisk attachment), pour 1/2 cup water. Sprinkle the gelatin powder into the water so that all of the gelatin gets wet. Let sit while you prepare the sugar syrup.
In a heavy 3- to 4-quart saucepan, stir together the granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, stirring the sugar until dissolved. Increase the heat to high and continue boiling until syrup reaches 240°F. Remove from heat and let the bubbles die down just a bit.
With the mixer on low speed, carefully pour the hot sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Increase mixer to high speed and beat for 5 minutes. The marshmallow should be thick but still pourable. Add vanilla and any food coloring (more drops for a deeper color); beat for another 30 seconds or so.
Quickly scrape the marshmallow batter into the prepared pan. Using wet fingers, smooth the surface of the marshmallow and spread it evenly in the pan. Sift a generous coating of confectioner's sugar on the surface of the marshmallow. Let sit at room temperature, uncovered, for at least 4 hours, until the marshmallow dries out.
Sift confectioner's sugar on a cutting board and turn the marshmallow out onto the board, using a flexible spatula or butter knife to lift and pull the sides out from the pan. Using a sharp knife (or kitchen shears) dipped in confectioner's sugar, cut into squares or other shapes. Dust all the cut edges of the marshmallows with more confectioner's sugar. Store in a tightly covered container for up to 3 to 4 weeks.
Adapted from this recipe from Barefoot Contessa.