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Do Better By Your Sweet Potatoes

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Use savory seasoned marshmallows for dishes from the classic mashed sweet potatoes to roasted root vegetables and soups.
  8. 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.

Ronnie Fein is a cookbook author, food writer and cooking teacher in Stamford. She is the author of The Modern Kosher Kitchen and Hip Kosher. Visit her food blog, Kitchen Vignettes www.ronniefein.com; friend her on Facebook RonnieVailFein and follow her on Twitter at @RonnieVFein.

Servings & Times
Yield:
  • Makes about 60 marshmallows
Active Time:
  • 1 hr
Total Time:
  • 7 hrs
Ingredients

Marshmallows

Vegetable oil or cooking spray

2 cups sugar

1-1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1-1/2 cups water, juice, cold coffee or cold tea

4 envelopes unflavored gelatin

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla or orange (or 1/2 teaspoon almond or peppermint) extract

2 large egg whites at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

marshmallow coating

Marshmallow coating

1-1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1/2 cup cornstarch

Pumpkin Pie Spice

1/3 cup marshmallow coating mix

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Cocoa-Chili

1/4 cup marshmallow coating mix

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder

Ras-el-hanout

6 tablespoons marshmallow coating mix

1 teaspoon ras el hanout

Steps
  1. Lightly oil or spray the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, then sprinkle with a layer of sifted confectioner’s sugar and set aside.
  2. Place the sugar, corn syrup and one cup of the water in a saucepan over high heat. Cook, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Continue to cook without stirring until the mixture reaches a temperature of 245-250 degrees Farenheit on a candy thermometer (or a small amount of the liquid forms a hard ball when dropped into cold water).
  3. While the sugar-water is cooking, mix the gelatin and remaining 1/2 cup water in a heatproof bowl and let rest for 5 minutes.
  4. Place the bowl of gelatin inside a larger bowl of near-boiling water (that comes halfway up the sides of the smaller bowl) and stir until the gelatin dissolves completely and the mixture is clear (or use a double boiler).
  5. Spoon the gelatin mixture into the sugar-water mixture and stir to blend (it may bubble). In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the egg whites on high speed with a whisk attachment until they are foamy.
  6. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until the whites are thick, white and bubbly. Turn the speed to low and gradually add the hot sugar syrup to the beaten egg whites, whisking constantly until the syrup is completely incorporated.
  7. Turn the speed to high and beat until the whites are very thick and glossy, like marshmallow “fluff,” about 8-10 minutes. Spoon the fluff inside the baking dish. Flatten with a spatula. Let rest for at least 6 hours.
  8. Invert the pan onto a large cutting board and knock the marshmallow sheet out of the pan. Cut the marshmallows with a sharp, oiled or cold, wet knife or cookie cutter. Coat the marshmallows.