It is cold outside. The small corner of my world has been in a bitterly cold spell the last few days, keeping everyone indoors and wearing thick wool socks. The weatherman cheerfully informed me this evening that the windchill will drop to -40 degrees F/C, which is actually colder than the South Pole at the moment (I checked). While my mind drifts to white sandy beaches and hot sunshine, my body reluctantly heads out into the cold air, bundled up in so many layers I can scarcely see the sidewalk beneath my feet.
The cold bites and slashes against my face, bringing tears to my eyes like a punch to the gut. The wind, when it strikes just so, steals my breath away as I gasp and struggle to open my lungs against the icy air, muttering unheard expletives from my lips.
Can it be spring yet, please?
These past few evenings, I have found myself beneath a pile of blankets with a hot drink between my palms. With nowhere I need to be, I've turned the oven on for heat, roasting up dinners and making simple comfort foods. Staying warm can be its own art form.
As I finished off another mug of hot cocoa this afternoon, I was fondly reminded of the several batches of homemade marshmallows I made over the winter holidays. Though I have had this recipe in the cue for a little while, the time finally seemed right to pull it out. I can't be the only one with a hot chocolate addiction this time of year, can I?
When the idea of homemade marshmallows was first proposed to me, I wasn't terribly interested. Couldn't I just buy what I needed from the store? Nevertheless, I wouldn't be a proper baker if my curiosity didn't get the better of me so I set out to make a batch of them for myself. The process was surprisingly easier than I had imagined it to be, but the results are what really knocked me off my feet. Friends, homemade marshmallows are divine. Store-bought marshmallows pale in comparison, both in texture and taste. I can't turn back.
I was so smitten with my marshmallow discovery that I made several gift bags for friends and family over the holidays and served them alongside the Christmas cookies. Plain or dipped in warm chocolate, these marshmallows will certainly bring a smile to your face.
Vanilla Bean Marshmallows are soft and pillowy, with a bright flavor profile. Both vanilla beans and vanilla extract lend an intense flavor to these sweet marshmallows. Whether plain, chocolate dipped, or soaking in a mug of hot cocoa, there is no wrong way to enjoy this simple treat. Though the directions for the recipe may appear long, the process is simple. I wanted to provide you with the clearest instructions so there was no confusion along the way.
Note: You will need a candy thermometer for this recipe.
Vanilla Bean Marshmallows
Adapted from Shauna Server
Yields about 24-36 marshmallows, depending on size
4 1/2 teaspoons (2 packets or 15 grams) unflavored gelatin powder
3/4 cup (180 ml) cold water, divided
1/2 cup (120 grams) light corn syrup, divided
3/4 cup (170 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or the seeds from 1 vanilla bean)*
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered sugar
1/4 cup (30 grams) cornstarch
Grease an 8 x 8-inch pan. Set aside.
In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup water and whisk together. Allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes for the gelatin to "bloom" or activate. Microwave for 30 seconds on high to dissolve the gelatin.
In a large mixing bowl, place 1/4 cup light corn syrup and the gelatin syrup. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup corn syrup, 1/4 cup water, granulated sugar, and salt to a boil. Using a candy thermometer, bring the sugar syrup to a boil over medium high heat and continue boiling until the temperature reaches 240 degrees F (or 115 degrees C). This will take about 5 minutes.
As soon as the temperature is reached, slowly pour into the gelatin mixture and, using a stand or hand mixer, immediately begin beating on low speed to incorporate. Turn the mixer up to medium speed and beat for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and continue beating for another 4 minutes. Turn the speed to high and beat for an additional 1-2 minutes. The marshmallow mixture should be thick and puffy. Beat in the vanilla bean paste and extract.
Pour marshmallow mixture into prepared pan, using a wet spatula to spread it evenly (a few lumps or bumps are okay—this stuff is sticky!).
In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and cornstarch. Sprinkle generously over the top of the marshmallows, covering them completely in a thick layer. Allow to rest for 6 hours or overnight before removing from the pan.
To release the marshmallows from the pan, run a knife around the edges and invert onto a large cutting board. The marshmallows should slowly release from the greased pan. Using a greased knife, cut the marshmallows into 1 1/2-inch to 2-inch cubes, immediately coating them in the powdered sugar mixture to keep them from being sticky. Pat off the excess or place marshmallows in a strainer and shake it off.
The marshmallows will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 week. If you are making these in advance or want to keep them around for a season, freeze the marshmallows to keep them fresh and take them out as needed.
* If you do not have a vanilla bean or vanilla bean paste, simply increase the vanilla extract to 1 tablespoon.