The magic of marshmallows

Making marshmallows and new friends at Canajoharie Middle School. Photo courtesy of Emily Cheney.

Just like with Rice Krispies or chocolate and graham crackers, marshmallows really bring things together.

I spent Wednesday morning at Canajoharie Middle School, cooking and talking about Sacandaga Bible Conference to groups of 15 sixth-graders, and I’ve never had more captive, interactive audiences. Perhaps it was the food in front of me — marshmallows — which they watched being made from start to finish before chowing down on some genuinely huge ones.

The demo was part of the school’s I Am Unique Day, which included programs from musicians, sports figures and other people with unique jobs. It was especially enjoyable to find one Sac kid in a group — he told me he loves chocolate-chip pancake day — and to be able to help an old friend, one of their teachers, Emily Cheney, who invited me and took loads of photos.

Making marshmallows and new friends at Canajoharie Middle School. Photo courtesy of Emily Cheney.

What’s so great about homemade marshmallows? They require very few ingredients. They contain few allegerns. They can be portioned to any size. And as messy as they are, everything dissolves in hot water.

This is the recipe we use, adapted from several other recipes out there: It makes a marshmallow about half as thick as the ones you see in the photos.

SAC MARSHMALLOWS

3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
Pinch salt
1 1/2 cups cold water, divided
Nonstick spray
4 envelopes unflavored gelatin (like Knox)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Powdered sugar

In a medium saucepan, combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt and 3/4 cup water. Cook over medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce heat as needed to prevent boilovers, and cook without stirring until the syrup temperature reaches 238 degrees, about 10 minutes total.

While syrup is heating, add remaining 3/4 cup water to the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle gelatin over water and let sit at least 5 minutes.

When syrup reaches 238 degrees, turn on stand mixer to low to mix gelatin and water. In a slow, steady stream, pour hot syrup into gelatin mixture, then increase speed to medium-high.

Mix 5 minutes, then add vanilla extract. Continue to mix until mixture is stiff. Total mixing time will be 10-12 minutes.

While marshmallows are mixing, lightly spray a 9-inch by 13-inch glass baking dish with nonstick spray. Sprinkle confectioners sugar onto dish and move around until the bottom and all sides are coated, gently shaking off and discarding excess.

When marshmallow mixture is stiff, pour or scoop it into the prepared pan and smooth with lightly oiled hands or a silicone spatula. Let cool, uncovered, 3-4 hours, or until firm.

To serve, sift confectioners sugar over top of marshmallows and turn pan upside down on a cutting board to release them. Dust again with confectioners sugar. Cut into desired shapes with a pizza cutter, using confectioners sugar to keep pieces from sticking. Store, covered, up to 1 week.

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