Tahoe got its first snow of the season on Monday, the day I returned from my week off. I spent my vacation in rainy Portland, on the foggy Central Coast of California and finished it in warm Paso Robles. Coming back to snow was not something I was looking forward to.
The weather is out of my power, so I turned on my heater for the first time since April and made myself a cup of tea. But I get tired of tea. When winter rolls around, I like a good cup of cocoa. What goes hand in hand with cocoa? Marshmallows. Homemade marshmallows, to be exact.
I first tried making marshmallows last year. I’d never had anything but the store-bought Jet-Puffed marshmallows, so I wasn’t sure whether making them from scratch would be better. But they were, and it was easier than I expected. The only trick is that you need a stand mixer to make them.
I used to be against stand mixers until a few years ago, when my friend’s grandmother gave me hers. For months, the mixer stayed in the cupboard, unused. I felt like using it would somehow be a form of cheating.
Around Christmastime, when I was in full holiday baking mode, I remembered I had it and pulled it out to mix some dough while I was working on something else. I haven’t looked back since. While I still hand-mix certain things, having the mixer has been incredibly useful when it comes to bread doughs and other doughs that can be tough to mix well by hand, and it’s nice to have for recipes that require it.
All people taste is the final product, and I haven’t found anyone who really cares whether I took the time to mix something by hand or not. No more guilt.
Once again, this recipe comes from Joy. Most of the work is done by the stand mixer. I’ve found I can kill two birds with one stone by heating the gelatin over the boiling sugar mixture instead of over a pot of water. Make sure to watch the sugar mixture when it’s close to 244 degrees because it heats up fast, and you don’t want your marshmallows to be too dense. I’ve made that mistake before, but they still melt well in cocoa. Also be careful not to overmix. If mixed too much, a lot of marshmallow will get stuck in the whisk and it will be too thick to pour into the pan to cool. Let them cool completely and use scissors to cut them — don’t use a knife, it fails every time.
This time around, I gave mine an orange tint. Why? Because it’s Orange October. Because Halloween is around the corner. Because the San Francisco Giants are in the World Series and need to win today’s game to clinch the title.
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup water
4 envelopes (3 tablespoons) unflavored gelatin
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vanilla
Mix cornstarch and confectioners’ sugar and dust a lightly oiled 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan with some of the mixture.
Pour 1/2 cup water into the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let stand for 5 minutes. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water for two to three minutes, or until the gelatin dissolves. Set aside on the stand mixer.
Bring sugar, light corn syrup, water and salt to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring with a long-handled wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved, if necessary. Place a candy thermometer in the pan and raise the heat to medium-high and cook, without stirring, to 244 to 246 degrees, the firm-ball stage. Remove from heat.
With the whisk attachment on the mixer and the bowl of liquid gelatin secured, turn the mixer to medium speed and slowly pour the sugar mixture in a thin, steady stream. Be careful to avoid the whisk, because the sugar mixture will stick to it and harden quickly. Beat for about 10-15 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and fluffy, but still warm and thin enough to pour. Add vanilla.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Cool completely, then cover very loosely with aluminum foil and let dry for four to six hours, or until firm enough to cut. Remove the marshmallows from the pan and, using scissors dusted with cornstarch, cut into 1-inch squares. Put the rest of the cornstarch/confectioner’s sugar mixture into a large Ziploc bag and add half of the marshmallows. Shake, then take out the marshmallows and repeat with the remaining marshmallows.
Store between layers of wax paper in an airtight container at room temperature.