I have to admit. I have never been a big fan of marshmallows. Overly sweet. Fake vanilla flavor. Stale, kinda crusty exterior. Blech! The only thing marshmallows are good for is to make rice krispy treats.
The first time I ever had a fresh marshmallow was at Jean Georges restaurant in NYC. It was such a pretty production! They wheel a marshmallow cart around the dining room and cut fresh little marshmallows right there for you at tableside. As wonderous as this experience promised to be, still I was underwhelmed. While certainly fresher than marshmallows in the bag, it was overly sweet and just sort of OK.
But a few months ago, a friend brought in the most amazing fresh, homemade marshmallows I have ever tasted. I was astounded at how very different it was from the supermarket marshmallow I’ve known all my life! The marshmallows were incredibly light and bouncy and were literally melt-in-your-mouth delicious! They had a huge punch of real vanilla flavor. And, while sweet (they are marshmallows, after all!), it wasn’t the cloying, toothachingly sweet sweetness of commercially made marshmallows (or Jean Georges marshmallows for that matter).
This recipe comes from another cooking legend, Thomas Keller, from his French Laundry Cookbook. What makes this recipe even more awesome is that there are no egg whites! Yay, food safety! Yay, no leftover egg yolk! Besides for the corn syrup, I had all the other ingredients on hand. The whole process was dead simple and takes little more than 12 minutes. It’s one of those recipes where you stand around afterwards and ask, “huh. Is that it? Did I miss something?” No. No you didn’t. That’s it. Really.
Try this recipe and it may forever change your opinion of what a marshmallow can really be.
(Adapted from Thomas Keller, French Laundry Cookbook)
Note: This is a half recipe, which makes about 56 marshmallows that are about 1 inch square
1.5 envelopes of Knox gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup granulated sugar [I ran out of sugar and didn’t use a full cup. It was perfectly delicious with a little less sugar]
1/3 cups light corn syrup
1/8 cup water
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
Lightly oil a straight-edged 9 x 9-inch pan [I used Pam]. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup cold water. Soak for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine sugar, salt, corn syrup, vanilla seeds, and 1/8 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a rapid boil and boil hard for 1 minute.
Pour the boiling syrup into soaked gelatin and turn on the mixer, using the whisk attachment, to high speed. Beat for 12 minutes. After 11 minutes, add vanilla slowly (mixture will foam up a bit) and continue beating for 1 minute.
Scrape marshmallow into the prepared pan and spread evenly [Lightly greasing your hands and the spatula helps a lot here]
Take another piece of lightly oiled plastic wrap and press lightly on top of the marshmallow, creating a seal. Let mixture sit for a few hours, or overnight, until cooled and firmly set.
In a shallow dish, combine equal parts cornstarch and confectioners’ sugar. Remove marshmallow from pan and cut into equal pieces with scissors (the best tool for the job) or a chef’s knife. Dredge each piece of marshmallow in confectioners’ sugar mixture. Shake off the extra powder.
Store in an airtight container.