Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mallow Mania!

Did you know that a marsh mallow is actually a plant? The Althaea officinalis is, according to the all-knowing Wikipedia, indigenous to Africa, and thanks to an ancient remedy for sore throats made from its roots, we now have delicious floats in our steaming mugs of hot chocolate.

File:Althea officinalis flor.jpg
Image via Wikipedia

Thank you, pretty flower!

I have wanted to make my own mallows for a good while , after learning that, in fact, this is possible, and that my grandmother made her own marshmallows all the years she and my grandfather lived in Brazil, when my mother was very small. Andrew's weekend absence on a church men's retreat provided the perfect canvas for my amateur culinary art splatters.

(Before I proceed, I must warn you that I planned to take pictures of the process, but as it is a rather time-sensitive ordeal, and Andrew wasn't around to help ... there are none. I shall borrow some from The Mighty Internets.)

My favorite cookbook, Baked, from the rather well-known Brooklyn bakery of the same name (check them and their sweet cookbook out here), contains dozens of yummies I'm dying to try, but today, it was mallows. 

They seem fairly straight-forward, as home-made candies go, only requiring six ingredients: gelatin, sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, salt, and confectioner's sugar. Simple, right? The book calls for gelatin in sheets, but after some research, I discovered this can only be purchased in gourmet bakery shops or online, so I furthered my research to find out how to substitute regular gelatin for the sheets. It's the same stuff, right?  

You're supposed to put the gelatin sheets in cold water to sit while you get the actual candy part going (the corn syrup and sugar and such) -- I measured out my gelatin crystals, poured the cold water over them, and promptly realized I had no way of separating the cold water from the gelatin. You see, you're supposed to just pull the sheets out and melt them. I had a bowl full of cold water, ice cubes, and millions of tiny little gelatin crystals.  Whoops.

Pressing on (what else could I do?), I mixed my sugar and corn syrup and left it on the stove to reach the proper temperature, and went on a mad search for something to strain the gelatin with. A sieve was, of course, way too porous, and a paper towel too flimsy. I finally settled on a dish towel that resembled cheesecloth, and crossed my fingers as I held it one-handed over a colander and slowly poured my gelatin-infested water over top.

It worked! Plenty of crystals still oozed through, but I had a nice big glob of gelatin stuck to the towel, and another smaller glob in the colander. Breathing a sigh of relief, I put the emancipated gelatin back into its Pyrex bowl, and melted it over a pot of steaming water on the stove.

The melted gelatin went into the mixer bowl with some additional corn syrup, then the melted corn syrup and sugar were added, and the KitchenAid mixed happily away for five minutes, which transformed the mixture into something amazingly resembling raw marshmallow ...

Making marshmallow
Image via Let Her Bake Cake

Just like that! In went the vanilla and salt for one minute on high, then the whole lot was poured into a greased 9x13 pan, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and left to sit for an agonizing six hours.

Filled with all sorts of doubts regarding potential failures, mostly connected to The Gelatin Incident, I washed four loads of laundry, read some of Great Expectations, and generally wished time away until I could know if I was, indeed, bionic woman enough to successfully make my own marshmallows.

Six hours later, I dusted my counter top with confectioner's sugar, ran a knife around the edge of my pan, and slowly, wondrously, pulled one giant 9x13 marshmallow out of the pan. It weighed a ton.

DIY Girl's Guide to Making Marshmallows - Inspired Nest
Image via Inspired Nest

I meticulously marked one-inch increments along the edge, and triumphantly sliced that giant mallow into over 90 smaller mallows, which were rolled in more confectioner's sugar, and stored nicely in a Tupperware, where they should keep at least a week -- if they last that long.

They are fantastic: sweet, but not sickening, the vanilla flavor is pleasantly strong, the texture springy and light, and they melted almost instantly in our hot chocolate.

I did take a nice picture of the completed mallows, but the file is being ornery, so you'll just have to take my word for it that my mallows do, in fact, look like this:

Image via This Week for Dinner

I have eaten one at least every time I've walked into the kitchen.

As the recipe I used is from a published book, I hesitate to detail it online, but a simple Google search will provide you dozens of recipes for mallows.

You can also buy the Baked marshmallows (or cookbook) online here.

Happy Mallow-ing!

1 comment:

  1. mmm... that sounds delicious!!! I want to try it. Way better than the store bought mallows?