Did you know you can make marshmallows?
This thought had never occurred to me until a couple of weeks ago. I always thought marshmallows were some kind of science lab food whose processing I could just blissfully neglect for all of my days while continuing to enjoy s'mores and marshmallow-topped cocoa.
But then I had an insatiable desire for my favorite hot chocolate. Since I had long before finished my mix, I resorted to visiting the restaurant's website and soon found myself staring longingly at pictures of hot chocolate topped with the most delicious-looking marshmallows.
They looked homemade. I needed to know more. So I researched, and homemade marshmallows are so simple: They're just melted sugar, cornstarch, and water whipped up with gelatin. With vanilla (or whatever flavoring you want!) added in at the end.
You'll need plain gelatin for this. And while we're on the topic, I need to tell you that the back of my gelatin packets had recipes for "basic dessert" and "basic salad" and I just need you to help shoulder the weight of this new information.
Why were these ever a thing? Who first thought gelatin+vegetables would be a good combination? I am inexplicably tempted to try it. I also wonder if two generations from now will be feeling this way about crock pots or sheet pan dinners.
Homemade marshmallows are so soft and pillowy and they melt in the most satisfying way for hot chocolate or s'mores. The kind you buy at the store will taste like stale plastic after you eat these. Like, really, if tarnished love for commercial marshmallows is going to negatively affect your life, then you should not try homemade ones. They will almost definitely ruin all other marshmallows for you.
There are all sorts of flavorings you could use with this recipe. Peppermint! Chocolate! Coconut! Coffee! Almond! Lemon! And dipping these in chocolate or decorating them I think would be a really fun holiday activity with kids!
Do I need a candy thermometer?
You will need a thermometer here because the sugar mixture has to get to a very precise temperature (240 degrees Fahrenheit). Sugar is finicky and too low or too high and your marshmallows will not turn out right. We have a really inexpensive meat thermometer that also works as a candy thermometer, so I used that! I highly recommend it if you want to make these and don't already have a thermometer.
What's that smell?
That would be the gelatin. When heated, gelatin gives off the aroma of a barnyard or the not-cute parts of a petting zoo! But don't worry. By the time your marshmallows are set and ready to be eaten, there will not even be a trace of this. I don't understand how it completely goes away, but it does. Probably this is high-level science.
Do I need a stand mixer?
I would not attempt to make homemade marshmallows without a heavy duty stand mixer. It would probably be possible, but between the steam coming off the hot sugar, how enormous the mixture gets, and the fact that a good 10-15 minutes of high-speed whipping is required, I think it would be an altogether unpleasant experience with a hand mixer.
How sticky is this going to be?
It is going to be so sticky!!! But the stickiness will be contained. And the best news: sugar is water-soluble, meaning you can just soak your sticky marshmallow-whipping bowl in hot water and all the stickiness will dissolve right off.
Can I use homemade marshmallows for s'mores?
Yes! They will be the best s'mores of your LIFE.
How long will homemade marshmallows keep?
Homemade marshmallows are best within the first 1-2 weeks, but they will keep for an additional 1-2 weeks after that if kept in an airtight container. After about a month, they will start to harden and lose flavor. Most likely, your marshmallows will be gone long before this happens!
- 3 (1/4 ounce) envelopes unflavored gelatin
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla (see note)
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine gelatin with 1/2 cup cold water. Set aside while sugar mixture cooks.Combine sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small sauce pan and heat over medium - stirring occasionally - until the sugar dissolves. Once mixture is no longer gritty, increase heat to high and cook until a thermometer reads 240 degrees. Remove from heat immediately.Turn the mixer on low and slowly pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Gradually increase speed to high, being careful of steam and splattering, and whip until mixture is thick and fluffy - about 12-15 minutes. Decrease speed to low and add the vanilla. Whip until well combined.Spray a 9x13-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray and dust generously with powdered sugar. Turn the marshmallow mixture into the pan and spread into an even layer. Dust with more powdered sugar. Let it sit - uncovered - at least 8 hours, until the top is only slightly tacky.Turn marshmallows onto a work surface dusted with powdered sugar and cut into squares. Dust cut edges with more powdered sugar and store in an airtight container for up to a month.
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten.