Over the past few years I’ve seen lots of things in specialty food stores being called “artisan” products. It’s usually a product made in small batches and something out of the ordinary. Like all the different “artisan” breads — olive loaves, rosemary and garlic loaves, focaccia…things like that. In other words, stuff you’d make at home with your own two hands if you had the time and know-how. They’re lovely products and you can tell they’ve been lovingly produced. The one thing they all have in common, however, is a huge price!
I recently saw a company that was selling “artisan” marshmallows. They were truly beautiful and I’m sure quite tasty, but you’d better be willing to open up your wallet to purchase them. I passed them by because I know just how easy and cheap…that’s right cheap…homemade marshmallows are to make. And they taste so much better and so different than the bags of marshmallows you buy at your regular grocery store.
My recipe for marshmallows comes from the book “Better Than Store-Bought.”
I love this book so much. It’s copyrighted 1979 and out of print now, but you can occasionally find one on eBay. It has recipes for things you never knew you could, or would want to, make at home. Things like marshmallows. Also, vanilla extract, lollipops, graham crackers, various liqueurs, jams and jellies, corn chips, all kinds of breads, different cheeses, even fresh sausage. And the authors have a wonderfully dry sense of humor. For instance, here’s their introduction to the marshmallow recipe:
“Among the oldest living citizens are some who claim to recall marshmallows that tasted like marshmallows–tender, vanilla-scented pillows that melted in the mouth. If you have an electric mixer, such marshmallows are ridiculously easy to re-create and marvelously cheap.”
Hee hee…”oldest living citizens.” These ladies just crack me up. But I digress.
About now you’re asking yourself why in the world would anybody want to make marshmallows or cheese or fresh sausage when you can go right down to the grocery story and buy all you want. Well, for me there are two reasons. The first being the challenge. I absolutely revel in the fact that I can actually make a marshmallow. The accomplishment itself is a reward. Secondly, I know exactly what is in that marshmallow, or cheese or sausage. I know that there are no preservatives and nothing but pure, wholesome ingredients. Plus making your own is usually much less expensive than purchasing retail, and it’s fun!
Make up a batch of these tender, vanilla-scented marshmallows and then tell me how you like them compared to the rubbery stuff from the grocery store.
Sift the cornstarch and confectioner’s (or powdered vanilla) sugar into a bowl. Lightly grease an 8×8 inch square baking pan and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch and sugar mixture into it. Tilt the pan in all directions to coat the sides as well as the bottom. Leave any excess in the pan.
Sprinkle the gelatin into the water in a small saucepan and let it soak for 5 minutes. Add the granulated sugar and stir over moderately low heat until the gelatin and sugar dissolve.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the gelatin mixture, corn syrup, salt and vanilla and beat for 15 minutes on high speed, until peaks form. You can do this with a handheld mixer as well. I’ve done it. You just have to stand there for 15 minutes holding the mixer :-)
Spread the fluffy mixture in the prepared pan and smooth the top. Leave for 2 hours, or until set.
With a wet knife, cut the marshmallow mixture into quarters and loosen it around the edges of the pan. Sprinkle the remaining cornstarch and sugar mixture on a baking sheet or parchment paper and invert the marshmallow blocks onto it. Cut each quarter into nine pieces and roll each one in the starch and sugar making sure to coat each cut edge. I use a pizza cutter to make quick work of the cutting.
Place the marshmallows on a cake rack covered with paper towels and let them stand overnight to dry the surface slightly. Store airtight; the marshmallows will keep for a month.
Makes 36 marshmallows.
–From “Better than Store-Bought,”
by Helen Witty and Elizabeth Schneider Colchie
Variations and suggestions: Dip the marshmallows in chocolate to coat and add a pecan on top or roll in toasted coconut. Use different flavorings and food colors – mint flavoring with a few drops of green food color. Peppermint flavor with a few drops of red and then dip in chocolate. Endless possiblities!