Friday, December 9, 2011

Culinary IQ: Friday, December 9, 2011; Marshmallows

Soft, Fluffy and Good For You?

Marshmallows, good for you? Well not the modern version, but marshmallows most likely originated in ancient Egypt as a candy made from the extraction of the Marshmallow plant root. The confections is said to have been useful in the treatment of sore throats.

The French later began using the extract to make a confection that more closely resembles the modern marshmallow. The French version whipped the marshmallow sap until it became fluffy and then sweetened it. The process was very labor intensive and in the late 1900s they devised a way around the method by substituting egg whites or gelatin and modified corn syrup. The confection is called guimauve.

The development that made modern marshmallows so readily available was the invention of the extruding equipment by Alex Doumak in 1948. It gave us the cylindrical version we eat today. Most of the commercially produced brands in the US are manufactured by Kraft Foods and Doumak, Inc. in partnership.

In the last few years artisanal marshmallows have made a surge in popularity. You might think the process is difficult but it is not. Here is a recipe adapted from Martha Stewart:

Nightscotman's Strawberry Marshmallows

4 envelopes gelatin
1/2 cups strawberry puree
1-1/4 cups water
3 cups sugar
1-1/4 cups light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp orange flower water (optional)
powdered sugar and potato starch or rice flour for dusting 

Line a sheet pan with a 1′′ rim with aluminum foil. coat the foil with vegetable oil or non-stick spray. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the strawberry puree, orange flower water (if using) and 1/2 cup of the water. Sprinkle the gelatin over this mixture to soften (aka bloom).

In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, remaining 3/4 cup water and salt. Bring to a boil and cook until it reaches the soft-ball stage (234-240 F).

With the mixer at full speed, pour all of the hot syrup slowly down the side of the bowl. Be careful as the mixture is very liquid and hot at this point and some may splash out of the bowl - use a splash guard if you have one. whip until the mixture is very fluffy and stiff, about 8-10 minutes. pour mixture into the foil-lined pan and smooth with an oiled offset spatula so that itʼs level with the top of the rim (it wonʼt completely fill the pan). Allow the mixture to sit, uncovered at room temp for 10 to 12 hours.

Mix equal parts powdered sugar and potato starch and sift generously over the rested marshmallow slab. Turn it out onto a cutting board or counter, peel off foil and dust with more sugar/starch mixture. Slice with a thin-bladed oiled knife or oiled cookie cutters (pizza cutter works even better). Dip all cut edges in sugar/ starch mixture and shake off excess. Marshmallows will keep several weeks at room temp in an air-tight container.

Variation - Chocolate Marshmallows:
Replace strawberry puree and initial 1/2 cup of water in mixing bowl with 1/2 cup of cocoa dissolved in 1/2 cup boiling water in a separate bowl. Soften gelatin in an additional 1/4 cup cold water in mixing bowl. Add cocoa mixture to mixing bowl and proceed with recipe as above. This will produce a marshmallow with a strong chocolate flavor, but somewhat denser than the strawberry version. To get a lighter texture as well as a lighter chocolate flavor, reduce cocoa to 1/4 cup.

Variation - Vanilla Marshmallows:
Replace strawberry puree and initial 1/2 cup of water in mixing bowl with 3/4 cup water and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract or the seeds scraped from 2 vanilla beans.

Flavor Variations Ideas:
raspberry passion fruit pumpkin cranberry orange lychee
Liquid Flavorings lemon essential oil orange peppermint cardamom honey coffee

tangerine (using the juice in place of water) pomegranate 

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