handmade holidays, day three: rosewater marshmallows

handmade marshmallows

Handmade holiday gift guide - day three! I've always wanted to try my hand at marshmallows, and what better time than Christmas?

Homemade marshmallows are not super tough to make, but they're unique enough that they make an excellent gift or party favor - find a square box that will fit four, lay down a bit of parchment paper on the bottom, cover the marshmallows in chocolate and you've got a great gift. And marshmallows can be expensive from confectioneries, so making them yourself is extra rewarding - all of the ingredients are affordable and chances are, you already have them stocked in your cupboards.

What you need for a 13x9 pan of marshmallows (4-9 dozen, depending on size).. 3 packs unflavored gelatin, 1 cup ice cold water - divided in half, 12 ounces granulated sugar, 1 cup light corn syrup, a pinch of kosher salt, 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or whatever flavor you choose - I decided to go with 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 teaspoons rose flower water), 1/4 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar, 1/4 cup cornstarch, and nonstick spray.

Equipment you'll need - a 13x9 inch metal baking pan, stand mixer with whisk attachment, candy thermometer (I used a meat thermometer, which worked fine but a candy thermometer is best), small saucepan with lid, pizza cutter, and various measuring cups, spoons, and rubber spatulas. Be prepared to make a mess.

The recipe used here is Alton Brown's marshmallow recipe (he's my all time favorite).. all words from now on will be from his recipe, and my added notes will be in italics.

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Place the gelatin into the bowl of your stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.

In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. That's why a candy thermometer works best - its temp range reaches 400 degrees F, whereas a meat thermometer stops at 220 F. I had to guess when 240 was reached on my meat thermometer. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from heat.

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Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. 13 minutes for a soft marshmallow, 15 for a stiff marshmallow. Add the vanilla and any additional flavors, like rose water during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping, prepare the pan as follows.

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Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13x9 inch metal pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan - Alton does this by covering the pan with aluminum foil and shaking the pan, which covers the sides well. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.

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When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Super messy. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight. I allowed mine to rest overnight, and if you're patient enough, I recommend it.

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Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

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And done.

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We served these at a party we threw last night for my coworkers, and I'm making another batch for my family at Christmas. There are so many great ways to serve them that would be fun to try.. indoor s'mores? Put out graham crackers and chocolate squares and set a creme brulee torch on the table to let people roast them the way they like it. You can dress these up in a lot of ways - throw cocoa or even coffee grounds into the recipe for great taste and color, add cinnamon and chile to the mix for spiced marshmallows perfect with hot chocolate, top them with sea salt or coconut and lightly toast them before serving. What would your favorite marshmallow look like?

Neil had a great idea to grind freeze-dried cranberries into a powder and use them as a natural food coloring, which would make the marshmallows slightly pink and maybe a little tart. Next time, I'm adding more rose water and dipping them in dark chocolate.

Happy Monday!