This is one of those recipes that I never thought I'd be able or willing to tackle. I know that I can make my own marshmallows at home and I know how wonderful they are but I also know enough to know that they are a huge pain in the rear! In other words, I hadn't convinced myself that they were really worth it. Plus I'm a huge mess-a-phobe and that even extends to the kitchen and I was worried that there was no way that I could make these without creating a disaster area in my kitchen.
Kristen had the guts to tackle these lovelies a couple of Christmases ago and, of course, they were little pillows of heaven. (Especially yummy in hot chocolate.) And she even brought her own horror stories back about mixing madness, crazy-sore arms and sticky gunk, oh my! And I was still content to let her do all the work once a year and partake in the yummy afterward.
Well, no longer! We had a baking day recently and this is one of the recipes she had on her list. Since I was participating I got a chance to see exactly how bad this stuff really was. The truth? Not too terrible! Sure, there are hurdles in this recipe and you have to be smart enough to know how to maneuver around them. But Kristen has done a pretty good job of finding the annoyances in the process and sidestepping (or outsmarting them) them as much as possible. So I am a convert and am no longer afraid of homemade marshmallows. I'm sure I'll be tackling these again next holiday season . . . or sooner if the craving hits! ;-)
So here is the recipe and I've included our notes to help you through the process. It can be done with minimal frustration and mess, just take a breath and follow along!
(Original recipe by Alton Brown)
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup ice cold water, divided
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of water into the bowl of your stand mixer. Attach the whisk attachment and let gelatin solution stand. In a small saucepan, combine remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat and bring to a boil, allowing to cook for several minutes until the mixture reaches 240 F. (Note: AB's recipe says this will take 7-8 minutes but ours took longer.)
Using a candy thermometer is the easiest way to monitor this, but we didn't have one so we used the "cold water test" to determine which stage our sugar solution was at. You want your solution at the soft-ball stage. For a great description of each sugar stage and how to determine when you've reached the soft-ball stage, go here.
Once your sugar solution has reached this stage, remove from the heat and turn your mixer (with the gelatin solution in it) on low. Slowly add the sugar solution to the mixer while running. Once the syrup is all added, increase the mixer speed to high and continue to mix for 12-15 minutes. The mixture will turn white and become very thick, very sticky, and increase in volume significantly. During the last minute of mixing add the vanilla (or any other flavorings you want) to the marshmallows.
During this time, combine powdered sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Spray a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with nonstick spray and coat the bottom and sides with powdered sugar and cornstarch mixture.
NOTE: Up until now, the process will have run relatively smoothly. But this next step is where things can get very messy. The best advice I can give you during this whole process is to avoid touching the marshmallow mixture at all costs, unless absolutely necessary.
Once the mixture is ready, tilt the head of the mixer back (with the whisk still attached) and let the mixture attached to the whisk drip off. It will fall, very slowly, back into the bowl. Do not be tempted to scrap the whisk clean. If you try to battle this stuff or hurry it up . . . you will lose. After a minute or so, most of the mixture should have dripped off the whisk. Invert the mixing bowl over your coated pan and again use gravity to dump most of the mixture into the pan. Then use a lightly oiled spatula to get the rest.
NOTE: If you are an obsessive bowl-scraper, like I am, please understand that you will have to let that go on this recipe. There will be a good size mass of goo on the sides of the bowl that you will not be able to scrape down. Just do your best and walk away!
Alright, you're almost done now! Once the mixture is into the pan, use moist hands to flatten out the marshmallows into a sheet. If the marshmallows start sticking to your hands, just re-wet them a bit and continue smoothing the mixture out. Dust more of the cornstarch mixture over the top and let stand for 4 hours to overnight to allow the marshmallows to cool and set.
To cut, use a pizza cutter to slice the marshmallows into squares. Once cut, toss once again in the cornstarch mixture to lightly coat the remaining sides. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks!
One last thing. While I am not a fan of mint, Kristen wanted to try adding some different flavorants to the marshmallows. So after mixing, she separated a small batch and added some peppermint extract, mixed well and then added a drop or two of red food coloring and folded that once or twice into the mixture to give it a roughly swirled pattern. From what I hear, they were great . . . but I will take her word for it!
OH! And one of the most important notes I can give you, from one mess-a-phobe to another, it this: the clean up on this is actually NOT BAD!! Just make sure to soak your sticky dishes in warm, soapy water and all that sticky goo will just dissolve away! Just make sure the water is warm and cleanup should be a breeze!!