Sunday, February 14, 2010


Years ago, I tried to make homemade marshmallows, and it was a fiasco.  I have no idea what went wrong, but the final product was inedible.  We regarded it as such an epic failure that once, during a game of Taboo with friends, the word "marshmallows" came up, and Tom's clue to me was "Those things you tried to make that were such a disaster."  Needless to say, we won that round.

When my sister came down to my mom's for Christmas this year, she brought along some homemade marshmallows she'd made.  They were fabulous, which is unsurprising since Pam is the best cook I know.

We brought a big Ziploc bag of them home and have been rationing them out, putting them in hot chocolate--the real kind, with milk, made on the stove.  It's no exaggeration to say that a cup of that cocoa with a couple of Pam's marshmallows has been the high point of many a dreary winter day over the last few weeks.

So, when we got down to the very last one, we decided to make some of our own.  It seemed like a fun Valentine's Day weekend activity, and I was bolstered by Pam's success into thinking that I could do it this time around.

Being too impatient to get her recipe, I went online and Googled "marshmallow recipes."  I went with the one with a photo of marshmallows that looked like Pam's had.  The recipe seemed odd to me--very little sugar (half a cup of sugar and a teaspoon of corn syrup) to a lot of binding material (two packages of gelatin and a whipped egg white).  But we forged ahead.

Well, it was another disaster, as you can see from the photos of the final product:  it looked more like coagulated cottage cheese in the pan than marshmallow.   Gross.

So, I figured, two strikes: that's it for me and marshmallows.  But I got back online and looked up a few other recipes, and discovered that there seem to be two approaches to marshmallow-making:  one with an egg white base, and the other with no egg whites at all, but with far more corn syrup.  I also discovered that the recipe I'd used called for a lot more gelatin, ratio-wise, than most others.

Tom suggested we try again, and this time we went with Thomas Keller's recipe*, and the detailed how-to explanation on the Cooking for Engineers website.   Success!  And vastly easier and faster than the first recipe.

The guy on the CFE site claims that purists believe that egg-white based marshmallows are best.  Perhaps they are, if you know how to make them.  But I'll be sticking with the  corn-syrup version.

Suddenly the rest of winter doesn't seem so intolerable, knowing these are in the cupboard, along with a great big canister of cocoa.

Have a sweet Valentine's Day, everyone.  Stay warm:  use your stove.


  *A couple of postscripts about Keller's recipe:  we only whipped the mixture for 8 minutes instead of 12, as the CFE site suggests.  Also, while Keller's recipe claims to yield "12 large marshmallows" from a 9" x 9" pan, we made ours in a 9" x 13" pan, and cut the slab into at least 36 pieces.  Keller's "large marshmallows" must be the size of bricks!


Catherine Zoerb said...

Neat! I'll have to try to make them sometime~

Pam said...

Love your picture. The beater is the best part. BTW, I use the cornsyrup recipe too.

Horace said...

By the time you read this comment, I may be pounding at your door. They look amazing.

Christy said...

They look incredible! John can't eat marshmallows because of the gelatin (no animal products for him), but I keep hearing there are hoof-free recipes out there. Your post makes me want to go a'hunting.

Rosemary said...

Christy, I've heard there are vegan alternatives to gelatin...if you find something that works, let me know! The first (bad) batch, I must say, had a distinctly "hoofy" flavor, in addition to looking awful. Fortunately, the Insinkerator didn't mind.

Michael said...

You're a far more adventurous cook than I am. They sure look yummy. Me, I've gone the easy route to plumb up during these dark months by making box-mix brownies and Nestle cookies.