Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie—Marshmallows

What’s better than marshmallows roasted over a fire or melted in hot chocolate? In our house, mini marshmallows have been known to be used as a bribe for piano practicing. Now that we’ve tasted homemade marshmallows, I may be on the hook to make these treats on a regular basis.

Known as Guimauve or Chamallow in French, marshmallows are actually very simple to make. Here are the raw materials in marshmallows:

The something sweet in this recipe is sugar and corn syrup (but other types of syrup such as maple syrup or dextrose could be used in varying amounts). The emulsifier for texture consists of gelatin and whipped egg whites in Dorie’s recipe. As for the flavoring, I followed the classic recipe and included only vanilla, but the sky’s the limit on this. I saw recipes for peppermint, lemon, cinnamon sugar, and even banana and parsley! Dorie’s recipe is basically marshmallows made with a meringue and gelatin added in for texture. Once you’ve mastered meringue, you can soon be in “fluff heaven”.

The root of the mallow plant (Althea Officinalis) was used to make the first marshmallows dating as far back as 2000BC. The leaves and roots of the plant are both edible, but the gooey mucilage (jelly-like sap) from the roots give the marshmallow their texture. Modern marshmallows were first made in France around 1850, according to this article.

I wanted to try an original recipe for marshmallows using marshmallow root powder, but the health food stores here don’t have it right now. I’ll have to give that a go someday.

from Link
Something sweet
The sugar, water, and corn syrup are melted together to form a sugar syrup. The corn syrup stabilizes the syrup and inhibits re-crystallization of the sugar. You cook the syrup to the hard-ball stage (250°F–265°F). Melissa of Lalala, a fellow TWD baker, pointed the group to a great site that explains the different stages of sugar syrup.

It might be fun to play around with different sugar combinations, such as using maple sugar, golden corn syrup, glucose or dextrose.

Here’s a tip I found useful: By pouring in the syrup carefully (not into the beaters or it will spray), you'll get a lot more “fluff” in your marshmallow mixture.

Hands-free potato starch
Potato starch is a gluten-free starch that, in this recipe, is only used to avoid the stickiness that comes with making and working with marshmallows. You can use cornstarch too. I found that I didn’t need a full cup of potato starch.

Emulsifier agent: code name gelatin

Warning: The following contains scenes that some may find highly unpleasant!

According to this article, gelatin is processed collagen found in many animals. The gelatin in sheet or leaf gelatin and powdered gelatin is the collagen from cow or pig bones, hooves, and connective tissues. This is what makes marshmallows spongy. Marshmallows don’t seem so delicious after reading this!

At Cooking for Engineers (an amazing cooking site BTW), one of the commenters on the marshmallow recipe explained that “marshmallows require a protein to be stretched and partially coagulated around air bubbles to make a suspensoid, or an emulsion of air in a semisolid”. There’s that word again: emulsion. Getting two foods to talk to each other is a full-time job for a chef, it seems!

Gelatin is a fussy sort, too. According to Baking 911, gelatin has to be handled in a certain way in order to dissolve, heat, melt and then use in a recipe, otherwise the recipe won't become jelled when cooled. First, Dorie has us dissolve the gelatin in some cold water in a heat-proof bowl. After it has “bloomed”, it is heated in the microwave to re-liquify it. But don’t let the gelatin mixture come to a boil or it will have to be thrown out.

Egg whites: another emulsifying agent
Using egg whites in the marshmallows makes them lighter and fluffier. The eggs should be at room temperature so that the proteins will expand more easily. The process for making marshmallows is just like an Italian meringue with the addition of gelatin. However, you can make marshmallows without eggs too. (See the recipe tested at Cooking for Engineers.)

Here’s where you can get creative. Coconut, rosewater and pistachios, almond and maraschino, caramel, green tea and adzuki bean, mint and orange craisin. Dorie has variations for raspberry, cappuccino, chocolate, and pumpkin spice. These are all on my list of variations to try!

It seems that having a KitchenAid with a whisk attachment helped me out a lot for this recipe. A hand mixer would have a hard time with this recipe. I've heard that the gelatin can separate from the marshmallow mixture and settle on the bottom, making for a pretty awful marshmallow. If you have to use a hand mixer, try half a batch at a time. You have to incorporate a lot of air into the mixture for “fluff heaven”.

A pizza wheel for cutting the marshmallows is also very handy.

Watch a pro
Here’s a great little video that shows you how to make homemade marshmallows.

Other tips
After making the marshmallow mixture, and putting it in the pan, I popped it in the freezer for an hour. It was ready to cut after that. Depending on how “dry” you like your marshmallows, you can leave them sitting out overnight (especially if you're not making it at the last minute like I was).

If you’re dipping fresh marshmallows in melted chocolate that’s hot, the marshmallow will melt. Try freezing the marshmallow before dipping.

Store homemade marshmallows in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Great marshmallow links
In reading up on marshmallows, I found some great information:
Cooking for Engineers - marshmallow recipe and step-by-step instructions with pictures
The Nibble’s article about marshmallows
Good Eats transcript from Alton Brown’s show about marshmallows (search for “marshmallow”)
How Products Are Made - background information about marshmallows


You can find the recipe for Marshmallows at this blog Judy’s Gross Eats or in the book Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. To see how the rest of the TWD group fared with this week's recipe, click here and then click on each blogger!

For mine, I dipped them in some leftover Amedei chocolate from the Gooey Chocolate Cake week, and then tried ground graham crackers for an indoor-campfire-like version of s’mores. I also tried rice krispies and good ol’ sprinkles. On some, I sprinkled a pinch of culinary lavender before popping them in the freezer. These appealed more to the grown-up set. I also rolled some in pink sugar since you can never have too much sugar, I guess. Just remember to dip the marshmallow in the sprinkles BEFORE coating it in the potato starch or cornstarch so that the sprinkles have something to stick to!

Tasting Notes
Homemade marshmallows are fluffs from heaven that melt in your mouth. Delicious and decadent, they are amazing dipped in chocolate, and are unbelievably easy to make. Best of all, for $2.45 per 8x8 pan, I can eliminate tetrasodium pyrophosphates, whatever they are! Even better, my kids think I'm a hero. Another great recipe from Dorie!

Recipe for Next Week (April 22)
Bill’s Big Carrot Cake on pages 253-255 chosen by Amanda of slow like honey.


Anonymous said...

Great post.
I looove all the varieties!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful, wonderful photos! Those ice cream cones must have been a huge hit with your kids. And the post was very informative - thank you!

amanda. said...

Oh my goodness. Those are so cute! And fabulous pictures!

Annemarie said...

LOVE the marshmallow pops! I'll have to try that, my kids would go crazy for those!

PheMom said...

Great job! They all look so good.

Amy said...

I love your photos. The ice cream cone is a great idea. You are so clever!

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to try making marshmallow pops.

Nikki57 said...

You are my hero ... coolest marshmallows yet!

April said...

Your marshmallows look great!

Anonymous said...

Your pictures look great!

Anonymous said...

Fabulous marshmallows! They're so pink and pretty and sprinkly!
Loved all the info too!

Judy said...

Great variations! Chocolate-dipped marshmallows seem to taste extra delicious.

CB said...

Marshmallow perfection! Fabulous write up and pictures. Great job!
Clara @ I♥food4thought

LyB said...

Very creative, great ideas! So colorful!

Kate said...

Your mallow cones are LOVELY!

Anonymous said...

these are teh cuteness.

i think my kitchenaid professional 600 is calling out to make marshmallows.

Natalie said...

Wow, amazing pictures and so imaginative! And fascinating reading :)

Mari said...

Love the ice cream cone marshmallows, it's the perfect way to avoid sticky hands (if you're into that kinda thing)! ;-)

Fabulous and informative write up, as well, you rock!

Anonymous said...

Those marshmallows look really cute, I love the presentation!!

ostwestwind said...

What a fabulous article about marshmallows :-)

Your's look so great!

Thanks for stopping by

Ulrike from Küchenlatein

Anonymous said...

Yours are beautiful!! And thanks for all the background info, too!

Sharon said...

I just love the pink sugared ones, how precious!

Anonymous said...

I love how you displayed them in ice cream cones - too cute! Nicely done.

Anonymous said...

Great marshmallow tips! I adore making marshmallows but have never gone beyond coating them in starch and powdered sugar - thanks for the tip on freezing them for the chocolate coating :)

Sophie said...

The pink is so cute. In my opinion, marshmallows and pink are supposed to go together :).