It’s become something of a tradition for me to make marshmallows at Christmas-time. When I first started making them, I just did plain vanilla, and then over the years began experimenting with different flavours and coatings. Some years I’ll go all-out and make several variations; but these days, if I’m only going to make one? It’s peppermint. It just seems so Christmas-y, right?
This is the same recipe as used for the meyer lemon marshmallows I made a few months ago, just without the lemon juice, and with peppermint flavouring added at the end.
The first time I made these, I had absolutely no clue how much peppermint flavouring to add, so I just substituted it 1:1 for the vanilla extract the recipe originally called for. Oh my. Big mistake. It was so strong they were inedible. So in an effort to save them, I decided to dip them in chocolate. That was a much better decision. With the added chocolate, they went from tasting like toothpaste to tasting like a chocolate-covered after-dinner mint. Yum.
I’ve since toned down the amount of peppermint and now use somewhere between 1 and 1-1/2 teaspoons. It’s strong enough to hold up to the dark chocolate, and yet not so strong that they can’t be eaten as-is too. And they’re fantastic added to hot cocoa.
I just dip mine halfway. Partly because I’m lazy (this is so much faster and easier than dipping them fully), but also partly because I like people to be able to see the marshmallow. Especially when I make them with swirls of colour. They’re too pretty to cover up completely.
I mentioned last time too, but if you’ve never made marshmallows before, don’t be afraid! It’s really not difficult at all. Just be very careful with the hot sugar. There’s a great discussion over at eGullet (36 pages and counting) about making homemade marshmallows. There are tons of tips and tricks and links to different recipes. I got a lot of great advice from there when I first started making them.
Adapted from Peter Greweling's Chocolates and Confections at Home. You'll need a heavy-duty stand mixer for this recipe – the sugar needs to whip at high speed for at least 6 minutes to turn it into marshmallow fluff. Note: when cooking sugar, subtract 2°F from the target temperature for every 1000 ft above sea level.
3 tablespoons (about 3 envelopes) powdered gelatin (I've had success cutting this down to about 2-1/2)
1/2 cup cold water
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1 cup confectioner's sugar (preferably more)
1 cup potato, corn or rice starch (preferably more)
dark chocolate (for dipping – optional)
Depending on how big you want your finished marshmallows to be, you can make these with anything from an 9" x 9" pan to a 9" x 13" pan. The original recipe specified 9" x 9", but I like mine bite-sized and they ended up being about 1" thick using 9" x 13". Prepare your pan by lining it with parchment paper, then lightly oiling the parchment with a flavourless vegetable oil (not olive – it has too strong a flavour on its own). I pour a little dollop of oil right into the pan and then use a pastry brush to spread it around. You could just oil the pan directly, but I find the parchment paper makes it easier to lift the marshmallows out of the pan at the end.
Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water in a small non-reactive bowl or the top of a double-boiler. You will eventually heat this gently over simmering water, but not yet. Set aside.
Combine the sugar, corn syrup, honey and 1/2 cup water in a 2 quart saucepan and attach your candy thermometer. Cook over medium heat until the sugar has melted. Using a pastry brush dipped in cold water, brush down the sides of the pot to ensure all sugar crystals are melted. Increase to medium high and bring to a boil. Continue to cook until it reaches 252°F. This usually takes about 1/2 hour on my stove.
Carefully pour the hot sugar into the bowl of your stand mixer, pouring down the side of the bowl so it doesn't splash up. Seriously, I can't stress this enough – this sugar is extremely hot, so be careful. Insert your thermometer and let stand and cool until it reaches about 210°F, about 10 minutes.
While the sugar is cooling, melt the gelatin over a pot of simmering water on low heat. Many recipes instruct to just add the gelatin as-is to the hot sugar. I've read, however, that gelatin can lose its setting ability if it's overheated, which is why we're currently allowing the sugar to cool somewhat (I didn't make this step up – this is straight from Greweling's recipe). And melting the gelatin now will help it incorporate more smoothly.
Once the sugar has cooled, slowly pour the gelatin into the bowl, down the side the same as we did with the sugar – otherwise the sugar could splash up. Gradually turn the mixer from the lowest speed to the highest – again, we want to do this gradually so the molten sugar doesn't splash. I let it run for a few seconds at each speed before increasing. Use your best judgment here. Once you reach the highest speed, continue to whip for 6-10 minutes. The longer you whip it, the more air is incorporated and the lighter and fluffier it gets. However, the longer you whip, the stiffer it gets and the more difficult it is to pour into your pan. So there's a trade-off. I usually whip for about 8 minutes. They're plenty fluffy, and still soft enough that it's not impossible to smooth out.
Add the peppermint extract just before it finishes whipping. It will fall apart a bit when the liquid is added, but wait a few seconds and it'll come back together.
If you want to add food colouring, you can add a few drops just before it finishes whipping, or you can add it after you've turned off the mixer and just gently swirl it through with your spatula to get ribbons of colour throughout. Just a few drops will give you a nice pastel colour.
Pour the marshmallow into your prepared pan – you will need to use a spatula to scrape it out of the bowl and level it out somewhat. I like having a few whorls and ridges showing on the surface so people know these are homemade. If you want a perfectly smooth top, you can level it out with an offset spatula lightly coated with oil, or an oiled piece of parchment. You'll need to work pretty fast because the marshmallows begin to set up really quickly after removing from the mixer. Allow to sit for at least a couple hours, preferably overnight, before cutting.
trimming and finishing
Sift together the confectioner's sugar and the starch. You won't end up using all of this, but the remainder can be saved and re-used next time you want to make marshmallows. Having more than you need makes the process easier.
You can cut these using an oiled pizza cutter, knife, or pair of scissors. But I find this method messy. See my instructions here for my preferred method to cut and coat them. It's way easier!
Once they've been coated in starch, you can then dip them in melted chocolate if you like, but they're great as-is too. Try them in some hot cocoa!
These should keep for several weeks at room temperature. You'll know they're reaching the end of their life when the texture starts to get a bit grainy – this is just the sugar re-crystalizing. But honestly, you won't have any left that long! Whatever you do, do not store these in the fridge. Sugar absorbs moisture and they'll just get sticky.