I learned to make marshmallows recently. My first attempts were more like taffy... unimpressive, to say the least. My pastry guru was kind enough to give me his recipe, but his -- while truly creating everything you want a marshmallow to be -- uses corn syrup to guarantee stability. I decided to omit it, upping the sugar and water instead. Then I decided to add my favorite flavoring (rye whiskey) because I like a little booze in my cocoa. It actually added floral note, like orange blossom water, with just a hint of burn. The only problem was my powdered sugar. It didn't look particularly dry, but once I dredged my marshmallows, it stuck in little nuggets.
Still, JG was blown away... and then sad that eating too many of these would probably turn him into a diabetic before he's 40. Be warned: Once you've tasted homemade marshmallows, it's hard to accept jet-puffed corn syrup ever again.
Recipe: Whiskey Marshmallows
The recipe looks complicated, but only because it's best to have everything set up and ready to go when you need it. Gelatin sheets can be found at bake shops and maybe restaurant supply stores. You can use unflavored powdered gelatin (like Knox) instead. In a separate bowl, combine 3 tbs with 1/2 cup water to bloom, then add the entire contents to the mixer after the syrup. If you haven't used your powdered sugar in a while, be sure to sift out any hard lumps.
5 sheets of gelatine
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
3 egg whites
2 tbs whiskey (or other liquor)
1 tsp vanilla (or orange blossom water, bitters, peppermint liqueur, etc)
1/2 tsp salt
powdered sugar, sifted
Bring egg whites to room temp in the bowl of a standing mixer.
Bloom gelatine sheets in ice water until pliable ~ 5-7 minutes. Remove from water, squeeze out excess and set aside.
Meanwhile, add water, then sugar to a medium saucepan*. Let sit to allow the sugar to hydrate ~5 minutes.
Pick your pan.** Line with plastic wrap, spray with cooking spray and dust thoroughly with powdered sugar.
Measure out flavorings and set aside.
Bring the sugar to boil over medium-high heat. [If you have a candy thermometer, you can clip it to the side now, but don't be tempted to check it with an instant read later... you'll crystallize the sugar.] Once the sugar begins to boil, start whipping your eggs whites. Begin on low speed until foamy, [just like the angle food cakes!] then move up to maximum speed. When peaks form, turn the mixer off and wait for the syrup. You want to take the syrup off just before it caramelizes. This will take about 10 minutes. If you've got a candy thermometer (I don't), you want it to reach 250F. Otherwise, you want to wait until the bubbles get up to an inch across before they pop and the syrup just starts to get a hint of a golden color.
Turn off heat and turn the mixer on high. Holding the pot above the mixer (don't tip it in at the lip of the bowl), stream the syrup directly into the egg whites. As soon as the syrup's in the bowl (some will stick to the pot) throw the bloomed gelatine into mixer to melt. Continue mixing on high until it looks like marshmallow fluff ~8 minutes. Add salt and drizzle in flavorings, continue mixing until stiff peaks form and you can turn the bowl upside down without the marshmallow sliding out.
Spray a spatula with cooking spray and use it to scrape the bowl into your prepared pan. Smooth out as much as possible with spatula, then spray top of marshmallow with cooking spray and smooth out with your hands [careful, it's hot!]. Dust heavily with powdered sugar and cover with plastic wrap, smoothing top once more.
Give the gelatine at least 6 hours to set, then turn out onto a cutting board and cut to your desired size with a hot knife. You can also coat the knife with cooking spray, but you have to be very careful not to get your handle greasy or you might lose a toe. Fill your pan 1/4" full of powdered sugar and dredge your marshmallows, making sure all sides are coated. They're ready to go at this point, although they're better if you give them another 6 hours for the edges to dry out.
Store in an airtight container.
*It's better if it's not non-stick because the dark interior makes it harder to judge the color... plus the syrup's going to stick a bit anyway. Hot water will dissolve it no matter what pan it's in.
** A 9x13 yields marshmallows ~1/2" thick. If you want bigger ones, use an 8x8. If you want thinner ones (for mini-marshmallows) use a half-sheet or jellyroll pan.