This is not another Valentine’s day post, mainly because I don’t have a valentine to talk about. I haven’t dated in awhile. I don’t know if it’s a lack of effort on my part. Or maybe I can blame the men in this city. Who knows. I can honestly say it’s been ages since I’ve even had a crush on somebody. Oh well. I’m going to quickly change the subject now.
I am still, and will always be, a sucker for anything heart-shaped.
I will continue to make cute heart-shaped confections, valentine or no valentine.
They say that the shorter the ingredient list, the harder it is to master. It’s true. Ganache is deceptively simple with only two ingredients, yet to achieve that perfect emulsion can be quite challenging. Meringue is made from egg whites, sugar, and water, and it too is one of the more difficult recipes to master and get just right every time.
I think marshmallows fall into this category as well.
I made these marshmallows from egg whites, gelatin, sugar, corn syrup, water, and vanilla. They worked, as you can see from the photos, but they weren’t perfect (mine were a little wet on the bottom until I dumped them in icing sugar and cornstarch). And, of course, before having mastered the “marshmallow” techniques, I advanced to trying to replace the gelatin. That people was a fail! I substituted agar agar for the gelatin. Turns out agar agar cannot be used to make proper marshmallows because it can’t support their structure. It pays to read. (I read about this the next day after the agar experiment). My gelatin-free marshmallows looked, tasted, and smelled like marshmallows, but they were too fragile. They were not marshmallows.
This recipe is adapted from David Lebovitz. If you are anti-gelatin (which is understandable), I’ll save you the trouble and disappointment: don’t use agar agar. Just don’t bother. Try something else. Apparently carrageenan is a good one to try (though I have yet to test it).
- 140 grams cornstarch
- 140 grams icing sugar
- 2 envelopes Knox unflavoured gelatin powder
- 125+ 80 mL cold water divided
- 200 grams granulated sugar
- 100 grams corn syrup
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 pinch fine kosher salt
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Sift together the cornstarch and icing sugar into a bowl and set aside for later.
- In a small cup, sprinkle the gelatin over 125 mL of water. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan, place the 80 mL of water, followed by the granulated sugar and corn syrup. Attach your candy thermometer to the saucepan, making sure that the tip of the probe is not touching the bottom of the pan. Begin heating the syrup over medium–high heat.
- Place the egg whites with a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat them on low til frothy.
- When the syrup boils, increase the mixer speed to high until the whites form stiff peaks.
- When the syrup reaches 245°F, take the saucepan off the heat and remove the thermometer, and then slowly pour the syrup down the side of the mixer bowl and over the whites, with the mixer running on low, being sure to not hit the beaters with the syrup.
- When the syrup is all added, increase the mixer speed to medium–high. Meanwhile, add the bloomed gelatin mixture to the saucepan and melt it over very low heat til the solution is clear, then add the dissolved gelatin to the mixer bowl, along with the vanilla.
- Beat the marshmallow mixture until it is cold.
- Dust a parchment-lined rimmed quarter sheet pan with half the icing sugar mixture prepared earlier, then pour the marshmallow mixture on top and smooth it.
- Let the marshmallows dry for several hours before cutting them (with well oiled scissors or oiled cookie cutters). Immediately toss the marshmallows in the powdered sugar mixture before storing.
Janice Lawandi is chemist-turned-baker, working as a recipe developer in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She studied pastry at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa and cooking at l’Académie Culinaire. She has a BSc in Biochemistry from Concordia University and a PhD in Chemistry from McGill University. Visit janicelawandi.com to see my portfolio.