Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Homemade Marshmallows

Summer is the season of the s'more and everything else that is wonderful. Like canoe camping. Last year was my first time camping, ever. It was a pretty big deal because I don't really do nature. The main reason is that I have a serious irrational fear of frogs. I rather come face to face with a coyote in the woods than a frog. Seems a bit rash, but it is true.

My roommate and two of our friends decided to do canoe camping again this year. Everyone but me is pretty much a camping professional. This makes them super cool. Camping, it is what the cool kids do. If I could get over my fear of frogs and learn to love camping, I could be as cool as them.

The canoe camping was really stepped up this year. Both the canoeing and camping skills were tested. The river was more narrow and windy. There were loads of things to canoe around. Rocks. Fallen trees. Rapids. That is right rapids, very very tiny ones, but rapids all the same. It is baffling how the roommate and I didn't tip the canoe.

Last year camping was on a nice sand bar surrounded by river. So it wasn't really camping. This year it was dry land with forest on one side and river on the other. Real camping. Turns out that is not my thing. Frogs die and dry up on the sand bars. Not the case in the forest-river setting. Traumatic.

The trauma was balanced out with homemade marshmallows. I was worried that they wouldn't hold up in the heat. It had been in the 100 degree zone the four days leading up to camping. Thankfully the temperature dropped just in time for camping. They held up great in the 85 degree weather, out of the cooler too.

If you have never tried a homemade mallow, you must. Marshmallow haters even like these. They are way more enjoyable than the store bought kind. It might also be surprising how easy they are to make too. The most daunting part for many will be boiling the sugar, but don't be. I've made homemade mallows several times and they always come out perfect.

This was the first time using this recipe. Usually they are sort of a pain to get out of the pan and cut. The recipe I used to use didn't use cornstarch for the pan or dusting the tops. It turns out cornstarch is the magic key to less sticky cutting and removal from the pan. The little extra effort to make mallows from scratch is worth it. You will be pleased and impress everyone at your next campfire, promise.

Recipe by Alton Brown
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch

  1. Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup water, in the bowl of a stand mixer, with a whisk attachment.
  2. In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium heat and attach a candy thermometer, cooking until the mixture reaches 240F. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.
  3. Turn the stand mixer onto low speed, and while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once all of the syrup has been added, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes lukewarm and very thick, about 12-15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pan.
  4. Combine the confectioners sugar and cornstarch in a bowl. Lightly spray a 13x9 baking pan with cooking spray. Add the sugar mixture to the pan and move around until the sides and bottom are well coated. Return the remaining sugar to the bowl for later. 
  5. When ready, pour the whipped mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture  to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to set uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
  6. Turn the marshmallows out of the pan onto a cutting board. Cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust each side with the confectioners sugar mixture. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks. 

Marshmallow roasting action


  1. I love them) Will try to make them at home!

  2. Yummy recipe! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks for your post! I am especially interested in how yours fared in the campfire, because it looks like you're happy and they're staying on the stick. I made these Alton Brown ones (with a couple modifications of my own--more on that later in case that's the problem) and they melted right into the fire before they could toast properly. They did not melt the chocolate and s'mores were sort of frustrating, in spite of my divine gluten-free homemade graham crackers, courtesy of Gluten-Free Girl.

    Anyway, my modifications of the recipe are thus: I replaced the sugar with Rapadura, which is an unrefined cane sugar that I have never had issues using as a replacement for refined sugar before, and I replaced corn syrup with maple syrup because I find corn syrup to be vile (and also problematic with the allergy set). I never quite got to 240F, and I'm never sure if this is because my thermometer underreports the temperature or not, but it did start to boil up and almost out of the pan so I thought I'd better just call it done and add it to the gelatin. Is there any way to tell by looking or texture if the sugar syrup is done or not? At any rate, when I whipped up the gelatin, it was done in about 10 minutes (maybe less?), and by done I mean it went from a dark brown splashy puddle in the bottom of the bowl to a light fluffy springy maass that almost filled up the 12 quart stand mixer bowl. The marshmallows came out OK, I didn't have much time to spread them in the baking dish before they started to set. They were sticky when I cut and rolled them in powdered Rapadura and kuzu root starch 4 hours later, but they looked great after that. I put them in ziplocs to take camping, and by the time we got there they were sticky again; the sugar/starch was completely absorbed, although the structure was still fairly marshmallow-like and pillowy. They melted off the skewer into the fire before getting properly toasted, however, and couldn't really be used for s'mores, as mentioned above.

    Thoughts, anyone?



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