Have you ever tried to get a dog to swallow a pill? It's not the easiest trick to master. We have one of those dogs. Old fella takes meds twice a day for a chronic condition. Peanut butter works great to help the medicine go down, but it's hard to peel yourself away from a comical dog that keeps licking his nose for several minutes after the goods have slid down the hatch.
One day we were out of peanut butter and found ourselves at a loss for how to get him to swallow the pills until one of the kids thought to use marshmallows from the previous evenings s'mores set-up. It worked like a charm, except that after a while it made eating marshmallows for us as appealing as eating dog treats. So, if we were ever going to enjoy another campfire treat, we had to reinvent the marshmallow for the two-legged folks in the house. Since then we've learned that once you've made marshmallows from scratch, you're cured of ever reaching into a store-bought bag of them again. Save that for the dogs.
Homemade marshmallows elevate white fluff to a new level. They are irresistibly soft and nuanced in flavor. No need to be a plain Jane and stick to simple vanilla flavor. We played into the holiday spirit a bit by adding a swirl of pistachio paste. You can get more spirited than that though by adding a touch of Baileys or some other flavored liqueur to a batch.
Peppermint-flavored marshmallows led us to come up with a holiday s'mores idea. Roasting marshmallows (carefully) in the fireplace and using chocolate wafers instead of graham crackers felt like we made an important culinary discovery (to us, at least). It's like peppermint bark, but gooey!
Our recipe makes nearly 7 dozen marshmallows so it comes at just the right time during this season of giving. We've packaged some up for friends and plan on leaving a few for Santa to nibble. It still leaves plenty to enjoy with our family and friends on these chilly days. Hmmm... what flavor will you make?
Making homemade marshmallows is easy, but there are a few key pieces of equipment and thoughts to keep in mind. A candy thermometer and stand mixer are essential. The thermometer is necessary to ensure that you bring your bubbling confection to the appropriate 240 degrees (also known as soft-ball stage in candy-making). The stand mixer gets a serious workout turning this molten mixture into fluffy goodness. It's important to pay attention to what you're doing so that no one gets burned, especially young assistants. Once the job is complete, you do have to exercise some patience and allow the marshmallows to dry for several hours or overnight.
After that, dust a cutting board thoroughly with powdered sugar and use a large sharp knife to cut the marshmallows. Toss the cut marshmallows in a bowl of powdered sugar to keep them from sticking to one another.
(Yields 6-7 dozen one-inch marshmallows)
powdered sugar, for dusting
butter for greasing pan
3-1/2 Tbsp unflavored gelatin (about 3 packets)
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vanilla*
8-10 drops food coloring (optional)
*For different flavors, substitute:
- 1 Tbsp flavored liquor (such as Baileys,
Frangelico, Chambourd or Grand
- 1 tsp peppermint extract (coconut or
almond taste great too) or
- Swirl in 1 Tbsp of pistachio or raspberry
paste instead of food coloring for enhanced flavor and color (you can keep the vanilla in this option for a deeper flavor profile)
Lightly grease an 11”x 7” glass baking pan. Dust with about 1 tablespoon powdered sugar.
Combine the gelatin with 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.
In a small saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt and 1/2 cup water and heat over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high so that the mixture comes to a boil and allow to cook, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 240 degrees (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat.
With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Increase the speed to high and continue whipping until the mixture triples in volume, about 10 minutes. Add vanilla or other flavoring and combine thoroughly.
Immediately pour into baking dish and smooth out with an offset spatula. The gelatin starts to set up quickly. If using food coloring, add several drops randomly on top of the marshmallow mixture and pull a skewer through the food coloring to create a swirl pattern. Let stand uncovered overnight or until it dries out.
Dust a cutting board with powdered sugar and turn the marshmallows onto the board. Cut into 1-inch squares and gently toss in a bowl of powdered sugar to coat all sides and prevent sticking together.