Do Better By Your Sweet Potatoes
Making marshmallows is messy, but worth it.
You have to be crazy to make homemade marshmallows, right? Not really folks, because those packaged white ones are kind of boring and also terribly chewy, but homemade marshmallows are delicate and ethereal, melting quickly on your tongue. Besides, you can make them in all sorts of flavors or with lots of different coatings – and this time of year, you can do much better for your Thanksgiving sweet potatoes.
Think about these possibilities: a fluff of pumpkin-pie-spiced or ras-el-hanout marshmallows as a garnish for winter squash soup; a flourish of chocolate-chili-shocked marshmallows atop hot chocolate.
Making marshmallows isn't easy and can be a mess, but they are yummy and fun to make. You'll need a good mixer and a candy thermometer. The recipe is basically gelatin, sugar, corn syrup and flavoring whipped to a frenzy. Thick, beaten egg whites give them fluff.
There’s a recipe here along with several suggestions on variations, but basically, keep these tips in mind:
- Be sure to dissolve the gelatin so it will mix in more evenly with the sugar syrup. Whisk the packaged gelatin with water or juice, let it stand for several minutes, then place the bowl in a larger pan of simmering water (or use a double boiler) and stir until the mixture is clear.
- Don’t substitute the corn syrup. Corn products may not be popular these days but this ingredient helps prevent the sugar syrup from crystallizing (and you use only a tiny amount).
- You can flavor the marshmallow base by substituting juice (e.g. cranberry, mango, pomegranate or blood orange) or cold espresso coffee or flavorful tea (such as Earl Grey) for the water or by mixing in a few drops of extract (peppermint, orange, almond) or by adding cocoa or fruit puree to the basic ingredients. I don’t use food coloring, but you can add a few drops to enhance marshmallow color, if desired.
- For layered marshmallows, first separate the mixture into two bowls and then flavor or season or color each one differently. Then spoon in one half, add a layer of coconut, nuts or other similar ingredient, and top with second layer.
- Once you’ve spooned the marshmallow into the prepared pan, let the mixture rest for at least 6 hours before cutting them into squares or other shapes. Squares are traditional but with cookie cutters you can also make stars, leaves, circles, playing card shapes and so on.
- You can coat the marshmallows with a traditional confectioner’s sugar-cornstarch mixture or add spices to the base coating. You can also press the marshmallows into toasted coconut, sprinkles or finely chopped nuts or dip them into melted chocolate.
- Use savory seasoned marshmallows for dishes from the classic mashed sweet potatoes to roasted root vegetables and soups.
- Store marshmallows in an airtight container (they last at least one week).
Homemade marshmallows make wonderful holiday gifts (remember this on Chanukah, and next Purim). Place them in small bags; tie them with a gorgeous ribbon.