Fluffy and soft, the sweet flesh of a homemade marshmallow gently billows under light touch. Wrapped in a blanket of fine, snow-like confectioners’ sugar, each chewy bite sticks to the gums, leaving behind nothing but feathery saccharine fingerprints.
I cannot recall the first time I tasted a homemade marshmallow, perfect pillowy clouds of meringue and sugar, whipped and set until silken and cottony. Though I’ve always had an unbridled love for anything gummy and chewy, I was never a fan of the mass-produced, waxy marshmallow, unless charred beyond recognition and stuffed between brittle graham crackers and oozing with warm dark chocolate. I much prefer their “adult” counterpart, a playfully bouncy confection with a sneeze-inducing, powdery jacket.
I had uncharacteristically decided to make rose marshmallows for my family on Valentine’s Day. Despite a decade with my husband, we have never been romantic Valentine’s Day devotees, in part because we feel V-Day is an overblown excuse for cheap chocolate. The one and only time we capitulated, we found ourselves waiting six hours for a less-than-mediocre meal and ended up at In-N-Out burger for a night cap. As a hard and fast rule we opt out of February 14. This year was no exception though I, somewhat shamefully, found myself craving ubiquitous chocolates and sentimental heart-shaped pastries and above all, sweet but exotic rose-scented marshmallows.
Traditional marshmallows are meringue-based. Many recipes require the use of raw egg whites, which are beaten and added to a hot, whipped mixture of sugar, corn syrup and gelatin. Alternatively, pasteurized egg whites or powered egg whites can be used in place of raw, unpasteurized eggs. Many people prefer eggless recipes, which I find yield less airy marshmallows and a stringier batter. Eggs add a weightless, bouncy quality to the marshmallows.
When making rose marshmallows pick your rose syrup or rose water carefully. I normally prefer rose water, a distillation of rose petals that has a heady perfume. This time I used red-hued rose syrup, which has the added benefit of tinting the marshmallows a subdued blush complexion, reminiscent of fluffy pink icing.
Make sure to taste your syrup or water before finalizing a quantity. Some are richer and more deeply concentrated than others. Too much will overwhelm the delicate nature of the confection. For a more subtle, aromatic quality, use less.
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup potato starch or corn starch
2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup hot water (about 115 degrees)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 teaspoons rose syrup
1. Oil bottom and sides of a 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan, and dust bottom and sides with confectioners’ sugar/ starch mixture.
2. In bowl of a standing electric mixer, or in a large bowl, sprinkle gelatin over cold water and let stand to soften.
3. In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, hot water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240 degrees, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.
4. With standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about 6 minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer.
5. In a large bowl beat whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites, rose syrup and vanilla into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and sift 1/4 cup confectioners’/starch evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least 3 hours, and up to 1 day.
6. Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up 1 corner of inverted pan, loosen marshmallow and let drop onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow and cut into roughly 1-inch cubes. Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar/starch into a large bowl and add marshmallows in batches, tossing to evenly coat. Marshmallows keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature 1 week.
Yield: Makes 35-40 marshmallows.