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.

SFC: Fudging up some Cake

               If you read my recent post on Cake Pop creation, you’re aware I was left with quite a bit of leftover Vanilla Cake. For me this was quite a joy, since it gave me the chance to make my FAVORITE little confection, one of my very own invention (truly, so far I have not found any evidence of this little creation in any form online, in recipes, etc). And by accident/chance too; this little guy sorta just came to me one night when I was making cupcakes and had most of my Chocolate ones completely destroyed when trying to take them from the pan. Had all this tasty cake leftover but nothing I could think of doing with them… and nothing on hand but a little pot of melted marshmallow.

               I call it “Cake/Brownie Fudge,” and it is easily one of, if not THE, best ways to use up leftover cake or brownies, vanilla or chocolate, sheet or cup, dry or already icing-ed, plain or flavor/nut studded, etc. It’s extremely simple, highly customizable, and sooooo good. And like fudge it’s easy to cut into squares, wrap in wax or whatever, and carry around (thus my ability to include it in Street Food Corner).

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              We start by taking our leftover cake, getting it completely or mostly crumbled up, and mixing it with melted Marshmallows (melt it in a pan with butter). There’s no real rule to ratios here; if you only have a small amount of cake, just use a few marshmallows, if you have most of a pan like I did then use over a cup of marshmallows (before melting… maybe after).

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              (Apologies for the blurry picture, didn’t realize camera was acting up) Pour this onto the crumbles along with ANYTHING else that you want or have leftover! In this instance, I added in the leftover blue white chocolate, and part of the cake I used was mixed with that frosting mixture. Mix thoroughly so you know the marshmallow is well integrated and move into whatever PROPERLY SIZED (enough so you can fit it all in thick, you don’t want a thin little layer of fudge here) Loaf, Cake, Cupcake, Bundt, or whatever pan you have, already well-covered with plastic wrap. If you haven’t figured it out yet, yes, I am basically just making rice crispies but with cake.

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              Press this down evenly and top with anything else you want or have leftover. For this, I got some more marshmallow (which wasn’t too great of an idea, it keeps coming off on the plastic wrap), a little sweetened condensed milk drizzle (if you haven’t tasted condensed milk as is, DO SO… it is lactic heaven), and some of those sprinkles. We can also use some caramel, chocolate sauce, more icing, etc (I drizzled a port chocolate sauce over my chocolate cupcake fudge, mmmm).

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              Now, wrap the rest of the plastic over the top and cover it with a weight of some sort; preferably the same sized pan on top with some heavy cans (no luck for me, so I used some heavy coasters for one side and a can of chicken noodle on the other, haha). Place it in the fridge and leave overnight to cool, condense, and for those marshmallows and other fillings/sauces set up.

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             Once ready, you can take it out and slice off as big or small pieces you want to enjoy this now-rich, dense, tenderly chewy piece of heaven highly unique unto itself. Similar to fudge, but like a cake… really a cross between the two. Personally, I myself sorta prefer the Chocolate-based ones; maybe it’s that rich cocoa which converts it to even more fudgy. Or something.

             Hopefully this little post is able to inspire the spread of this new confectionary creation! But whether one tries creating it at home or not, I hope you at least enjoyed reading this idea of mine. If you’ve had similar kinds of creation experiences, please do share! Until then, Good Luck and Good Eating (of sweets) to all.

SFC: Special Krispies

                So, the friend who sent me the Cacao Beans wants me to make her fudge; Maple-Walnut, to be exact. Since I always prefer my special shipments to contain a variety of homemade goodies, and I had an abundance of walnuts leftover, my favorite Rice Krispies seemed a good option. Not to mention all the marshmallow goodness I’ll have to myself after shipping half of it….

                As those who’ve read my review of SCRATCH, one of my favorite Toe Rings in the city is their Ginger Rice Krispies. They’re that perfect balance of childhood nostalgia, mixed with that little ingredient to heighten the enjoyment even more. And like them, I have my OWN special ingredient for heightening my Krispy, along with other confections.

                That is, a very simple, and very delicious method for Candying Nuts. Very much like the style of those cinnamon-roasted varieties one sees at the Farmer’s Market, this is a recipe that one can use for almost any kind of nut. I’ve used it for Pecans, Almonds, Peanuts, and now Walnuts; on a side note, I would probably avoid trying with Macadamia or Brazil, just not the right texture to match with the coating. Hazelnuts are debatable.

                So, before even going near the marshmallows, we start making our little candies (can do a couple hours before, a day is good… though make sure you have enough to last through the highly occasional snacking. This is not a temptation you can resist).

                Separate a couple egg whites, add a drop of Vanilla, and whisk until Foamy (can do this by hand easily), stopping after there’s no more “loose whites” but before getting even close to “soft peak.” In a separate bowl, mix White and Brown sugar (more white than brown), a little Salt, a pinch of Baking Powder (or more if doing a lot), and any seasonings. I just did Cinnamon for this, but I’ve also done cayenne, chilli powder, ginger, etc.

                As you can see, this is a very non-specific recipe, much how I like it. All one needs to know is having enough of both whipped whites and sugar that it can completely cover all the nuts one uses.

               Fold Walnuts into whipped whites until covered; if there’s a decent amount leftover in bowl, carefully scoop onto the mixed sugar. Otherwise, just dump; lots of people like mixing these in a plastic bag together, whatever your fancy. Fold and mix completely until the egg and sugar mix into this sticky, light brown paste; if more sugar is needed, one can easily add.

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              Best picture of the look I could get, forgot to use camera until after already getting into the pan.

              Bake at a LOW temperature, 300-325F, on a parchment-lined Baking sheet. Now, the trick here is stirring every 8-10 minutes or so; I like to think of it similar to making a really fluffy scrambled egg, still moving it around to mix and distribute now and then but mostly leaving it alone to build that nice, thick, fluffy (or in this case crunchy) layer.

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             As it cooks, you’ll notice the slow change from liquid to a dragging, textured scramble of sugar. Keep doing what you’re doing, stirring a little more often as one gets closer, until the crust is brown and noticeably hard while stirring. To test, take a nut out (since the crust is hard, one doesn’t have to worry about sugar-burn), let it cool for a few minutes, and bite in half; a good test of what texture will be after letting it cool, plus you can see if the nut is toasted where you want.

               Since the oven is so low, one has little worry about overcooking if needing to leave in a little longer.

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             Out of the oven and cooled, we can finally get to the Krispies! With each batch I do, I try to find a couple new things I can do with it, and this was certainly no exception. Along with the Walnuts, I figured I’d Toast the Marshmallows beforehand and add some Bourbon; I also had some figs in the cupboard.

            So, we start with the Bourbon (get the cheap stuff, you’re cooking), cooking it down with those Figs. Following up, we add a whole stick of butter; one of the secrets from my Mom when she made her Rice Krispies. She’d do the traditional recipe all exact, except for doubling the butter; really makes it tasty.

            Now, one of my first big secrets to my recipe; when I first made, I had a lot of leftover pre-made caramel in the fridge, so I add a few spoonfuls. This particular batch, I sadly didn’t have any, so I just used brown sugar instead, mixed with some salt of course.

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            If you can get them at the same or lesser price, Mini Marshmallows are preferred for toasting; more surface area. As for the Krispies and Nuts, I usually prefer about 6 cup Rice and 1 or more extras.

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            My second secret comes not with the addition, but with packaging. Instead of pushing into the traditional brownie/baking sheet, I free-form onto a sheet of wax paper. This leaves the final product gooey and loose, stretching slowly as you pick it up. One can do one giant mound or, if wanting to portion, individual mounds.

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            At the end… this actually didn’t turn out like how I wanted. Still tasty, but apparently when one toasts marshmallows their “volume” decreases; not if it’s all the stuff left in the baking pan or just an air thing, but it leaves krispies that aren’t completely enveloped. It’s still very tasty, but more in a buttery-burnt sugar way, and has a nice crunch to it, but missing the real gooeyness it deserves. Not to mention a nice saltiness to contrast.

               Which is why I saved the recipe for the end of my post despite already typing way more than I should be. So, without anymore ado:

 

(Revised) Toasted Marshmallow-Bourbon Rice Krispies

½ Cup + ¼ Cup Bourbon

1 Stick (1/2 Cup) Butter

1½ Bags (15oz) Mini Marshmallows

¼ Cup Caramel or Brown Sugar

1 Tb Salt (Increase 2-3 times if wanting that Salted-Caramel flavor)

6 cups Rice Krispies

1-2 cups Candied Nuts/Extra

  1. Heat over 400-425F
  2. Add ½ Cup Bourbon plus and Dried Fruit to Large Pot, reduce on Medium to 50% or more.
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  4. Pour rest of Bourbon over ice and consume to your leisure.
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  6. Pour Marshmallows on Parchment-lined Sheet, pop into oven, WATCH CAREFULLY
  7. Add Butter, Caramel, and Salt to pan, melt
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  9. Once browned, quickly move marshmallows to pan, scraping off as much as possible.
  10. Stir until completely “melted” and incorporated.
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  12. Add Krispies and any other Extras, mix thoroughly until marshmallow mix “spiderwebs” evenly.
  13. Pour onto Waxed or Parchment Paper, let cool, and move to storage (don’t fridge)        

What’s your favorite Rice Krispies add-ins? Any favorite childhood memories with them?