Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mellow Mallow

Does anyone like January?
I mean, seriously? Do you?

I don't. I really, truly do not like January.
I feel kind of tired all the time. I get mad at the trees for not having any leaves; I curse the sky for hastily turning dark so early day after day; I start school again and I have to find that "balance" again, that damn balance that I never seem to perfectly master.

But hey! It's almost over! February is two days away! That's a cause for celebration!
Because this time of year seems to stay way beyond its friendly welcome, I give myself bi-weekly projects to tackle. Sometimes I scrub down all our cupboards with Murphy's Oil Soap (yes, that is something I look forward to... anything is a welcome change from school work. Yesterday I swear I literally went cross-eyed because of the amount of reading I had to do), or sometimes I find a semi-daunting recipe and make a mess of the kitchen. Making a mess of the kitchen... I'm getting really good at doing that these days. I made marshmallows, from scratch one grey January afternoon. It was sweet and sticky and all together wonderful.

Marshmallows were always one of those strange foods that I never understood the logic behind. I never really thought much about how they were made or where they came from, but it never really mattered much because they were fantastic. But take one look at the ingredient list on the back of a package of these guys in the supermarket, and you may not ever want to eat them again. How can something so pure and innocent contain so many ingredients?
One of the nicer things about homemade marshmallows is that there is nothing scary inside of them. Just 8 ingredients (all of which you can pronounce!) whip up into those magical, springy, fluffy, soft squares that practically melt in your mouth. Also, did I forget to mention that these taste great? Like really, really great? Oh my, are they ever good.

I just can't get enough. In fact, tomorrow it is highly probable that I will boycott scrubbing the cupboards in favor of making another batch...

It's almost February after all.
Homemade Vanilla Bean Marshmallows

Adapted from Gourmet, 1998

Making your own homemade marshmallows doesn't have to result in a gigantic sticky, gooey mess. Whatever you do, don't be a goof and stick your fingers into the fluffy white mass in the mixer. I know it is tempting. I KNOW! But seriously, just don't. I've learned from experience now. The first time I made these, I couldn't help myself, I swear that white fluff was beckoning me. This resulted in me finding marshmallow in strange places on myself and in my kitchen for DAYS afterward.
This recipe makes A LOT of marshmallows. If you find yourself stuck with a whole bunch, I suggest you make rice crispy squares of of them (don't even tell me you aren't guilty of consuming an entire pan at least once in your life).
Oh and these marshmallows sandwiched between two cookies with some high quality chocolate - WOAH! Just sayin'...

About 1 cup confectioners' sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar (I used cane sugar)
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1/2 of a scraped vanilla bean (alternately: 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)

Oil bottom and sides of a 13 x 9 -inch rectangular metal baking pan (with 2-inch high sides) and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners' sugar.
In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water, and stand to soften .
In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, second 1/2 of cold water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240 F, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.
with standing or a hand-held mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about six minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer. (This may take even longer if you are using a hand mixer).
In separate medium bowl with cleaned beaters beat egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and don't fret if you don't get it all out.
Sift 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least three hours, and up to one day.
Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and ease onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into roughly one-inch cubes. (An oiled pizza cutter works well here too.) Sift remaining confectioners' sugar back into your now-empty baking pan, and roll the marshmallows through it, on all six sides, before shaking off the excess and packing them away.

Yield: Makes about 96- 1 inch marshmallows

Note: Marshmallows keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature for 1 week.