Mis-Adventures in Marshmallow Making


I have a friend who has to watch the end of a show or read the end of a book to see how things turn out before she commits to the whole story.  So I’ll start out by saying this story has a very happy ending.

This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, Marshmallows, was chosen by Judy of Judy’s Gross Eats .

My story began with a digital candy thermometer. I bought one about a year ago and it only worked once. I wanted to use it for this recipe so I took it apart and found a loose wire. I soldered the wire and another wire came off.  I soldered that one and another one came off . . . you get the picture. I finally decided it wasn’t going to be saved (piece of junk) so I decided to use my old-fashioned bulb candy thermometer. I put the syrup ingredients into a saucepan and put in the thermometer. The mixture was too shallow for the bulb to reach the liquid. So I poured the syrup into a smaller pan and tried again. Still too shallow. I decide to proceed by maneuvering the thermometer into unnatural positions to get the temperature.

Meanwhile, I bloomed and heated the gelatin, whipped the egg whites and measured the vanilla so that everything would be ready when the syrup was ready.

Then back to my tango with the thermometer. In a Duh! moment I decided to see if my digital insta-read thermometer reads high temps. It did, but since the clip is plastic I had to hold the thermometer in the mixture. When the mixture was about 8 degrees from 265 I picked up a bottle on the counter with my free hand to show my husband something. It slipped from my hand into the pyrex bowl containing the gelatin and the dish broke.   You’ll be relieved to know the empty bottle was fine.

Now I have egg whites beaten, syrup almost ready, gelatin running over my counter, and no powdered gelatin left in the house. I usually don’t think very clearly when I’m panicing. But I somehow managed to be coherent enough to send my son to the store, with his friend for backup, with the old Knox gelatin box, wondering what I would do if he came home with flavored instant Jello. I turned down the heat on the syrup and said a prayer over the egg whites so they wouldn’t deflate. However, I worried about messing up the syrup if I turned the heat down too low, so I decided to finish it, whip it in, and hope my son would come back from the store very quickly, with the correct gelatin, without exceeding the speed limit.

Was I mixed the syrup into the egg whites, I did have some threading on the sides of the mixer bowl, so after I felt the egg whites had been tempered enough I stopped the mixer for each syrup addition.  I thought using a baster for adding syrup but I’ve gotten rid of all of mine. The gelatin arrived and was duly bloomed, heated, and whipped in without a hitch. I was worried the mixture didn’t seem as sticky and set up as I was expecting, but poured it into a 9 x 13 pan (which seemed easier than the pan Dorie suggests in her recipe) that I had prepared with cooking spray and a mix of cornstarch and powdered sugar. 

. . . And turned around and saw my vanilla sitting on the counter. I was almost resigned to failure by now but I had tasted the mixture (OK! So I had marshmallow cream smeared all over my face from licking the beater) and it still tasted great so I simply poured the vanilla back in the bottle.

Now came the wait: four hours. Yeah right. I held out for about 3 1/2 hours, give or take, and  turned them out onto a cutting board. Happily they came right out of the pan. I sliced them with a pizza cutter and tossed with more cornstarch and powdered sugar. Aren’t they pretty : )

First application? S’mores!

And since it was snowing again for crying out loud, the second application was cocoa.

And then it warmed up a little outside and they were good on top of chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream.

I will say that they became sticky by the next morning which I attributed, rightly or wrongly, to powdered sugar mixed with the cornstarch. I retossed them with just cornstarch and they didn’t get sticky again.

For a different take on making marshmallows, here’s the transcript of Alton Brown’s Good Eats episode “Puff the Magic Mallow“.

So despite trying my best to ruin them, they have gotten rave reviews from everyone who has tried them. Next week: Carrot Cake. Wish me luck!


Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Including marshmallows as a spoon dessert may seem like cheating — after all, they’re eaten with fingers (or, by campers, from sticks picked up in the forest) — but making them at home is too much fun to miss. And in fact this dessert is related to others in this chapter: the base is meringue — sweetened and strengthened by a cooked sugar syrup and fortified by gelatin.

There’s nothing difficult about making the marshmallows, but the meringue does need a long beating. While you can use a hand mixer, a stand mixer makes the job easier.

I’m giving you the recipe for a basic vanilla marshmallow. See Playing Around (below) for raspberry, chocolate, cappuccino and pumpkin marshmallows.

Makes about 1 pound marshmallows

About 1 cup potato starch (found in the kosher foods section of supermarkets) or cornstarch

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

2 1/4-ounce packets unflavored gelatin

3 large egg whites, at room temperature

3/4 cup cold water

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar

GETTING READY: Line a rimmed baking sheet — choose one with a rim that is 1 inch high — with parchment paper and dust the paper generously with potato starch or cornstarch. Have a candy thermometer at hand.

Put 1/3 cup of the water, 1 1/4 cups of the sugar and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar is dissolved, continue to cook the syrup — without stirring — until it reaches 265 degrees F on the candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.

While the syrup is cooking, work on the gelatin and egg whites. In a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the remaining cold water (a scant 7 tablespoons) and let it sit for about 5 minutes, until it is spongy, then heat the gelatin in a microwave oven for 20 to 30 seconds to liquefy it. (Alternatively, you can dissolve the gelatin in a saucepan over low heat.)

Working in the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in another large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until firm but still glossy — don’t overbeat them and have them go dull.

As soon as the syrup reaches 265 degrees F, remove the pan from the heat and, with the mixer on medium speed, add the syrup, pouring it between the spinning beater(s) and the sides of the bowl. Add the gelatin and continue to beat for another 3 minutes, so that the syrup and the gelatin are fully incorporated. Beat in the vanilla.

Using a large rubber spatula, scrape the meringue mixture onto the baking sheet, laying it down close to a short end of the sheet. Then spread it into the corners and continue to spread it out, taking care to keep the height of the batter at 1 inch; you won’t fill the pan. Lift the excess parchment paper up to meet the edge of the batter, then rest something against the paper so that it stays in place (I use custard cups).

Dust the top of the marshmallows with potato starch or cornstarch and let the marshmallows set in a cool, dry place. They’ll need about 3 hours, but they can rest for 12 hours or more.

Once they are cool and set, cut the marshmallows with a pair of scissors or a long thin knife. Whatever you use, you’ll have to rinse and dry it frequently. Have a big bowl with the remaining potato starch or cornstarch at hand and cut the marshmallows as you’d like — into squares, rectangles or even strips (as they’re cut in France). As each piece is cut, drop it into the bowl. When you’ve got 4 or 5 marshmallows in the bowl, reach in with your fingers and turn the marshmallows to coat them with starch, then, one by one, toss the marshmallows from one hand to the other to shake off the excess starch; transfer them to a serving bowl. Cut and coat the rest of the batch.

SERVING: Put the marshmallows out and let everyone nibble as they wish. Sometimes I fill a tall glass vase with the marshmallows and put it in the center of the table — it never fails to make friends smile. You can also top hot chocolate or cold sundaes with the marshmallows.

STORING: Keep the marshmallows in a cool, dry place; don’t cover them closely. Stored in this way, they will keep for about 1 week — they might develop a little crust on the outside or they might get a little firmer on the inside, but they’ll still be very good.

Playing Around

RASPBERRY MARSHMALLOWS: Fruit purees are excellent for flavoring these candies.

For raspberry marshmallows, you’ll need a generous 1/3 cup of puree; reduce the vanilla extract to 1/4 teaspoon. After the batter is mixed, gently fold in the puree with a rubber spatula. You can use the same measurements and technique for other purees, such as strawberry, mango and passion fruit.

CAPPUCCINO MARSHMALLOWS: Sift 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon together into a small bowl. Stir in 1/3 cup boiling water and mix until smooth. Reduce the vanilla extract to 1/2 teaspoon, and add it to the espresso mix. After you add the sugar syrup and gelatin to the meringue, beat in the espresso mixture and continue.

LIGHT CHOCOLATE MARSHMALLOWS: Melt 3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate and stir in 2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder. Reduce the vanilla extract to 1/4 teaspoon, and after the marshmallow batter is mixed, fold in the chocolate mixture with a large rubber spatula.

PUMPKIN SPICE MARSHMALLOWS: Whisk together 1/2 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg and a pinch of ground allspice. After the marshmallow batter is mixed, fold in the spiced pumpkin with a large rubber spatula.

10 responses to “Mis-Adventures in Marshmallow Making”

  1. You did fabulously! You kept your cool in the face of difficulties and near disasters and were rewarded with sweet pillowy goodness! WELL DONE!

    p.s. the thought of peanut butter cup ice cream with marshmallows made my toes curl!

  2. This looks wonderful! I love you idea of the peanut butter cup ice cream and the smores look delicious!

  3. Chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream… with homemade marshmallows… Oh dear lord that sounds amazing! Even with all the travails, they look awesome too!

  4. Way to go!!! You pulled that one off…I probably (definitely) woul have given up after the gelatin incident!

  5. Wow you did have an adventure! Glad it all turned out ok in the end. They look fabulous!

  6. I think they look great, and I really like what you did with them: s’mores, cocoa, and ice cream! And good luck for next week.

  7. Man, I’d have been throwing a tantrum on my kitchen floor if that happened to me! Great job keeping cool! Oh, and the marshmallows look good too 😀

  8. They turned out great, good for you! I wish I’d tried mine in hot chocolate, they look delicious in there!

  9. Perseverance is a virtue! Your adventure sounds like my crazy mishaps.
    After all of that, they still look fabulous and I’ll bet, just as delicious without the vanilla!

  10. Wow, what an adventure! I’m really glad they turned out fine. They look delicious.

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