Flavored Marshmallows Made From Scratch

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in: Desserts

marshmallows

When you hand people homemade marshmallows, they’re always dazzled. These are actual marshmallows, but with a lush, moist texture you never find in store-bought versions.

If you want your friends to keep thinking you’re a wizard, don’t tell them how simple it is. Basically marshmallow is a meringue made with gelatin instead of egg white, so it just takes longer — egg white cooks almost immediately, while gelatin has to stiffen for 12 hours or more in the refrigerator — but the ratio of dazzle to effort is enormous.

In the 18th and 19th century, confectioners extracted a gluey substance from the roots of marshmallow plants and used that where we use gelatin today. They also hedged their bets with egg white. In fact, some modern recipes add some egg white, I really can’t say why.

Limitless variations for flavored marshmallows

There’s one thing we can learn from the old-timers: You don’t have to flavor marshmallows with vanilla. They typically used orange blossom water, which does give a deliriously dainty and elegant effect. If I thought as seasonally as you’re supposed to these days, I’d have saved this recipe for June, because I imagine orange blossom marshmallows could be used in all sorts of romantic wedding-related ways.

You could also use mint or lemon extract. In fact any flavoring you want would work because this is a broad palette on which much can be painted. But the very best marshmallow flavor, in my opinion, is butterscotch. The effect of rich butterscotch flavor in a plush texture is overwhelming.

There are commercial butterscotch flavorings in restaurant supply stores, but I don’t like to rely entirely on them because when a dish contains only two ingredients, sugar and gelatin, the artificiality of artificial flavors becomes a bit noticeable. Instead, I replace the corn syrup in the marshmallow recipe with an English product called Lyle’s Golden Syrup which has been sold in tins resembling small paint cans since the 1880s. Unlike corn syrup, it’s made from sugar cane, but unlike molasses, it has a delicate browned-sugar flavor without the burnt and acid edge of molasses (which is of course perfectly appropriate in other contexts).

Use Golden Syrup and you’re already 85% of the way to butterscotch flavor. In fact, I understand that in England the company sells a butterscotch version of Golden Syrup that we should start importing right away. In the meantime, I like to punch the flavor up with a drop or two of butterscotch extract, but you don’t really have to.

Finding the perfect texture

The proportions of sugar, water, corn syrup and gelatin in this marshmallow recipe are pretty forgiving. You can find recipes with anything from 5 teaspoons to 7½ teaspoons gelatin to half a cup of water, and the proportions of sugar, corn syrup and water are also rather loose. If you use more liquid or less gelatin, your marshmallows won’t whip up as high but they will have a moister, more luscious texture. You may want to experiment with different proportions. I like a high medium-moist marshmallow, so I boil the syrup to the upper end of the soft ball stage, rather than the firm ball many recipes specify.

How forgiving are the proportions? I have made marshmallows with a syrup mixture that had so little liquid that not all the sugar dissolved. The corn syrup kept the mixture from “seizing up” into rock candy, but some of the sugar granules never dissolved. I found the effect pleasant, but maybe the world is not yet ready for crunchy-style marshmallows.

Basic Marshmallow Recipe

Makes 16 marshmallows

Ingredients

1 cup water, divided

2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin

½ cup light corn syrup

1½ cups sugar

¼ to ½ teaspoon vanilla or other flavoring

½ to ¾ cup confectioner’s sugar

Directions

1. Spray an 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish with non-stick spray.

2. Pour ½ cup water into the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Allow the gelatin to sit for 5 minutes, then set the mixer bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water. Leave it there without stirring until there is no longer a floating layer of undissolved gelatin, 15 -20 minutes.

3. Remove the mixer bowl from the saucepan and set aside until cool, 10 minutes or so. Return the mixer bowl to the mixer and whip the dissolved gelatin as if it were egg whites until it holds soft peaks, about 1 minute.

4. In a small saucepan, mix the remaining ½ cup water and ½ cup corn syrup with the sugar. Bring to the boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium and place a lid on the saucepan for 3 minutes so that steam can wash any sugar crystals off the edge of the pan.

5. Remove the lid, raise the heat to high and insert a thermometer probe into the syrup. When it reaches 238 F, about 10 minutes from the start of cooking, pour the syrup into a 2-cup glass measuring cup, scraping as much as you can from the saucepan with a heat-resistant spatula.

6. Beat the hot syrup into the gelatin in 6 or 7 small batches, stopping the beaters when you add syrup avoid pouring any of it on the beaters themselves because they’ll waste syrup by whipping it onto the walls of the mixing bowl. Scrape all the syrup you can from the cup.

Two notes: Don’t be disturbed by a faint barnyard aroma, which will disappear when the gelatin cools. And put a paper towel on the counter when adding syrup, because there will be drippage.

7. When all the hot syrup is added, leave the mixer on high speed for 15 minutes. Beat in your chosen flavoring and scrape the marshmallow into the prepared baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

8. In the morning, sift ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar over the surface of the marshmallow. Use a table knife or spatula to loosen the sides, then overturn onto a plate and tap the bottom. You may have to tap quite insistently. When the square of marshmallow has dropped onto the plate, use a sharp knife, preferably with a blade 8 inches long, and cut in four parts and again at right angles to obtain 16 cubes of marshmallow. Dredge each marshmallow in confectioner’s sugar to prevent stickiness and arrange on a serving plate; or on wax paper in a sealable container. Will keep for at least 1 week.

Variations

  • Orange Blossom Marshmallows: Replace the vanilla with orange blossom water.
  • Butterscotch Marshmallows: Replace the corn syrup with Lyle’s Golden Syrup and optionally add a drop or two of butterscotch extract at the end.

 Homemade marshmallows dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Credit: StockFood


Zester Daily contributor Charles Perry is a former rock 'n' roll journalist turned food historian who worked for the Los Angeles Times' award-winning Food section, where he twice was a finalist for the James Beard award.

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Comments

Barbara
on: 8/25/12
You list 1/2 c. corn syrup in the ingredients, but only mention 1/4 c. in the directions.
KateC
on: 8/28/12
Wow! I've made mint flavored ones, which sounds tooth-pastey, but then when dipped in chocolate--the best!
Sebastian
on: 8/28/12
I'd love to see a recipe without gelatin. Every since I found out what gelatin is made of (collagen extracted from the skin, boiled crushed horn, hoof and bones, connective tissues, organs and some intestines of animals such as domesticated cattle, chicken, horses, and pigs, according to Wikipedia), I can't stomach the idea of eating it. Any ideas for substitutions?
Nisa
on: 8/28/12
Sebastian: Vegetarian gelatin alternative? Check out this link: http://www.vegetarianvoice.com/vegetarian-foods/11/vegetarian-alternatives-to-gelatin/ I think the agar-agar is the best choice (it is VERY gelatin-like), followed by the rice starch option. Worth some experimenting, definitely!
Carol Penn-Romine
on: 8/28/12
Loved the butterscotch marshmallows you made recently. My fav flavors to make are bubblegum and absinthe, though not in the same pan, mind you! I've also made chocolate ones & rolled them in graham cracker crumbs--I call these s'moreshmallows!
Dinah
on: 8/30/12
which is it? 1/4 or 1/2 cup corn syrup?
Jim
on: 8/30/12
I also wonder which you use 1/2 cup or 1/4 cup of syrup.
Charles Perry
on: 9/9/12
Sorry for not commenting earlier than this. I was in Montana for two weeks. I think 1/4 cup syrup would work, but the quantity I used was 1/2 cup.
Charles Perry
on: 9/9/12
I've made mint marshmallows too, and wow, does the mint flavor stand out. Chocolate covered sounds like a very good idea.
tyi hakeem
on: 9/28/12
could you use flavored gelatin in place of unflavored?
Charles Perry
on: 9/28/12
The problem with using flavored gelatin is that it's a mixture of gelatin and sugar and I don't know the proportions, so I don't know whether this recipe would work acceptably (the sugar in the flavored gelatin wouldn't count as part of the sugar syrup, and I don't know how it would interact with the syrup). Also, flavored gelatin uses artificial flavorings, and their artificiality tends to be rather noticeable in a marshmallow. But this is a good question -- I think I'll try it out.
Charles Perry
on: 10/5/12
I haven't tried making marshmallows with flavored gelatin, but I just looked at the ingredient list on the package and saw only 2 g protein (that would be the gelatin) and 19 g sugar, and you're supposed to add a total of 4 cups water. Marshmallows call for a much stiffer gelatin than jiggly old dessert gelatin does, as well as a firm-ball syrup, so I don't think flavored gelatin will work. You might have to use a dozen packages to 1 cup water and 1/1 cup corn syrup to make a basic recipe, which would result in something with an overwhelming (artificial) flavor. And I still can't figure how the package sugar and the sugar syrup would go together.
Kimmysue
on: 1/12/13
Any tips or tricks on dealing with the "stickiness" ? I'm worried about it not spreading in the pan and just sticking to the utensils....
Charles Perry
on: 1/16/13
Sorry for not commenting earlier. I was having internet problems. You can spray your spatula with nonstick spray, but in my experience some marshmallow will stick nevertheless. And you probably won't get the marshmallow to spread to every square centimeter of the pan, particularly the corners. C'est le pate de guimauve, mon amie.
april
on: 1/25/13
I have volunteered to make marshmallows for a friends wedding. How far ahead do you think I can make these? I have to make enough for 100 guests. I think the orange blossom would be delightful! Thanks again for the great idea!! April
Charles Perry
on: 1/25/13
If you keep them sealed tight, and generously dusted with confectioner's sugar to prevent sticking, I would say 4 or 5 days is best. After a week they become noticeably less plush and more like dried-out supermarket marshmallows (the guests will probably be quite content with that because it's the only kind of marshmallow they know, and anyway they'll be blown away by the orange blossom flavor). They won't spoil -- there's nothing to them but sugar and gelatin. Make a sample batch and if time is going to be a serious factor for you, decide for yourself how important the luscious texture of fresh marshmallows is.
John
on: 2/27/13
I make marshmallows frequently. I don't presume to be an expert but here are some tips I will pass along. First, to keep them from sticking in the pan, line it with plastic wrap then spray with cooking oil. To cut easily, use a pizza cutter (wheel). When I make orange marshmallows I make a "dirty dust" for the outside. Mix a little cinnamon with the corn starch before you coat the cut marshmallow.
Charles Perry
on: 2/28/13
Thanks for the tips. I can see that using some plastic wrap would facilitate removal from the mold, but it's not really hard to do without the plastic wrap -- just run a butter knife around the walls of the mold and then gently pry up -- the marshmallow will hold together like a mattress. I really like the dirty dust idea. In fact, now that you mention cinnamon, I like the idea of cinnamon-flavored marshmallow.
Ami
on: 3/28/13
Can you use this recipe to make peeps?
Charles Perry
on: 3/28/13
You can make things that sort of look like Peeps but I imagine the exact shape will be hard to attain. Also, they will not have the super-puffy texture of the real thing -- homemade marshmallows are more in the moist and luscious category. Also, Peeps seem to have some kind of sugar crystal coating that gives them a certain rugged quality. However, if you can find molds or some sort, or if you have the patience to cut marshmallow into Peep shapes, you'll have something that will certainly surprise people. .
Marja
on: 10/5/13
Can i use orange juice in place of the water for the gelatin? I love that flavor!
Charles Perry
on: 10/6/13
I would not use orange juice in place of the water because it has to boil to such a high temperature. The aromatics would be certainly be lost and the orange juice would get a scorched flavor. Better to use water and then add orange extract when the marshmallow has cooled about room temperature. If you want the acidity of oranges too, you might add orange juice at that time, but I've never tried this & I'd be cautious, you don't want dilute your marshmallow and turn it into a thick syrup. For a touch of acidity you might try adding a little citric acid, sold at Middle Eastern markets as "sour salt" or limon tuzu. .
Shumi
on: 1/5/14
Hi there, if I use veg gelatine (agar agar) instead of non-veg gelatine, and golden syrup instead of corn syrup and follow the directions above, would that still work? Please help, have so far, repeatedly failed in making marshmallows and wasted so much time and ingredients on it :-(
Charles Perry
on: 1/5/14
Golden syrup works exactly like corn syrup, but I'm afraid agar agar won't be a good substitute for animal gelatine. It melts at a temperature substantially higher than body temperature, so it won't provide the luscious texture of gelatin.

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