The first time I made marshmallows, well, I don’t think saying “it was a mess” adequately describes it. Oh, the marshmallows were successful; they even looked and tasted like marshmallows, but yours truly? I ended up in a tangled web of marshmallow strings.
It all went south when I couldn’t resist the urge to scrape down the paddle and bowl (anyone else an obsessive bowl scraper? I cringe when things go to waste). The paddle was gunked to the bowl and the scraper was glued to the paddle and then — and it is my duty to implore you not to do this at home — you think, “well, I’ll just wipe off the paddle with my index finger” and then your index finger gets knit to the scraper and then you think “well, let me use my other finger to wipe this one off” and all of a sudden, you’ve got strands of marshmallow strung from each finger to the bowl, the mixer, the paddle, the scraper, each corner of the pan, your shirt, the floor and then your husband comes home just as you’re pleading “help! I’m all knotted up!” and he instead gets the camera.
Needless to say, it’s taken me some time to tackle marshmallows again. It wasn’t just the mess, however — though, admittedly, it was mostly the mess deterring me, despite the fact that it all dissolves easily and residue-free when rinsed with warm soapy water — it was the fact that the marshmallows ended up a little denser than that Jet-Puffed ones we’re all used to. And nobody likes a dense, chewy marshmallow. Especially after all of that aforementioned drama.
But then I had to go make homemade graham crackers a couple weeks ago and you can’t make graham crackers without making s’mores (you just cant; it’s a summer sacrilege) and there was I was, overdue to face down my marshmallow demons. First order: A new recipe. I looked at what everyone else out there is making, and the recipes were largely the same until I found this ancient one (like, 11 years old, omg) on Epicurious that had the curious addition of egg whites (which is honestly something, prior to making marshmallows the first time, I’d always assumed every marshmallow recipe contained, given their flavor parallels to meringue) and the promise of extra lift and fluffiness within. Second order: Preparing for a mess. Except this time — and I’m not sure if it was the extra fluffy and more movable marshmallow “batter” or just my experience warning me to not touch it but it ended up being oh-so-less dramatic. Well, the cooking part at least: I woke up today with dried marshmallow in my hair; I’d say last night’s s’mores on the grill were a success.
Springy, Fluffy Marshmallows
Adapted from Gourmet, December 1998
These homemade marshmallows are not only easy to make, they set as perfectly as promised: puffed and lightweight, bouncing off one another as I tossed them in the container. Even better, they toasted like a campfire charm speared on the end of a skewer, and s’mooshed between two graham crackers with a square of chocolate.
Makes about 96 1-inch cubed marshmallows
About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar (cane sugar worked just fine)
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites or reconstituted powdered egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla (alternately: 1/2 of a scraped vanilla bean, 2 teaspoons almond or mint extract or maybe even some food coloring for tinting)
Oil bottom and sides of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners’ sugar.
In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold cold water, and let stand to soften.
In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, second 1/2 cup of cold water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.
With standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about six minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer. (Some reviewers felt this took even longer with a hand mixer, but still eventually whipped up nicely.)
In separate medium bowl with cleaned beaters beat egg whites (or reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla (or your choice of flavoring) into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and don’t fret if you don’t get it all out (learning from my mess of a first round). Sift 1/4 cup confectioners sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least three hours, and up to one day.
Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and ease onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into roughly one-inch cubes. (An oiled pizza cutter works well here too.) Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar back into your now-empty baking pan, and roll the marshmallows through it, on all six sides, before shaking off the excess and packing them away.
Do ahead: Marshmallows keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature 1 week.