My friend Virginia asked me if I had ever made marshmallows. She was looking for marshmallows without “all that junk” the store- bought varieties have and didn’t want to shell out 10 bucks for the artisanal ones. I hadn’t made them before, but Fairlight, the awe-inspiring baker at Otto’s Market, makes them about every week. She assured me that they were easy, so I decided to give them a whirl.
Even though corn syrup was invented in 1882 (so it falls within my 19th century ingredient criteria), I decided to use maple syrup instead. I also tried a batch substituting honey for the syrup. I thought the honey flavor was over-powering. You can substitute corn syrup or use any combination of syrups. I have some Steen’s cane syrup I want to try next.
Historically, marshmallows were made from the marsh mallow root, which has properties similar to gelatin. I would love to try to make them using the root, but today I’ll keep it simple.
You’ll need a candy thermometer and a stand mixer. You could use a hand mixer but you’ll need to hold it for about 15 minutes. Marshmallows have been being made since before the invention of electricity, so I suppose you could also use a whisk and get a good forearm workout.
4 envelopes unflavored gelatin (one box)
3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups cornstarch (or powdered sugar)
1. Line 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish with parchment paper, be sure the sides are covered with the paper. Lightly oil it then generously coat with cornstarch or powdered sugar. Fairlight suggests using cornstarch if you plan to store them for any length of time.
2. Put 3/4 cup of water into a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin into the water and set aside to let soften (this is called blooming the gelatin, which must be named after Mr. Oscar Bloom who invented a device for measuring the rigidity of gelatin).
3. Put sugar, maple syrup, salt, and 3/4 cup water into a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.
4. Once the sugar is dissolved, cook, without stirring, until mixture registers 238º F on a candy thermometer, about 9 minutes.
5. Using a whisk attachment on your mixer, start to mix the blooming gelatin. With the mixer on low, slowly add the hot syrup to the gelatin mixture. Remember that stuff is 238º F so be careful!
6. After you have all of the hot syrup mixed in, gradually raise the speed to high. Beat until the mixture is very stiff, about 11 minutes.
7. Pour into the prepared dish and smooth with a lightly oiled spatula. Leave uncovered until firm (about 3 hours but overnight is ok).
8. Sift cornstarch (or powered sugar) on a cutting board. Turn the marshmallows onto the board. Dust a pizza cutter or knife with cornstarch and cut them into 1 inch squares (bigger or smaller if you want).
9. Toss the squares in cornstarch (or confectioners’ sugar). Be sure they are well coated. They will be very sticky if they aren’t. Store in an airtight container for several weeks.
Hot chocolate anyone?