Smarter Than Pancakes

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Evolution of the S’more – Part I

Filed under: chocolate marshmallows,Desserts — shaye3 @ 12:08 am
Tags: , ,

Ok, so it all started innocently enough. It was a confluence of events that got the ball rolling. I had been reading about homemade marshmallows on one of the cooking sites that I frequent. The people were raving about how wonderful they are! I had decided to try them. (But we’ve been busy and I have an irrational fear of anything that requires a candy thermometer, so I hadn’t gotten around to it.)

Then, I was watching an episode of Good Eats, and lo and behold Alton made homemade marshmallows. (Of course I can do it if I’ve watched Alton do it! He’d never steer me wrong!)

Then, Renae from Renae du Jour posted about s’mores without chocolate bars. It seems they went camping, and to save space they took Fudge Stripe cookies to use rather than the traditional graham crackers and Hershey bars. I, of course, picked up some Fudge Stripe cookies on my next shopping trip and we tried them. (They were tasty, but I must be a purist because they were definitely not s’mores to me.)

Then, shortly after that, I was talking online to my friend Jane, who introduced me to yet another iteration of the s’more that sounded delicious–but that I’m not going to share just yet.

After all that, I started thinking about my whole anti-processed food bent and decided to find a recipe for homemade graham crackers. The evil plan forming in my head was to try my hand at making entirely homemade s’mores. (Ok, maybe not entirely homemade. I have no plans to learn how to conch my own chocolate–so I picked up a six-pack of Hershey bars. More on that later.)

Friday night the adventure started! I looked up Alton’s recipe for marshmallows, gathered my ingredients, and embarked on this journey!

First, a gratuitous picture of my lovely assistant Linus–and his lovely assistant Ducky…Linus and Ducky

With my trusty assistant at my feet, I gathered my ingredients…

(Please note that my light corn syrup is NOT the hfcs laden Karo brand. I found the hfcs-free Griffin’s brand at Big Lots and stocked up.) 😉

I combined equal parts powdered sugar and cornstarch to prep my pan for what I’d been told is the stickiest substance on earth.

After my pan was ready, I threw the gelatin in some water in the mixing bowl to bloom and then it was time to face my fears with the candy thermometer.

(Here is where I deviated slightly from Alton’s recipe. I had read a review somewhere about how homemade marshmallows are too soft to toast on a stick, so instead of the 240º that the recipe recommended, I took it up to 248º because that was the temperature that was recommended by another cookbook. This might have been where I left the tracks with this first attempt.)

After that, I poured the hot syrup into the bowl with the gelatin mixture, and started the 15 minutes of whisking. (Kids, don’t try this without your trusty stand mixer!)

I started it out on low until it got thick enough to not splash out and coat my entire kitchen, but after just a few minutes on high it actually started to look like marshmallow fluff! (Sorry about the blurry.)

After that I scraped it out into the prepared pan, and sprinkled more of the powdered sugar/cornstarch mixture on top so it could dry out over night.

They were seriously not kidding about that whole “stickiest substance on earth” thing. Here’s what my mixer bowl looked like after I had scraped out as much as I could. Fortunately, it cleans up easily with a little hot water.

The next morning, I used a pizza cutter and cut the slab-o-mallow into individual squares. We tasted them immediately; and Steve, Simon and I all agreed that they tasted exactly like bagged marshmallows that you can buy at the grocery store. I wasted all of that effort for grocery store marshmallow replicas. Arrrgh!

I was sure that the people on the recipe site weren’t raving about grocery store replicas, so I decided to try another recipe. Since I already have a whole batch of plain marshmallows, I decided to make a variation of a recipe that one of the recipe site people had posted–in chocolate this time. Oh. My. Gosh. The chocolate marshmallows were amazing! They’re lighter and fluffier, yet when you bite into them they’re almost creamy somehow. Half of the batch is gone, and I just cut them this morning! This amazing recipe is the one I decided to post for you–

Highly Addictive Chocolate Marshmallows
Serves 1 (Ok, it makes a whole gallon-sized zip-top bag of marshmallows, but you’ll eat them all.)

Pan Prep:

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 Tbs cocoa powder


4 packages gelatin (1 oz. total)

1/4 cup cold water

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp almond extract

1/2 cup boiling water

1/2 cup cocoa powder

Sugar Syrup:

3/4 cup water

3 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups light corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

  1. Start out by combining the cornstarch, powdered sugar and cocoa powder. (This will become vital later when you’re trying to deal with the sticky marshmallow mixture.) After you’ve mixed it, oil or spray a 9×13 cake pan, and then using a small strainer sift the mixture over it to coat well. Dump the excess powder back into the bowl to use later, but be generous with the amounts of oil and dust in the pan or you’ll have a hard time getting your slab-o-mallow out of the pan later.
  2. Next, in your mixer’s bowl, dump the contents of the four packages of gelatin, the quarter cup of cold water, and the extracts. Stir it so that all of the gelatin will get wet. (I recently found out that gelatin won’t work if you don’t “bloom” it before you use it—which just means getting it wet with cold water before you add hot water.)
  3. Now you need to boil half a cup of water and mix in the half cup of cocoa powder. It will make kind of a thick chocolatey syrup kind of thing. (But don’t be fooled and taste it. Sugar free chocolate is not as good as it smells and looks.) Once it cools down, add it to the mixing bowl with the gelatin and the extracts.
  4. Now comes the scary part with the candy thermometer. (Actually, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I don’t know why I had such a mental block about it because I didn’t have any problems at all!) In a small saucepan—preferably with a heavy bottom—combine the 3/4 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Stir it to combine, and then put it over medium high heat. First the sugar will melt, then it will start to boil. After it starts to boil, keep an eye on the thermometer and pull it off the heat when you get to 240°. (You don’t have to worry about brushing the sides of the pan with water or anything because there is enough corn syrup in there that crystals won’t be an issue. If you didn’t have the corn syrup, you’d have to worry about sugar crystals screwing everything up.)
  5. Using the whisk attachment, turn the mixer on low. While the mixer is running, pour the hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. (Be sure to pour it onto the side of the bowl and let it run down. If it hits the whisk it could splash up and either give you an extremely painful burn or at least make a sticky mess.) Leave it on low for a minute so it can thicken up a little before turning it up to the very highest setting. (Again to keep it from getting all over your kitchen.) Once you have it on high, let it whip for about twelve minutes.
  6. After it’s whipped and fluffy like marshmallow cream, use an oiled rubber spatula to turn it out of the mixing bowl into your prepared 9×13 pan. After you’ve smoothed it out the best you can, use your little strainer to sift more of the powdered sugar mixture on top of the whole batch. Leave it uncovered for several hours—overnight if possible.
  7. The next morning, flip it out onto a cutting board and use a pizza cutter to cut it into squares. (As I cut, I just took the cut edges of each square and dipped them into the powdered sugar mixture to keep them from sticking together.)
  8. Store them in an airtight container. (I hear they’ll keep for up to a month, but they won’t last that long.)

Stay tuned for my next addition to the s’more saga when I try to make homemade graham crackers!!


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