Friday, May 28, 2010

Challenge: Vanilla Marshmallows

Small pillows of fluffy, sugary goodness. Homemade marshmallows are the perfect snack for someone with a sweet tooth. That is, if you can eat just one. And they are nothing like the ones you can get at the grocery store. These are worth eating, spending the calories. If I had chocolate to dip them in, I would do it, because chocolate-covered marshmallows are one of my favorite treats. I might have to squirrel away a few to try later...

I was nervous, though.

Boy, was I nervous.

Countless recipes all say that marshmallows are SO easy. But anything involving cooking syrups scares me. That's why this was a challenge. It's something I've been dying to do, and something I was terrified to do...all at the same time.

So, I bought gelatin. I figured I had no excuse to not make them. And it still took me weeks, if not months to get up the courage. But I finally did!

Was I rewarded? Well, kinda. I think they probably take a bit of practice before you can whip them out and call it easy... and I think I overcooked the syrup (it only boiled for like 2 minutes! How was I supposed to know it would turn so fast?! I guess the small quantity of water should have been a giveaway, but still.).

However, I felt the texture was good, although it could have been lighter. And several people have said the texture is right on. Jeff complained about the flavor...which I thought was interesting, since I used the vanilla bean paste he lobbied for me to buy. But you know what? I like them more and more. I keep snagging them when I'm in the kitchen and every time I do, I'm more and more satisfied. So I guess that's a good sign.

They were good. And easy. I shouldn't have been so nervous. And I will make them again.

But, I will not use my vanilla bean paste in them again; all the beans from the paste stuck to the bottom of the mixer bowl. The taste made it into the marshmallows, but not the tell-tale bean specks.

Vanilla Marshmallows
adapted from Brownie Points Blog
printable recipe

2 envelopes gelatin
3/8 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/8 cup water
5/8 cup corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Line a 9x13 baking dish with parchment and spray with non-stick spray.

Pour 3/8 cup water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add vanilla. Sprinkle gelatin over the water and allow to bloom. In a saucepan with a heavy bottom, add the remaining water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Cover with a lid and bring to boil. Once it boils, remove the lid and allow to boil without stirring until it reaches a soft-ball stage.

Turn the mixer onto medium and pour the syrup slowly and carefully into the gelatin. If you have a splash guard, this would be a good time to use it as syrup is very hot. Also, wear an oven mitt. Once the syrup is all in the bowl, raise the speed to high and whip the marshmallow until it's fluffy and stiff. I think mine might have been done after 5 minutes, but continued to whip because the recipe said 8-10. I was waiting for it to lose its gloss, and it never did, so don't worry about that.

Pour the marshmallow (or spoon, as it happened for me) into the baking dish and use a greased spatula to spread. Allow it to rest, uncovered, for 10-12 hours.

Combine the cornstarch and powdered sugar in a bowl. Dust a pair of kitchen shears with the mixture and then dust the top and bottom of the marshmallow slab with the mixture. Cut the marshmallows into strips and squares and toss in the sugar to coat. Store on a covered container.


  1. Hi Becca,

    I've done marshmallows too and use the Thomas Keller Recipe. it's easy. I know this is a dumb question, but did you use a candy thermometer? I usually have everything pre measured and ready to go and have my pan oiled and ready before I start making the syrup. They are so good. I did them in strawberry and the seeds all stuck to the whip (fine by me!) I love them and have made so many flavors. you can't beat the taste of the vanilla bean!

  2. I'll have to look up that recipe!

    I didn't use a candy thermometer, and it's not a dumb question. I deliberately found a recipe that used the water test, both because I don't have a thermometer (it's on my list...) but also because I understand that it's more accurate, especially if you're cooking at a high altitude (or, a different altitude than the recipe was developed in). Water boils at different temperatures depending on your altitude, but a soft ball stage is a soft ball stage anywhere. Hope that helps! And you're wise to have everything ready before you start; that's what I did too.