24 May 2013

Homemade Summer: Vanilla Bean Marshmallows

A few weeks ago in a post I mentioned that I wanted to do something I dubbed "homemade summer", where every week or two I would make, photograph, and write about something that is typically bought pre-made but is possible to make in a home kitchen. In our world of prepackaged and processed foods, many people don't even realize it's possible- let alone fairly easy- to make things like marshmallows, condiments, yogurt, etc at home. But it is possible, and the results are often so, sooo much better than what you would get at the store.

I thought marshmallows would be a fun way to kick off this project since they are pretty simple, delicious, and arguably the most important part of the quintessential summer treat- the s'more. I made a pretty big batch and gave some to my dad for his birthday. This recipe is really easy (I whipped it together in about an hour before I went to work on my birthday) and uses ingredients you likely already have on hand. The result is a soft, spongy, marshmallow that acts just the way a marshmallow should: it roasts over a fire, melts in hot cocoa, and squishes nicely between a couple graham crackers. It also tastes just like a store bought marshmallow, only better! The vanilla flavor is more present and it tastes sugary and fresh instead of processed. If you're so inclined, I'd definitely recommend whipping up a bag of these to take on your next camping trip instead of opting for the store-bought stuff!

I used Smitten Kitchen's recipe for marshmallows, only I decreased the gelatin slightly as I only had 3 envelopes on hand.

Confectioners sugar for dusting/tossing marshmallows
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
2 cups cane sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
2 large egg whites
1 scraped vanilla bean (I also added about 1/4 tsp vanilla to up the vanilla flavor, as my vanilla bean was a bit old and dried out)

Oil the sides and bottom of a 9 by 13 square baking dish. I own only one ceramic rectangular casserole dish which I have used for just about every recipe that requires a casserole dish on this website... so I made do with that. Something with sharp edges, like a sheet cake pan, would be much better though.

Dust the dish with powdered sugar

Use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites until they just form stiff peaks. Reserve in a separate bowl for later.
 Place the gelatin in the (cleaned) bowl of the mixer. Pour half a cup of the cold water over the gelatin to allow it to set.

In a saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, salt and the remaining 1/2 cup water over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. When the mixture has become clear, raise the temperature to medium and allow the mixture to boil without stirring until it has reached a temperature of 240 degrees F. I do not own a candy thermometer, but Deb says this will take about 12 minutes so I set my timer to that and it seemed to be the right amount of time :)

Remove pan from heat and pour directly over gelatin in the mixer bowl, stirring until gelatin is dissolved. With the whisk attachment, beat the gelatin/sugar mixture until it is thick, white, and tripled in volume (about 6-10 mins). It will look a lot like marshmallow fluff, and it's just as gooey and delicious!

 Add the whipped egg whites back into the mixer bowl along with the vanilla bean scrapings and/or any other flavorings you'd like to use.
Whip until combined, and then dump the whole mixture into the oiled, dusted baking dish. Don't worry too much about getting every last bit in there, as this stuff is really sticky and gooey and hard to work with without making a mess! Dust the top with a generous amount of powdered sugar.

Let the marshmallows set, uncovered in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

Once the marsh have set, run a thin knife along the edges of the dish and then use your fingers to slowly pry the giant marshmallow from the dish. Working on a counter dusted with plenty of powdered sugar, cut the marshmallow mat into strips and then 1 inch squares

Toss the marshmallows with even more powdered sugar to keep the sticky cut sides from holding them together. And that's all there is to it! Fresh, homemade marshmallows perfect for your next camping trip or hot cocoa mug (or even a cup of coffee in the morning!)

<3 Em

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