I want to start this post off by saying how much I love meringues. The marshmallow-y inside and how pretty and delicate they look. I also believe that if you can make something homemade it will taste better than store bought, by a million times. I guess I developed this notion during my childhood. I yearned (yes yearned) for gushers and dunkaroos in my lunch but it wasn’t my mum’s thing. My mum made everything homemade. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, and was always excited to drink an Orange Crush as a treat at my Grandparent’s. It wasn’t until later that I started to notice that food outside my mum’s homemade cooking wasn’t as good: my mother’s biscuits were better than bisquick, ravioli from a can is terrible, what is cheese whiz?, why are store bought pies so thin?, and ketchup tastes sweet and weird (yes, I am a ketchup hater!). That being said, I don’t hate everything that is processed. Packaged chips, to die for. Lunch meat, irreplaceable. Sweetened condensed milk cooked into dulce de leche, muah. But I do believe for most things, if you can find a way to make it homemade, it will taste better. So, hopefully after this very long explanation, you will understand why I embarked on the adventure of making my own marshmallows. I can now tell you from experience, that they dooooo taste better, AND they were fun and easy to make!
In my grandmother's cookbook, many recipes explain the nutritional value, use, or history behind key ingredients. I like reading these little tidbits of information and have decided to do the same here. I was curious to learn what exactly gelatin is and its roll in mallow making. I picked up the Knox package to read the ingredients of gelatin. It says, I kid you not, "Ingredients: gelatin". Okay well that didn't get me very far. I turned to Google to do some research. Here is what I collected.
Gelatin is commonly used in cooking as a thickener (sauces), gelling agent (jelly candies), whipping agent (mallows), emulsifier (dairy products), and clarifying agent (wine), as well as in pharmaceutical manufacturing. Gelatin comes from extracting collagen of animals from their bones and tissues. The extraction process results in a powdered form of gelatin that needs to be "bloomed". Gelatin is a type of protein that swells and hydrates in cold water. After a few minutes it forms a squishy solid that looks like an agar plate you would see in a science lab. Gelatin have various bloom strengths (how much mass the gelatin can handle), which play a role in their wide range of uses. After the bloom, the gelatin can be melted by hot liquid. As the hot liquid and gelatin mixture cools, a soft solid forms.
Neat, am I right?! Interesting to note, the seemingly harmless marshmallows are not considered vegan. If you are looking to make vegan mallows, pectin is a non-animal gelatin substitute. You can use a substitution of 1 tsp pectin for every 1 Tbsp gelatin (or so I read! If you try it, let me know if it works out!).
3 packages gelatin (3 Tbsp)
1/2 cup ice water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup icing sugar
Spray a 9x13 pan all the way up the sides or lightly coat with vegetable oil using a paper towel. Set aside.
In the bowl of stand mixer with whisk attachment, sprinkle gelatin over ice water.
In a saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt. Using medium high heat, bring the syrup to softball stage, 240°F (about 10-12 minutes). If you do not have a candy thermometer, read below :)
Turn mixer on low speed and carefully pour hot syrup down the inside of the bowl. When you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. After 12-15 minutes add vanilla and whip for 1 more minute.
Pour into greased 9x13 dish and dust the top with some of the corn starch and icing sugar mixture.
Leave uncovered for 4 hours and up to overnight.
Use a knife to cut the mallows into squares or cookie cutters to make fun shapes. Roll the mallows in dusting mixture to coat.
Store in an air tight container for up to 3 weeks.
If you do not have a candy thermometer, test the temperature by dropping hot syrup into a cup of cold water. Using your fingers, grab the ball of syrup out of the water. It should instantly flatten and run over your finger. Read here for more information.
*Recipe adapted from the Food Network