Marshmallows and Manners

It is only 2 p.m. on Easter, and already there are no marshmallows left in the fridge. 

I have made marshmallows before; in fact, there was a time when I made them almost weekly.  Made by the method I use, they are simplicity itself to prepare, and, because I grossly disregard the advice of most recipes and do not coat them in powdered sugar, they have next to no food value.  This is helpful if one finds oneself eating an entire batch, as I have been known to do.

I don’t know if the recipe I use compares favorably to other homemade ones: I’ve never made the things any other way.  One day about five years ago I happened upon the recipe, made it with just the ingredients I had in my house, loved it, and have never been fickle enough to stray. 

The method is simple–let some (rather a lot, actually–3 whole packets) of gelatin soften for a few minutes in a small amount of water.  Bring some more water and simple syrup to a boil, then add the gelatin and dissolve it thoroughly–no floating globules, please!  Let the mixture cool until it spoons up like maple syrup, then stir in some vanilla (or whatever flavor extract you wish). 

Now the part that might be frightening: egg whites.  Put three egg whites into a bowl and whip them until they reach soft peaks (to me, this stage looks like whipped cream, but we like very floppy whipped cream in my family).  When the whites are satsifactorily mounded and thick, keep beating them, but pour in the gelatin-syrup mixture in a thin stream (not as thin as if you were making mayonnaise, but don’t just slosh it all in at once, either).  Put the empty jug down and keep beating.  In a minute or two the mixture will turn glossy and firmer than before–it will be slightly reluctant to follow the advice of gravity when you turn the bowl, for instance.  Pour the still-fluid marshmallow out onto a plastic-wrap- or parchment-lined jelly roll pan and refrigerate until solid.  Cut them into shapes (I just slice the slab into traditional rectangles, but one could easily get mimsy with cookie cutters) and voila: marshmallows. 

When I was planning our Easter menu (and though it’s just for two people, this is definitely a planned day-long feast), I hadn’t originally thought to make marshmallows.  I was deep into fantasies of spring produce–peas and tender greens were featuring heavily, and strawberries appeared at almost every meal.  Alack for unrealized dreams–the city has plunged so deep into a regressive cold snap that even the birds have flown back south. 

While at the grocery store on Friday, though, crankily buying frozen peas and imported (but at least still tasty) strawberries, I was mildly cheered by the seasonally pastel colors used on the produce signs.  When I got home, I noticed the Easter basket Teacherman’s mother had sent him.  All those little pastel candy eggs and jelly beans.  Out of nowhere (and I speak sooth, for there was no trademarked marshmallowy poultry in that basket) the idea of pink marshmallows leapt to mind. 

And how did I make them?  I could have used raspberry juice instead of water, but I didn’t know the fruit enzymes would react with the rest of the ingredients (a food scientist I am not), and I am also very lazy.  Right in my cupboard is a bottle of raspberry-flavored (and arrestingly magenta) simple syrup, meant for flavoring coffee or Italian sodas.  I have a shameful number of these syrups hanging around–enough that I sometimes worry about the strength of the bolts holding that particular cupboard onto the wall.  I have used various flavors of coffee syrup to make marshmallows before, but never anything that has a color. 

I worked through my recipe in the usual way, using the raspberry syrup instead of the simple syrup, but still throwing in the vanilla extract to round out the flavors.  The mixture behaved as usual–better, even.  It expanded so much during whipping that it threatened to overflow the 4-quart pudding basin and climb up the beaters of my hand-mixer. 

The final color was a pale but vivid pink, exactly what I wanted.  All through the morning, Teacherman and I (though I believe I made at least three times as many passes as he did) would wander into the kitchen, swoop into the fridge, and have a marshmallow.  Or four.  At two-o-clock I paused, mid-swoop, and saw that there were only two left.  I considered being mannerly and taking one of them to Teacherman in the other room, but in the end, greed won out.

I thoroughly enjoyed those last two marshmallows.  Let’s hope he forgives me when he sees that I’ve washed the pan.

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Published in: on April 8, 2007 at 2:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

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