Happy New Year!!! 2012 is going to be a great year of “firsts.” Carrie and I have already been churning out ideas of things we’d like to make for the coming year and we were so excited to get started. This month we decided to try our hand at making homemade marshmallows. What’s even better is that this time, we aren’t doing this with just the two of us. For the coming year, we’re inviting anyone and everyone to join Carrie and I for our “First on the First” projects and the response has been wonderful so far. We certainly hope that trend continues. The more the merrier!
Not too long ago, when I thought about marshmallows I really never considered how they were made or what I was even eating. All I knew was that marshmallows were little pillows of sweet goodness and that’s all that mattered. Then I had the thought that what is good in prepackaged, mass-produced form is almost always lightyears better when it’s homemade. Marshmallows are no exception. After having the experience of making my own marshmallows from scratch I honestly don’t think I’ll ever find myself buying a bag of marshmallows off a shelf again.
First of all, it’s so ridiculously easy to make marshmallows! I mean, really easy. It may be a little messy but that mess is water-soluble and cleans up in a flash. Making marshmallows does require a candy thermometer and that’s usually the first thing to scare a person off from a recipe but do not flee! The thermometer is your friend, your ally and nothing to shy away from. It takes all the guesswork out of making this candy and makes it a nearly foolproof.
Secondly, they are SO darn good! They are soft and pillowy, coated with a little powdered sugar, and wonderfully sticky inside. When I started to brainstorm about what I wanted my marshmallows to taste like I came up with a TON of ideas. In fact, it was hard to choose a direction. At first I thought I would just make straight up vanilla. Then I decided I would add a chocolate swirl for cocoa-laced marshmallows. What about using almond extract and a little cinnamon? Then I found myself thinking about the number of candy canes I had leftover from our Christmas tree. I thought I could make vanilla marshmallows and coat the outside edges in crushed candy canes. These are all great ideas and you should definitely give them a try. I know that the next time I make marshmallows I’m definitely going for one of those combos so you may see the results sometime in the future.
However, I decided to go a totally different direction. I had purchased a package of dried lavender buds at the end of the summer for a project that unfortunately never came to fruition (although it will at some point!) For my marshmallows, I infused the water with dried lavender and a vanilla bean. Then I stirred the seeds into my marshmallow mix. I absolutely love this grown up version of these treats. Sweet and fragrant with the warmth of vanilla, these were unlike any marshmallows I ever bought off a shelf.
One thing to consider is that in my opinion, lavender is an acquired taste. I think it’s one of those things, you either love it or you hate it. There really isn’t any in between. For that reason, these marshmallows were met with mixed reviews by my taste testers (AKA: The Fam) I personally loved them. I had to hide the bowl of marshmallows from Maddy otherwise she would have continued to repeatedly ask for more. My father-in-law liked them also. However, Mike and his mother both felt like the lavender made the marshmallows taste like soap or perfume. So judge for yourself!
Now, onto next month! For February’s “First on the First” we’re going to try making macarons. I’m so very excited for this!! I’ve wanted to make them for such a very long time but quite frankly, they intimidate me. So I cannot wait to finally face this challenge! I hope you’ll join us. If you’re interested, just click here for more info and join us in trying something new or revisiting this challenge next month for “First on the First.”
Now, don’t forget to go check out what all the other First on the First participants made!
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Lavender Vanilla-Bean Marshmallows Adapted from Gourmet, December 1998
1 1/4 cup water
1-2 Tablespoons dried culinary lavender, depending on how fragrant you would like yours
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped and reserved
about 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 Tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons (about 3 1/2 envelopes) unflavored gelatin
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
– In a small saucepan combine water, lavender buds and vanilla bean pod. Bring just to a boil.
– Cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit for 30 minutes.
– Strain infused water and refrigerate until cold.
– Oil bottom and sides of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan 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 infused water and let stand to soften.
– In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, 1/2 cup infused water (discard any remaining 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 electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about 6 minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer.
– In a large bowl with cleaned beaters beat whites (or reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks.
– Beat whites and scraped vanilla seeds into sugar mixture until just combined.
– Pour mixture into baking pan and sift 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least 3 hours, and up to 1 day.
– Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up 1 corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and let drop onto cutting board.
– Oil a large knife and trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into roughly 1-inch cubes. Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar into a large bowl and add marshmallows in batches, tossing to evenly coat. Shake off excess confectioners’ sugar. Marshmallows keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature 1 week.