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Berry Marshmallows with Chocolate recipe

marhmallows-cut-chocolate

The first week of January is the time of year for lofty goals and noble aspirations and the food world is no exception. Food-related resolutions seem to fall into two categories: Proscriptive and prescriptive. There are far more of the former and they mostly take the form of "I will change my diet by not eating sugar, fat, HFCS, bread, chocolate, and so on." There are, to be fair, some positive "I will eat..." resolutions out there (mine is to grow some vegetables along with the herbs in my garden) but most of them are framed in the negative. What a way to start the year, with a list of things you are going to deny yourself!

Far more fun are the prescriptive resolutions. I particularly like "I will make ____ for the first time." and the ones that start "I will learn to..." If I was forced to make New Year's resolutions - and thankfully, I am not - I would fall into this camp so I have a soft spot for them.

One resolution I have seen several times this week is "I will learn to make homemade marshmallows!" I like this one a lot. Marshmallows are surprisingly easy to make and cannot fail to instill a certain confidence. This alchemy of simple things-in this case,sugar, corn syrup, fruit, and water-is why I love to cook. When a few simple things come together in a new way, even if it's only new to you, it's gratifying.

When it's something like marshmallows, you will also surprise the heck out of your friends and get lots of external validation. Truly. Try this experiment: tell some people you are going to make marshmallows and watch their reactions. You are likely to hear things like, "I didn't know you could make those!" Commercial marshmallows are apparently dropped intact from the mothership, as anyone who lives in farming country can tell you. Of course, this probably means you'll have to make them, but you really ought to so just deal with it.

I first made marshmallows a couple of years ago and was amazed at how easy and tasty they were. I am not the hugest fan of marshmallows. Okay, so a campfire somehow just isn't complete without some to toast, and they are great as an (occasional) ingredient...but marshmallows for their own sake? Marshmallows to be eaten like candy just didn't grab my attention.

Then I ran across an eGullet thread discussing making marshmallows. My response? "Make them? You can make them? (See, everyone thinks this.) Oh gee, why didn't anyone tell me? This might be a different story entirely."

Marshmallows are actually very simple to make, although you do need a few bits of equipment.

  • Thermometer - Candy thermometers are fine if you are sure it's 'calibrated' but I use my trusty digital probe unit, (the same one I use for the Thanksgiving turkey).
  • Mixer - Just about every recipe I have seen warns that you need a stand mixer-preferably with one of those splash-guard contraptions with a pouring spout-and since I have one, I have only made them that way. My guess is that if you can do it if have a good handheld mixer and a strong arm, or a friend - which might not be a bad idea because then you can share the marshmallows. If circumstances allow, you could always try it and, if you destroy your current mixer, use it as an excuse to upgrade. You know you want to.

It's got two mixtures: the cold one (gelatin, fruit, water) and the hot one (sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt). Each of these is prepared individually,after which they are combined and whipped for a small eternity. The result is kitchen magic at its best, simple ingredients combined in a few steps to create a nearly universal treat.

Yes, it is junk food at its purest, consisting of pretty much sugar and, um, sugar - although some folks might call that enough to qualify as a deceptively delicious recipe - but it is homemade junk food so you control the quality. Use organic sugar, a vegan substitute for gelatin, or trymy untested theory that you can substitute golden syrup for the corn syrup (or maybe just sugar somehow) and you can have marshmallows that are slightly better for you than commercial or fit within a vegan diet.

Berry Marshmallow recipe

This recipe is based on one from nightscotsman at eGullet, which is, in turn, based on one of Martha Stewart's marshmallow variations. A single batch is huge, so unless you're serving a crowd, or it is the start of marshmallow season, you might want to cut it in half.

3/4 c fresh or frozen berries

1/2 c cold water

4 envelopes gelatin

3/4 c water

3 c sugar

1-1/4 c light corn syrup

1/4 tsp salt

Sugar mixture for dusting
Mix equal parts powdered sugar and one or more of the following: corn starch, rice flour,potato starch. (I keep a large jar of 'mallow sugar on the shelf: 50% powdered sugar, 40% rice flour and 10% corn starch on the shelf.)

Before you start

Line a large cookie sheet (one with sides) with foil. Generously smear vegetable oil on the foil, or spray it with non-stick spray if you have some around.

Tie back your hair, take off the floppy sleeves, kick the furlings out of the kitchen, and clear a bunch of workspace. It is really easy to make these but they are STICKY as all get out and you don't want to be i nthe middle of making them and then discover that your waist length hair is not staying behind your shoulders even though you snarled at it that it had better.Believe me, I know.

To make berry puree

marshmallows-strainerIn a small bowl, mash berries with a fork until relatively smooth. (Or you can use an immersion blender if you have one) Press through a strainer into another bowl, discarding any seeds left behind in strainer.Measure 1/2 cup of puree and set aside. If there is leftover puree, smear it on a piece of toast. Or just eat it with a spoon.

To make marshmallows

Combine berry puree, gelatin and 1/2 cup of the water in mixer bowl and leave to bloom while you prepare the sugar syrup. (Go ahead and put the splashguard in place, you'll need it and you do NOT want to forget it!) Attach the whisk-style beater to the mixer.

Place sugar, 3/4 cup water, corn syrup and salt in a large heavy marshmallows-boiling-sugarsaucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and continue to cook over medium heat until the thermometer reads 238°f/115°c (soft-ball stage).

With the mixer running on high, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the bowl. This works best if you pour it so that it runs down the side of the bowl, rather than hitting the whisk.

Perhaps we should pause for just a moment to consider the consequences of boiling sugar meeting a whisk whirling at 2400 rpm, particularly if it's your hands involved in the pouring. Remember the splash guard contraption that was mentioned earlier? This is why. Be safe, okay?

marshmallows-whippedWhip on high for 8-10 minutes until the mixture fills the mixer bowl with gorgeous billows of marshmallow fluff.

Pour the marshmallows onto on your prepared cookie sheet and smooth with an oiled offset spatula. Let cool thoroughly and leave uncovered for 6-8 hours (I often leave mine out overnight).

Dust the top of the marshmallow slab generously with 'mallow sugar. Turn the marshmallows out onto a clean surface that has been lightly sprinkled with more of the sugar and coat the other side with sugar. Cut into serving sized squares and dredge the individual pieces in, yep more sugar!

marshmallows-wedgesIf you do all this sugar-coating on a surface from which you can collect the excess sugar (tea towel, flexible cutting board, very clean counter) you can sift it to remove any errant marshmallow goop and save it for next time. There will be a next time.

Marshmallows store beautifully at room temperature in an airtight container. Do NOT freeze! I generally make a batch of these 3-4 times a year (raspberry for summer s'mores, mint for winter hot cocoa, etc) and have yet to encounter a 'stale' one.

Chocolate-covered marshmallows

marshmallows-sheetThere are different schools of thought when it comes to the bonding of chocolate with this fluffy goodness-they are mostly summed up by frustration and a few hints: Don't get any dusting sugar on the sides(s) where chocolate is to be applied, temperature is important (too hot and you risk melting the marshmallows), and prepare to have it fail.

In this case, I melted chopped up bittersweet chocolate in the microwave, when it was done I tossed in a handful of semisweet chips and stirred until it was melted and starting to cool. Then the chocolate was poured on and smoothed a bit.

After 15 minutes, I gently pressed a sheet of parchment down on the chocolate to insure there were no places where the chocolate wasn't adhering and let it cool. Cut like regular marshmallows and make sure that all the non-chocolated sides are dusted with your 'mallow sugar mixture.

Conclusions:

  • I am still not the biggest marshmallow fan, but these could certainly help make me one.
  • Not enough chocolate! The chocolate layer needs to be thicker...a lot thicker. (this might also make me more of a marshmallow fan)
  • Flavoring isn't strong enough. I wonder how much puree you could get away with adding...maybe it would be more forgiving if the gelatin is increased too) Or maybe some essential oils.
  • In retrospect, I'd probably use a smaller pan with higher sides and make taller marshmallows...which must be an excuse to make another batch.
  • It's time for s'mores!
  • Someday I'll have to find one of the original recipes for these things--one actually using the marsh mallow plant that gave the treats their name. Somehow, I doubt they'll be as good as these.

flickr set of berry marshmallows

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