Let's get this out of the way from the top - yes, gelatin is more than a little bit gross. It's made of pig skins and bones and bovine hides.
Marshmallows, however, are not gross. Especially when they're fresh and gooey and heart-shaped. They make us think of soft pillows and s'mores and European candy stores. Not to mention the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
So even though they're neither kosher nor halal, we're making marshmallows this week.
This recipe comes from Molly Wizenberg by way of Bon Appetit. The ingredients are easy enough to come by, with the exception, perhaps, of potato starch that is used to coat the marshmallows. Our neighborhood Basha's doesn't carry potato starch, but we found it at Sunflower Market for under four dollars.
You start by letting the gelatin soak in water. You can do this while you begin to heat the pan with the sugar mix.
When cooking with sugar, be very careful because sugar burns hurt like hell. No wonder bakers call hot caramel "edible napalm."
According to the recipe, you're supposed to use a candy thermometer to keep track of the temperature of the sugar, but we substituted a meat thermometer which seemed to work out fine.
When the hot sugary syrup is hot enough, add it (very slowly!) to the gelatin. After the 15 minutes of blending, you'll find the volume of the contents of the mixing bowl have more than doubled. At this point we broke from the recipe to add a few drops of food coloring to give the marshmallows a pink and purple pastel hue.
The recipe calls for one 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan. We also had to add another smaller pan because there was just so, so much marshmallow mix at this point. And when it comes time to coat the foil-lined baking pan with the cooking spray, spray the bottom of the pan thoroughly, as well as the sides. You'll be grateful later.
So after you spread the mix into the pans, you let the mixture sit unattended for several hours. When you come back to this, the marshmallows will be kind of firm.
If you have any cute retro aprons, now is a perfect time to wear one because the next steps are extremely messy.
Spread the potato starch and powdered sugar on a large board or your countertop. Then flip over the marshmallow rectangle and peel off the foil.
You may find that it doesn't peel back very easily and the marshmallows may seem too wet and sticky. We kind of freaked at this point, thinking that the gelatinous blob on our counter didn't resemble marshmallows at all. But that's when the potato starch and powdered sugar saved the day.
It's the home stretch from here. You can either cut the marshmallows into squares or use cookie cutters. The cookie cutters make ginormous marshmallows but if you don't love marshmallows with all your heart, you probably didn't make it this far anyway.
Use copious amounts of the powdered sugar and potato starch mix to keep things flowing. You can always tap off any excess but it's this powder that will finally give your creations the feel of real marshmallows and keep them from being sticky and unruly like Fluff.
These are amazing, melt-in-your-mouth marshmallows. They're tender and moist and not at all like the hard peas found in Lucky Charms. They represent the best of what marshmallows stand for in the world.
Congratulate yourself on a job well done by making a cup of hot cocoa. Then drop a fat marshmallow on top.