This post began when I decided to make homemade marshmallows as a Valentine’s Day treat for my sweetie. After a bit of recipe research, I was confused and uncertain that I could really make this happen. Then I had a brainstorm – consult Stella. Not my grandmother Stella – though channeling her might be fun, she wasn’t a good cook and didn’t bake as far as I know. Instead, I sought advice from Stella Parks, pastry chef and blogger extraordinaire.
Bakers and aspiring bakers will find her blog, Brave Tart, a marvelous resource. Her recipes and explanations are fun too. I’m especially fond of the way she takes readers through baking techniques that often intimidate home cooks like me. After reading one of her explanations, I may not feel imbued with superpowers, but I’m always better informed and more courageous – essential qualities if one is going to embark on a baking adventure.
So come with me, as I follow Stella’s recipe for marshmallows.
Making Homemade Marshmallows
Step 1 – read (and enjoy) her recipe. These commentaries expand on Stella’s directions.
- They are cheap and not hard to find (except for the vanilla bean, for which you could substitute vanilla powder or vanilla extract.) I had a vanilla bean on hand from my adventure making homemade vanilla extract, so I was able to use that. I added espresso powder and chocolate, but you don’t need them.
- If you do use a vanilla bean, you’ll need a sharp knife and good eyes to scrape out the seeds.
- Professional chefs use leaf gelatin, but all I have is the powdered (Knox) type in envelopes. The recipe required 6 envelopes (1½ small packs) and I had to resist the urge to buy the 32-envelope mega package at the store because it would have been cheaper per envelope. But how many batches of gelatin am I going to make? I just blogged about buying in bulk and this was an instance where smaller seemed like the better – and cheaper – choice.
- Stella uses weight measurements not volume. Keep in mind the difference – for example, 11 ounces of corn syrup fits into an 8 ounce (by volume) measuring cup.
- Use oil or a cooking spray to grease the pan, not butter, margarine or other solid fat. Stella explains why in one of the comments to this post.
- No, you don’t really need the cookie cutters. I’m going to try using them to cut the marshmallows, but a knife will do.
- Stella advises not trying recipe this unless you have a stand mixer. I agree. But if you don’t have one and know someone else who does, maybe you could trade use of the stand mixer for a share of homemade marshmallows?
- The recipe also requires a scale (not shown above). I bought a new, fancy schmantzy (as my pal Gail calls it) OXO scale which works great. Although I love my old scales, they weren’t easy to use for liquid measurements by weight.
- Before you try this recipe make sure you have a candy thermometer that clips onto the pot. My “hand held” one slipped out of my hand and into my boiling syrup. OY!!! I fished it out with a slotted spoon, washed it off and the thermometer worked for 2 more minutes, then conked out. No luck reviving it – unlike my semi-miraculous iPhone recovery adventure. Luckily I had a second thermometer (also without a clip) and good oven mitts, so I did manage to finish this step of the process. I’m going to treat myself to a better thermometer forthwith!!
- For the pan, metal is better than glass because you’ll knock it to dislodge air bubbles.
The Process of Making Homemade Marshmallows
- If you want to add coffee flavor using instant coffee or espresso, dissolve the granules or powder in a tiny amount of boiling hot water (I used 1 tablespoon of espresso powder in 1 ounce/⅛ cup of water), let it cool and add to the gelatin/cold water combination. The total water should be 8 ounces, so if you used 1 ounce of hot water, use 7 ounces of cold water. If you were to add the powder or granules directly into the cold water, they wouldn’t disperse.
- The syrup, water, sugar, and salt combine slowly as you gently mix and heat them. It took me 8-9 minutes to get the mixture to the first stage, a simmer, at medium heat.
- Patience is a virtue in heating and cooling the syrupy mixture. It took my mixture 15 minutes to get to 240 degrees – I probably should have cranked the temperature up higher early on, but I was, as usual, cautious. On the cooling down cycle, it took about 20 minutes for the temperature to fall to the required 210 degrees. I measured the temperature every 5 minutes or so, and that seemed to work.
- Take Stella’s admonitions about working quickly very seriously my friends, as well as her caution about stickiness of the mixture after you put in the mixer and when transferring it to the pan.
- When you start the mixer, don’t immediately go to medium-high – the mixture can splatter and that’s no fun. Start it at a medium low speed and ramp it up after 1-2 minutes as the mixture begins to foam.
- After you put the mixture into the pan, you may need to dampen your fingers more than once. Don’t keep touching the mixture if it is sticking to your fingers, dampen them again.
- I couldn’t resist adding grated chocolate to the final, confectioner’s sugar layer.
- I made a huge mess following Stella’s directions about taking the marshmallow “pillow” out of the pan and cutting it, but that wasn’t her fault.
- My idea of using cookie cutters wasn’t fabulously successful because the marshmallow is so high (almost 2″) that it is difficult to cut into shapes. Besides, who did I think was going to eat a mammoth marshmallow heart? But the strips cut into smaller cubes were lovely, thanks to Stella and her recipe.
If you haven’t already made a plan and have tonight free, you could make these in time for tomorrow.