Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Homemade Marshmallows - Sticky Fun for Everyone!

Homemade marshmallows is a fun, sticky and delightful activity. Children, depending on their age and abilities, can be included in a variety of steps throughout the process. Roll up your sleeves, get on your aprons and enjoy the process as well as the outcome.
WARNING: this is a sticky business!

3/4 cup cold water
2 packets of powdered gelatin (each 1/4 ounce)
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or seeds from 2 vanilla beans

Combine 3/4 cup cold water and two 1/4-ounce packets powdered gelatin in a small bowl and set aside. Mix 1/2 cup each confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a separate bowl. Sprinkle half of the cornstarch mixture in an 8-inch square pan*, set the remaining mixture aside. I've also used parchment paper inserted into the pan but sticking over the sides and sprinkled with the sugar/cornstarch mixture - it usually comes out quite easily.
Cook 1/2 cup corn syrup, 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 1/2 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat until 235 degrees on a candy thermometer, 6 to 8 minutes. Use a saucepan with high sides so you don't have bubbling over issues. Once it hits 235 remove from heat.
Combine the syrup mixture with the gelatin mixture. Add either seeds from 2 vanilla beans or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in a large bowl. Make sure your bowl has plenty of room for whipping everything together - believe me you'll need it.
Beat with a mixer on medium high until thick and fluffy, about 6 - 8  minutes. This is the marshmallow fluff stage which is yummy as well!
Scrape mixture into your pan and spread evenly with a buttered spatula. Sprinkle with the remaining cornstarch mixture.
Let dry overnight, then slice into squares**. I like using a pizza cutter with more of the cornstarch/powdered sugar mix so it doesn't stick to the cutter or cutting surface. Store unused marshmallows in a airtight container - that is if you have any left to store.

*This recipe calls for an 8X8 inch pan, but we frequently spread the marshmallow mixture into a 13X9 inch pan for thinner marshmallows which were easier to cut - particularly if you want to cut out shapes.
**If you want to go beyond the basic squares spread the mixture in a larger pan for easy cutting. Use metal, sharp edged, cookie cutters dipped in more of the corn starch confectioner's sugar mix. You may need to coax them out of pan a little. Simple shapes work best - hearts, circles, stars, etc. - you will not be able to get detailed cuts from this very sticky, but delightful treat.
You can also add flavors to your marshmallows or dip them in a chocolate coating for added fun as well as colored sugar or sprinkles for something special.

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