SFC: Winter Sweetness

                ‘tis the season for many a sweets and gingivitis, presented to us in multiple fun ways. Cookies, chocolate, fudge, candy canes (or other peppermint treats),  m’n’ms apparently, and so many others. Of this veritable tirade of tooth decay and artificial flavors, there’s something in me that just can’t help but hold the Marshmallow as the ubiquitous sugar-source of the month. Maybe it’s just the connection to hot chocolate, or that smoky warmth of toasting it reminiscent of a log fire, but there’s just something about the fluffy piles of soft whiteness, caramelized and gooey when hot, that simply seems to highlight themselves for me during this time of year.

                Considering this, and a new White Elephant Party event focused on hand made gifts, I thought this year would be a fun one to finally make my own little Mallows from scratch. This is of course accomplished via another one of Alton’s recipes.

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Homemade Marshmallows

3 packets (3/4oz) Gelatin Powder

1 cup Iced Water (split)

1 ½ cup Sugar

1 cup Light Corn Syrup

¼ tsp Kosher Salt

1 Tb Flavoring/Extract

¼ cup Powdered Sugar

¼ cup Cornstarch

                Before we start, we need to take a large consideration of how we’re mixing this. If you have one of those typical standing, KitchenAid  type countertop mixers with the large whisk attachment, perfect. I’ve always envied how they look when making those perfect meringues, not to mention droves of other air-required mixes. Now, on the other hand, if you DON’T have one of these, then weigh your options very carefully. My best advice is to use a good electric hand mixer and make the recipe in two batches (in a smaller bowl), which will give the mixer and you a more complete control and continual whisking of the entire sugar mixture. Not to mention it keeps you right there and watching over it the entire time, a very important thing… trust me. Oh, also, so annoying, due to issues and distractions I forgot to take a couple pictures I wanted, like the set gelatin and pouring the hot sugar.

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                Turn your Gelatin out into a bowl and cover with ½ cup of icy cold water to bloom, which should only take a couple minutes. With this ratio, the water’ll turn into a firm, manipulable layer of what looks to be a cross between wet sand and jelly.

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                Combine the Corn Syrup, Sugar, Salt, and the rest of the Ice Water (I’m not really sure why it has to be ice water, but that’s what is mentioned/highlighted in both the recipe and the show, so let’s not mess with it) in a pot. Move over med-high heat and cover for about 3-4 minutes; again, not really sure why it needs to be covered, I’ve never seen any other recipe for sugar boiling/cooking require it, but I will say the mixture seems to cohere much easier than uncovered.

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                After boiling a bit, take cover out and fit your thermometer inside. Looking for 240F, which won’t take very long.

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                While it’s heating up, we can set up our “Nonstick Mixture.” This is a very important thing to have, as you will use it on everything that comes into contact with the marshmallow after mixing; let me tell you, this stuff is hella sticky. And the mix is simple, just combine equal portions Powdered Sugar and Cornstarch. For a batch like this, I might suggest at least 1/3 cup of each, just in case.

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                Prep your pan beforehand too. LIGHTLY spray whichever pan you’re using (one large loaf pan should work well for a recipe size like this), let sit a bit, and dump in the sugar-starch. Shake it around all the bottom and sides (it helps to cover it tightly while doing, if possible) and dump the excess back into the bowl, awaiting later use.

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                Once at temp, turn mixer on low and start pouring the hot, hot syrup in a slow and steady stream. Try your best to actually have this fall onto the side of the bowl and not directly into the mix, my guess being to avoid direct and extreme shooting of heat, thus having a very slight tempering effect. Plus it probably assists into making the addition ever more gradual for better integration.

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                Turn the mixer to high once everything is mix in, and keep it on for “12-15 minutes. Long, yes, but if your mixer can last that long while mixing every bit of it constantly then it’s important. If it can’t, try to go as long as you safely can, until it gets nice and thick, white and glossy like this.

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                I will say you’ll probably want a spatula on hand if you’re using the classic beater design, it’s gonna want to keep climbing up the rotating metal! At the least, though, this is a good sign that you’re getting close to an acceptable time to finish up.

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                When you’re about a minute away from being done, you can add the preferred method of flavoring. Vanilla extract is traditional, but if you want some other flavor but don’t have any other kinds of extracts (or the fancy smancy concentrates you find out about in baking class), no need to fear, we have a naturally great option filled with various pure flavors great for times like this: Alcohol. Liqueurs, flavored Vodka, Fruit Brandies (and I mean brandy actually made by distilling the fruit, or a base that’s been flavored with them), etc. For my own little gift exchange, I decided to make 4 different kinds of marshmallows based on my resources: a plain Vanilla, an Orange made from Harlequin Liqueur, a Cherry made from Kirshwasser, and a Mint made from my own extraction.

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                Which is another point, if you don’t have any flavored alcohol on hand for your desired confection. I really wanted to get Mint flavor within mine, so what I did was take a couple branches of fresh mint, pulled off the leaves, gave them a little rub with my hands (do not “muddle” or crush roughly or whatever; the flavor oils come out easily with some gentle treatment), and covered with some vodka. Leave sit for about 15 minutes or so (NOT overnight, get all the bad extractions) and you have a perfect vehicle for transferring flavor without having to worry about solid interactions.

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                Mix this in, adding a few drops of food coloring if you’re making a flavored one (much easier to identify in a mix). Lightly oil spray a spatula and scoop as much of this out and into the loaf pan as possible; if you can get it all, you are a god, sir (or madam), a GOD I SAY!!! …. As you can see the overall job makes for quite the sticky mess at home, haha.

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                Spread out the top as well as possible and sprinkle some more of your sugar-starch over it. Cover with a lid, plastic, foil, or whatever for overnight.

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                The next morning, you can pull this out onto a lightly dusted cutting board and start slicing. Take whatever tool you can prefer and cover as much of it as you can in the nonstick white powder; a large pizza cutter seems to work pretty well, especially if you have a thinner marshmallow. Though if you can coat a knife blade thoroughly with the sugar-starch stuff, go for it.

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                Slice into the desired shaped, dusting with more sugar as it’s exposed (the blade will need more as you go along), and toss into an air tight sealing container with the rest of the Sugar-Starch. I cannot overexpress how much you’ll want to keep using this.

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                Now you can nom them as is, toast over a fire, add to composed desserts, or just use to top hot cocoa. Though cocoa is a bit generic for these high-potential sweets; why not use them in a Hot Toddy?

                Pour some hot water into a cup with cinnamon stick, some cloves and a wedge/slice of lemon (or just add lemon juice), fill with as much of whatever Brandy, Whiskey, and/or Rum you’re craving, along with a bit of Orange Liqueur and/or Kirshwasser to pump it up and better connect with these awesome marshmallows. Since they’re so sweet, there’s no need to add any sugar syrup.  

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                If you want to toast these in the kitchen before use, I find the broiler on the oven works well; using a blowtorch is too quick and doesn’t allow the insides to soften and expand quite as much. But that’s all just a bunch of different ideas, use your marshmallows however you want! They’re delicious in every way, especially when there’s snow outside. Which is a nice comfort after all the messes I have to clean from making it.

                Good Luck and Good Eating, try not to get diabetes.

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