I’ve never been much of a marshmallow person. Never one to put them in my hot cocoa, never one to make that traditional sweet potato dish with the marshmallow topping. On camping trips, I flirted with smores, but the only attractive marshmallow part was the singed sides carefully tucked between pieces of chocolate and graham cracker.
While in middle school, I joined the Girls Scouts and in one of our numerous activity/bonding sessions which included sewing on button and singing campfire songs (just a few of the reasons that convinced me I could never make it as a sorority sister) we made peanut butter and Fluff sandwiches. These sandwiches made me gag and even though Fluff is made in the town where my parents live and I grew up, I could not love it then and I cannot love it now.
Through years, I carefully avoided marshmallows in my food. The packaged ones held zero appeal to me. And I was never tempted to give handmade ones a go. Certainly, they looked tempting enough, like billowy clouds in myriad of stunning pastel colors, magical in their shiny cellophane. But I just assumed it was all a trick – and that when I bit into them, I’d find the same disappointment of their mass-produced cousins.
Boy, was I wrong. And I’ve got some lost time to make up for. A homemade marshmallow is the kind of thing that makes you forget your troubles, carries you to a magical place. It is like tasting a little flavored cloud, so impossibly airy and light, so soft and sweet. Nothing could possibly stop you from smiling when you bite into one of these things. Any bad day is instantly brightened with one of these.
But beware, if you are a packaged marshmallow lover, this might ruin you forever. You might just have to make them from scratch from this day on, because one bite – and you could be goner. For me, I know that these will be made over and over, dropped in cocoa, eaten with abandon on their own, or, sneakily added to a certain soup which will make an appearance tomorrow.
Spicy Homemade Marshmallows
Adapted from Amy Scattergood
3/4 cup water, divided
1 1/2packets (1 1/2 teaspoons) powdered gelatin
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup, divided
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, divided
1/2 to 1 tsp ground hot pepper (like cayenne)
1. Place 6 tablespoons water in a 5-quart mixing bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the water and let the mixture stand for 5 minutes. Place the bowl over a medium saucepan of gently simmering water and allow the gelatin to dissolve without stirring. This should take 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat and set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, combine the remaining water, the sugar and one-fourth cup corn syrup. Cook the mixture over high heat until it reaches 235 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove the mixture from the heat and pour in the remaining corn syrup.
3. Immediately begin whipping the gelatin mixture, and slowly add the hot sugar mixture as you whip. Continue whipping until the marshmallow mixture is white, light and fluffy, about 15 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and then the hot pepper.
4. Spread the mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish coated with nonstick spray. For thicker marshmallows, use a smaller pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
5. Using a knife or cookie cutters, cut the marshmallow layer into desired shapes and sizes. Cover a work surface with a sheet of wax paper; lightly dust the paper with one-fourth cup confectioner’s sugar. As you cut out individual marshmallows, place them on the sugared wax paper. Lightly dust the tops of the marshmallows with the remaining confectioner’s sugar. The marshmallows may be tightly wrapped and stored for 3 to 5 days at room temperature.
Makes 2 dozen large marshmallows