Marshmallows and Easter

I haven’t blogged for a while, but as I’ve been making marshmallow for Easter, why not take some time and write about marshmallows. Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of the chocolate covered marshmallow eggs and bunnies or Peeps found in Easter baskets throughout the country, but my sister was! We used to swap candy all the time for the things we liked. Now that I’ve started making my own vanilla bean marshmallows, I’ve come to enjoy the fluffy, fresh texture of a homemade marshmallow. Still not a huge fan of the chocolate covered ones, but plain they are delicious – especially when still warm.

Marshmallows have a long history as a treat. Food historians say it originated in ancient Egypt where the sap from the marsh-mallow plant was mixed with honey to create a sweet treat. Reserved for royalty, it was used as a dietary supplement or respiratory cure.

In the 1800’s, French candy makers mixed the sap from the marsh-mallow plant with egg whites and sugar to create the first marshmallows as we know them. They were a very popular treat. The 1927 Girl Scout Handbook was the first publication to share a recipe for roasted marshmallow combined with chocolate bars and graham crackers, what we know as a s’more.    Yum, nothing better than a toasted marshmallow straight from the campfire.

It wasn’t until 1954 that we got Peeps. In 1953 the Just Born Company purchased the Rodda Candy Company. Rodda produced a marshmallow chick and Bob Born just loved it. By 1954 Bob had a machine that would mass produce the chicks, which he trademarked as Peeps. Just Born produces an estimated 5.5 million Peeps a day.  Talk about a lot of marshmallows. I’m pretty sure I can’t keep up to Just Born!

Artisan marshmallows made today use gelatin, instead of sap, plus sugar, a bit of corn syrup, and in my case, egg whites. Freshly made marshmallows are light and airy, soft and subtly fragrant, while many store-bought marshmallows are chewy and sometimes hard. For the perfect artisan marshmallow, use only fresh ingredients and whip them in a stand mixer.

Making marshmallows at home is a relatively easy candy to make at home – even for kids. What’s not so easy – making them into shapes as they set very fast. Interested in trying out marshmallows for yourself? Below is the recipe I use, from About.com. Why not give it a try today!

Not really into making your own, then stop by Curly Girlz and pick-up some of our chocolate covered Eggs, Bunnies, and Glitter Mallows.

Ingredient List – Basic Marhsmallows

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1.5 cups water, separated
  • 4 tbsp unflavored gelatin
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract (I use vanilla beans for a bolder vanilla flavor)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup sifted powdered sugar, for dusting
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch, for dusting
  • Optional food coloring or flavoring

1. Combine the cornstarch and powdered sugar in a small bowl. Prepare a 9x13 pan with parchment paper and spray it with nonstick cooking spray, and sprinkle a generous dusting of the sugar/starch mixture over the entire pan. Set the pan aside while you prepare the marshmallow, and save the sugar/starch mixture for later use.

2. Combine the granulated sugar, corn syrup, and ¾ cup water in a large pot over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, then stop stirring and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Continue boiling until mixture reaches 260 degrees (hard-ball stage). This process will take awhile, so move on to the next two steps while the sugar syrup cooks, but be sure to check the sugar syrup frequently so that it does not go above 260 degrees.

3. While the sugar syrup cooks, prepare the gelatin mixture. In a small saucepan, combine 3/4 cup cold water and the vanilla extract. Sprinkle the gelatin over the top and stir briefly. Let the gelatin sit for 5 minutes, until it is completely absorbed by the liquid. Set the pan over low heat and stir constantly until the mixture is liquid.

4. While the sugar syrup is boiling and the gelatin is softening, place the room temperature egg whites in the clean bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Once the sugar syrup nears 240 degrees, begin to beat the egg whites. Beat them until they hold firm peaks, but do not overbeat or they will be crumbly. If the egg whites are ready before the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature, stop the mixer until the sugar syrup is ready.

5. Whisk the gelatin mixture into the sugar syrup. This mixture now needs to be poured into the egg whites. If your saucepan has a spout you can pour it from the saucepan, but if it does not I recommend pouring the syrup into a large measuring cup or pitcher so that it is easier to pour. With the mixer running on low, carefully pour the hot syrup in a thin stream into the egg whites. Once all of the sugar syrup is poured, turn the mixer to medium-high. Continue to beat the marshmallow in the mixer until it is thick enough to hold its shape and is completely opaque. Depending on your mixer, this will take about 5-10 minutes.

6. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top flat with an offset spatula. Let the marshmallow sit at room temperature for several hours or overnight to fully set the marshmallow.

7. Once the marshmallow has set, dust your workstation with a generous layer of the sugar/starch mixture you used to prepare the pan. Lift the marshmallow from the pan using the parchment as handles, and flip it facedown on the prepared surface. Peel the parchment off the top of the marshmallow, and dust the top of the candy with more sugar/starch.

8. Spray a large, sharp chef's knife with nonstick cooking spray. Cut the marshmallow block into small 1" squares, or whatever size marshmallows you desire. Dredge the cut edges of the marshmallows in the sugar/starch mixture so that they are not sticky. Your marshmallows are now ready to eat! They are best soon after they are made.

References: Chocolates & Confections, Peter P. Greweling, CMB, © 2007; Just Born Website; www.marshmallowusa.com/marshmallow_history.asp;  about.com