How to Slay a Halloween Marshmallow

 The marshmallow defied many efforts to be tamed, 

The marshmallow defied many efforts to be tamed, 

Earlier this week, I wrote about making homemade marshmallows for Halloween

During that afternoon of cooking, my liquid thermometer had partially melted. My electric mixer ceased to work, and I vowed to buy a KitchenAid stand mixer sometime in the near future. I went to bed feeling defeated. I wasn’t used to failure in the kitchen, but I’d never met a dish so stubborn, so sticky, so difficult. It was like my toddler at his worst moments. 

 The ants didn't get to the marshmallow overnight, as I had hoped.

The ants didn't get to the marshmallow overnight, as I had hoped.

The next day, I approached the baking pan with apprehension. I’d almost wished that overnight the aggressive ants in our kitchen had discovered and swarmed it, so I could just throw away the experiment, pan and all. No such luck. 

I tried to take the marshmallow out of the baking dish. It didn’t budge. I tried to press cookie cutters into it. The giant sticky blob remained firmly in the dish, as defiant as the Stay Puft Marshmallow man from Ghostbusters. Pausing in my frustration, I gave it a taste, eating a sticky chunk of it off my thumb. 

It was surprisingly divine: deliciously burnt and sweet, with a texture so airy and soft that I was entirely different from a store-bought marshmallow. With a bit more salt in them, they would have tasted like salted caramel, with the perfect tan color to boot. 

 The marshmallow, chopped into bits, didn't look so good, but they tasted like airy puffs of burnt caramel.

The marshmallow, chopped into bits, didn't look so good, but they tasted like airy puffs of burnt caramel.

Still, the presentation was problematic, because of how difficult they were to extract from the pan. Cutting the marshmallow into smaller ones, they came out resembling little gobs of already-been-chewed gum. But I could find no better way to tame the candy than to chop it into little bits, as if it were a monster in a horror movie. After I rolled each marshmallow in a mixture of powdered sugar and cornstarch, they ceased to be so stubbornly sticky. 

Even so, my four-year-old daughter refused to get close to the final product, revolted by the mess. But, for my two-year-old son, the look did not matter. That afternoon, he devoured a half dozen as quickly as he would have eaten a bunch of gummy bears. After I dressed the marshmallows up in little plastic baggies with Halloween stickers and black and orange ribbons, they looked half-presentable and half-edible. 

The marshmallow might have broken my thermometer and my electric mixer, but it wouldn’t defeat me. 

Salted Caramel Marshmallows

My recipe is adapted from Maria Helm Sinskey’s Family Meals and Martha Stewart’s Homemade Marshmallow recipe. I’ve purposely upped the amount of salt and slightly burned the sugar syrup.  

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
11x 9-inch baking dish
Parchment paper
Canola oil for brushing
1 1/2 tablespoons gelatin
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup (see here for corn syrup substitute recipe)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Food coloring (optional) 
Cookie cutters (optional)

Place the cornstarch and confectioner’s sugar in a glass jar, replace the cap tightly, and shake well. Line the baking dish with aluminum foil. Brush the foil with oil. Sprinkle the foil with a few tablespoons of the cornstarch-sugar mixture, making sure to cover the bottom of the pan evenly.

Put 1/2 cup of cold water into the bowl of an electric mixer; sprinkle with the gelatin. Let the gelatin dissolve for 5 minutes. Beat the gelatin mixture for 2 to 3 minutes, until fluffy.

Put 1/4 cup water, the granulated sugar, and the corn syrup into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook, without stirring, until the mixture registers 250 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer and turns a medium caramel color, about 12 minutes. 

Attach the bowl with the gelatin to the mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment. With the mixer on low speed, beat hot syrup into the gelatin mixture (making sure that the liquid doesn’t splash — this is very important!). Gradually raised the speed to high; beat until the mixture is very stiff, about 15 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and food coloring, if desired. 

Transfer the batter into the prepared dish. This is the most difficult part of the recipe! The batter will be very sticky and adhere to most surfaces. I found that metal butter knives are the easiest instruments to work with. Once you get the batter into the dish, dip a metal knife into cold water for 10 seconds, then use it to spread the batter evenly in the dish. Set it aside, uncovered, overnight.

The next day, sprinkle the batter with a couple tablespoons of the cornstarch-sugar mixture. Then sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of the cornstarch-sugar mixture over a working surface like a wooden citing board. Transfer the batter to the board (if you’re able to tame it out; if not, leave it in the baking pan.) Coat a sharp knife with oil, then cut the marshmallows into 2-inch squares or use cookie cutters dipped in oil first to cut out desired shapes. Put the remaining cornstarch-sugar mixture into a small bowl, and roll each marshmallow in this mixture to coat. 

Enjoy immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.