There’s nothing more pleasurable than sinking your teeth into a homemade marshmallow, so soft and fresh it’s like biting into a cloud. These lovely little clouds can be dipped into cocoa powder and given to a close friend or enjoyed as a dessert. Of course, they can also be toasted over a campfire, on sticks.
Store-bought marshmallows are just fine, of course. But as soon as you taste the homemade kind, you’ll realize how much better they taste. And they’re surprisingly easy to make.
The original marshmallow is a perennial herb by that name, which grows in swampy areas and spread from its native Asia to Europe, and from there to the rest of the world. The ancient Egyptians extracted sap from the root of the plant and mixed it with honey and nuts, to produce a sweet confection that was served only to gods and kings.
There are many stories in ancient texts about this secret sweet, but in the New World, the plant reappeared as an ingredient in cough syrup.
It was in 19th-century France that confectioners began making individual portions of sweets using marshmallow sap. Why individual portions? Because the sap was very expensive. Confectioners would mix it with sugar and whipped egg whites, add cornstarch, and place the mixture into individual dishes. On account of the high cost of the sap, these early marshmallows were made only for special occasions.
In 1948, American candy company executive Alex Doumak patented an extrusion process for making marshmallows and developed the marshmallow as we know it today: small cylinders dusted in cornstarch to keep them from sticking to each other. Today’s marshmallows, unfortunately, are made of sugar, gelatin, cornstarch, egg whites and artificial flavoring, and don’t contain even a drop of marshmallow sap.
Nevertheless, our recipe makes delicious marshmallows that are as close as possible to the original confection and use ingredients that can be found in any kitchen supply store.
These can be made in a variety of flavors, such as strawberry, blueberry, passion fruit and pineapple. The fruit purees lend their wonderful colors to the end result, eliminating any need for food coloring.
Ingredients for 24 marshmallows:
50 grams fruit puree
50 grams sugar
120 grams liquid invert sugar, divided into units of 50 grams and 70 grams
11 grams gelatin
55 grams water
70 grams liquid invert sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch, for dusting
1. Dissolve the gelatin in the water.
2. Place the 70 grams of invert sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.
3. Place the fruit puree, the regular sugar and the rest of the invert sugar in a saucepan and heat over a high flame, stirring the mixture until a thick syrup is created.
4. When the syrup boils (110 degrees Celsius if using a candy thermometer), pour the contents into the mixer bowl containing the invert sugar and beat on medium speed. Add the dissolved gelatin and continue to beat for about 20 minutes. The mixture will cool down during the mixing process.
5. Grease a 20-centimeter-square metal cake pan with margarine or butter and place the pan on a sheet or baking parchment that has also been greased.
6. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan, using a spatula to ensure that it is spread evenly.
7. Allow the mixture to set for 5-6 hours or overnight.
8. Dust the marshmallow mixture with cornstarch or sugar to prevent sticking. (You can use food coloring to dye the sugar the color of the marshmallows before dusting.)
9. Cut the marshmallow mixture into pieces using a knife. Rinse the knife in hot water occasionally while cutting, since the marshmallow is very sticky.
10. Dust the individual marshmallows with cornstarch or sugar.
Maya Revivo is the head of the pastry department of the Dan Gourmet culinary school.