Like many of you, I’ve spent the last couple of weekends elbow deep in cookie dough, royal icing, and all manner of sticky baked goods. I almost always make some sort of holiday gift box this time of year filled with homemade sweets. The usual contenders are candied nuts, a chocolate truffle, and some sort of cookie. This year, instead of sticking to tried and true recipes, I ventured a little off my usual holiday map. The result has been a bit of a rough patch in my otherwise rosy holiday baking days.
To give you a sense of the disaster that’s befallen my kitchen lately, I thought I’d write up a little list. (Composed to the tune of 12 Days of Christmas courtesy of one too many hours of the Pandora Christmas Station.) Here goes, singing optional:
…Four sheets of burned cookies: John and I have become convinced recently that our oven is possessed. It’s taken to spontaneously turning itself up to 500 degrees without warning. This has happened on two very unfortunate occasions, the first involving a gevuld speculaas and two sheets of shortbread, and the second involving some beautiful biscotti. All parties met their tragic end at the bottom of the trash barrel.
…Three failed gingerbreads. I’ve been on a quest for that one true gingerbread: richly fragrant, black like midnight, sticky, chewy, spicy, and delicious. Swoon. (I may have finely found it here courtesy Gramercy Tavern in NYC.) But before this happy discovery, I made this recipe and this recipe, neither of which came even close to what I wanted.
…Two rounds of spiced nuts. In a fit of self-pity, we ate our first baking success instead of packing it up in gift boxes and had to start again from scratch.
…and One smoking toffee. I burned, er scortched, the first batch after discovering that my candy thermometer stops registering temperature beyond 240 degrees. My toffee started smoking at what the thermometer insisted was “soft ball stage.”
After the requisite time sulking in front of the TV, I rallied myself Sunday and set about testing one more recipe: peppermint marshmallows. Homemade marshmallows, since the first time I saw them made, have seemed a small kitchen miracle to me; an improbable combination of egg white, sugar, and gelatin which gives you springy and soft marshmallow joy. If you’ve never tried them, they’re simply everything you always wanted a store bought marshmallow to be, and absolutely insane melted into or onto anything at all (think hot chocolate, graham crackers, and the like.) I’ve played around with doing flavored marshmallows in the past, but I wanted to try making a naturally-colored marshmallow for the holidays. Given my glowing track record, you may be thinking I should have just sucked it up and reached for the food coloring. Trust me, I had the exact same thought as I stood praying at my mixer that the marshmallows wouldn’t taste like peppermint-y beets.
Well, the prayers worked. Or the beets worked. Or I’ve just used up all my bad kitchen karma. Whatever it was, the marshmallows came out beautifully pink, peppermint-y, and fluffy-springy with nary a beet flavor to be detected. (Insert huge sigh of relief here.)
Makes 40 marshmallows which keep well up to 2 weeks and make a lovely gift! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone.
Some photos in this post were taken by me, some by John.
For the Beet Juice
- ½ a medium beet, well scrubbed, peel on
Place the beet in a small sauce pan with about 1 inch of water and cover the pan. Cook on low-medium heat until the beet is very tender. Once cooked, transfer the beet and any cooking liquid into a blender. Add a little more water (about ¼ to ½ cup) and process until very smooth. Stain and set aside.
For the Dusting Powder
- 120g, 1 cup corn, tapioca, or potato starch
- 115g, 1 cup powdered sugar
Whisk together in a large bowl and set aside. Some marshmallow recipes out there call for only powdered sugar, but I highly recommend corn, tapioca, or potato starch here as powdered sugar alone tends to dissolve into the marshmallows and make a sticky mess.
For the Marshmallows
- 50g, ¼ cup beet juice (above)
- 200g, 1 cup warm water, divided
- 25g, 3 tbsp powdered gelatin (3 packets)
- 300g, 1 cup + 6 tbsp sugar
- 15g, 1 tbsp glucose or light corn syrup
- 2 large egg whites (55g)
- ¼ tsp peppermint extract
- 1 recipe Dusting Powder (above)
Dust a 7×11 inch baking pan generously with the Dusting Powder using a metal sieve. Set aside.
Combine the beet juice, 100g of water (1/2 cup), and the gelatin in a small dish. Whisk well and set aside to bloom. Combine the remaining water, the sugar, and the corn syrup in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook the mixture until it reaches 240 degrees as read by a candy thermometer. (If your candy thermometer is like mine and has mysteriously stopped working, I would bring your mixture to a boil and then cook over medium heat about 8-10 minutes and hope for the best.) Remove from the heat and add the gelatin mixture. Whisk well.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, whip the egg whites and the peppermint extract until stiff peaks form. With the mixer running on high, slowly drizzle in the sugar-gelatin mixture. Continue drizzling slowly until all of the liquid has been added to the egg whites. Whip until very thick and frothy (this will take 30 seconds to 1 minute.)
Once the mixture is thick, work quickly and pour it into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with an off-set spatula. (You’ll need to do this fast as the marshmallows start setting immediately – it can help to have 2 people your first time.) Allow the marshmallows to set for 10 minutes and then dust the top with more of the Dusting Powder. Set aside for 1 to 2 hours before cutting.
To Cut and Store the Marshmallows:
Using a bench knife or butter knife, loosen the sides of the marshmallow from the pan. Tip the pan onto a cutting board lined with parchment paper. Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the marshmallows into squares. For a 7×11 pan, you’ll want to cut them into 5 pieces length-wise and 8 across. Toss the cut marshmallows with more of the Dusting Powder. At this point, the marshmallows are ready to eat! I find the best way to store the marshmallows is in large bag, dish, or Tupperware container filled with lots of the left-over Dusting Powder. Marshmallows last up to 2 weeks. They tend to be softer and stickier the first week, so I let them dry out a bit by leaving the lid off of whatever container they are in. As time goes on, the marshmallows dry out a bit and can be better preserved in a closed container.