I just adore marshmallows. I’m not really a big candy eater, but I’m positively crazy about marshmallows. Has it ever occurred to you how they could possibly be so extremely light and fluffy? Well, they are surprisingly much easier to make than you could imagine. Basically, marshmallows are made out of magic, or in other words, of gelatin and (very hot) sugar syrup, plus a good deal of mechanical power to mix it all in. But what’s even harder is the ability to overcome all those endless hours of waiting for the whole thing to dry out, without getting your hands on it.
But it all led to a marvelously fun experience, although I must confess that I felt somewhat intimidated by the task in the first place. And that little voice inside your head, the one that gloats over the uninitiated’s anxieties, really got me rather distressed until everything finally began to take shape. And yet, you can see, there’s nothing to be afraid of as long as you stick to the quite easy-to-follow instructions.
And just to see what I mean when I say that there’s no reason to attempt any task without any prejudices about one’s potential, I even dared to (lightly) colour them and what’s more, to cut them into shapes. To cut our marshmallows round, it is as easy as using a cookie cutter. I used a large one —for those special I-need-extra-support occasions— and also a smaller one —for those I-need-to-sink-my-teeth-into-something-super-luscious, with-no-regrets kind of occasions.
I even dared to coat some with chocolate! Don’t you find them simply amazing?
Ooops! I almost ended up without nothing to photograph, tee-hee… Believe me, these homemade marshmallows are nothing but a true temptation. An incredibly astonishing experience whether you make them or you eat them; honestly the most delicious and fluffiest experience of them all! These beauties are just like the store-bought version but way better, because you know exactly what they are made of. Mind you, I’m not saying that they are the healthiest thing on earth, but rather that all the fun and joy, in an infinitely greater manner, will be yours.
- 3 tablespoons (20 g) gelatin powder
- 1 cup (240 ml) ice cold water
- 1½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (240 ml) light corn syrup (or glucose). See "Notes" below.*
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups (170 g) powdered sugar
- ½ cup (55 g) cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon powdered food coloring (optional)
- Whisk together confectioner's sugar, cornstarch and powdered food coloring (if using) into a wide bowl. Set aside.
- Lightly brush a 8x12-inch (20x30 cm) rectangular baking pan (or a 9-inch (23 cm) square pan) with vegetal oil (you can also use nonstick cooking spray). Generously add some of the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining sugar mixture to the bowl for later use. Set aside.
- Combine gelatin and ½ cup cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment. Let stand 20 minutes.
- Combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, and ½ cup (120 ml) water in a small heavy saucepan; place over low heat, and stir until sugar has dissolved.
- Wash down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to dissolve sugar crystals.
- Clip on a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan, raise heat to high and continue to cook WITHOUT STIRRING beyond this point, until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F (115ºC) or soft-ball stage, approximately 8 to 9 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove pan from the heat. WARNING: Due to the fact that very hot sugar adheres very closely to the skin, sugar burns are extremely painful, so be careful when working with sugar at high temperatures.
- With mixer on low speed, slowly and carefully pour syrup into the softened gelatin.
- Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high; beat for about 12-15 minutes until the mixture is very thick and white and has almost tripled in volume.
- Add vanilla and beat to incorporate. The marshmallow mixture will be very sticky, creamy and soft.
- Pour marshmallow mixture into prepared pan. As it gets cold, the marshmallow mixture stiffens, so you need top work with a quick hand. Smooth surface with a lightly oiled offset spatula (or wet hands).
- Dust with more confectioners’ sugar mixture to lightly cover the whole surface.
- Let stand about 12 hours, uncovered, to dry out. Meanwhile cover the remaining confectioner's sugar mixture with plastic wrap.
- Remove the marshmallow from the pan by first running a small sharp knife around the edge of the marshmallow to loosen it from the pan. Invert the pan onto a large cutting board. You might have to use your fingers to help loosen the marshmallow from the pan; the marshmallow will be sticky.
- Dust the top of the marshmallow with more confectioners' sugar mixture).
- With a long, very sharp knife (or a pizza cutter), previously coated in the confectioner's sugar mixture, cut lengthwise into strips and then again crosswise, according to the size you wish your marshmallows to be. Alternatively, you can also use a cookie cutter, previously dipped in our confectioner's sugar and cornstarch mixture, in case you prefer to shape your marshmallows. [I used a smaller round 1½-inch (3.5 cm) Ø cookie cutter and a larger one (1¾-inch (4.5 cm) Ø].
- Coat marshmallows, one at a time, in the remaining confectioners' sugar mixture, using a pastry brush to brush off any excess.
Store the marshmallows in an airtight container, at room temperature, layered between sheets of wax or parchment paper. If kept in a dry place at cool room temperature, they should keep for about a month. Marshmallows that include mix-ins or that have been dipped in chocolate will have a slightly shorter shelf life.
- To color marshmallows: After adding the vanilla extract, add ½ teaspoon of food coloring and beat the marshmallow mixture until the color is fully incorporated. Add more food coloring for deeper color.
- To cut marshmallows into shapes: Use a 9x13-inch baking pan instead, so that the marshmallows are slightly thinner and easier to cut. Use cookie cutters in simple shapes (dust the cookie cutters in confectioners' sugar to avoid sticking).
- For smaller marshmallows: you can even use a pipping bag fitted with a round tip. Scoop the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a ½-inch round piping tip. Pipe the mixture onto the prepared sheet pans lengthwise, leaving about 1-inch between each strip. Sprinkle the tops with enough of the remaining cornstarch and sugar mixture to lightly cover. Let the strips set for 6 hours or up to overnight. Cut into ½ inch pieces using a pizza wheel or scissors dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining sugar mixture and store in an airtight container.
- To dip marshmallows in chocolate: In medium size bowl, melt about 8 ounces of bittersweet or milk chocolate, stirring until smooth. Working with one marshmallow at a time, brush the marshmallow again to remove any excess confectioners' sugar then dip one smooth side about ⅛ inch into the chocolate to coat it, scraping any excess chocolate on the edge of the bowl. Transfer, chocolate side up, to a wire rack set over a baking sheet and let stand until the chocolate is set. Chocolate-dipped marshmallows can be stored, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment in an airtight container in a dry place at cool room temperature, for about 2 days.
- To decorate: Sprinkles and other small edible decorations can be added to marshmallows—it gives them a more festive look while also adding a little texture. Arrange your decorations on a plate and use a small, soft paintbrush to dampen the area you would like to decorate, then dip the moistened part of the marshmallow into the decorations (toasted coconut, cocoa powder, or even toasted and ground nuts) and let stand until dry. If you've dipped your marshmallows in chocolate you can also sprinkle some jimmies or other small edible decoration onto the still-wet chocolate and let it stand until set.
- *If you would prefer to avoid corn syrup, you can make your own sugar cane syrup to use instead (invert sugars are what help keep the melted sugar in candy and baking recipes from re-crystallizing). For 2 cups (1/2 l.) of syrup you will need:
1 cup (240 ml) water,
2½ cups (500 g) granulated cane sugar,
1 teaspoon cream of tartar, and
a pinch of salt
1. Combine all of the ingredients in the saucepan and stir until the sugar is completely moistened (do not stir the sugar after this point). Set the pan over high heat and clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. As the sugar comes to a boil, dip the pastry brush in a dish of water and brush down the sides (this dissolves any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan that could cause the syrup to re-crystallize).
2. Once the syrup comes to a full boil, you don’t need to brush the sides anymore. (If you don’t have a pastry brush, you can also cover the pan with a lid for two minutes just as the sugar comes to a boil; the steam trapped in the pan will wash any crystals from the sides). Boil the syrup until it just barely reaches a temperature of 240 degrees F (115ºC). Immediately turn off the heat, remove the candy thermometer, and carefully move the pan to a cool spot on the stove or a cooling rack.
3. Allow the syrup to sit undisturbed until it has cooled completely, at least an hour.
Store it into clean glass jars, sealed with the lids, where they won’t be jostled too much for 2-3 months. Reheat when using; you can use either method that suits you best: microwave (on HIGH in 30 second bursts until it’s pourable. This usually seems to take a total of 1 - 1.5 minutes) or alternatively a bain Marie (put the jar in a saucepan of simmering water to warm the syrup).
WARNING: Re-heating can sometimes cause the syrup to begin crystallizing, so you'd better store the syrup in 1 cup (half-pint) jars. Sugar cane syrup recipe adapted from The Kitchn.
Recipe adapted from Alton Brown’s Homemade Marshmallows, via Foodnetwork.