Thursday, December 18, 2008

December 17th

Aleks is so into the idea of Christmas thanks to this daily reminder (amongst all the others, like advertisements, lights, etc) that he has written about seven thousand letters to Santa, started drawing his monsters and pseudo-mythical creatures inside wreaths, and learned how to subtract by counting the number of days left until Christmas and carefully marking them off each day on the calendar. Oh what greed will do for learning!
More Christmasy models. And sexy, sexy knees. Dangerous. Beechy even (that's an Amish joke).Finally! Time to make homemade marshmallows! And here I was convinced it was set for the first week. I did get my thinking right that it was for Wednesday, however. Wednesdays usually involve very little, which made it a good candidate for marshmallow making. This evening, however, I agreed to meet friends for a writer's group (in which I did not write, but rather knit for Christmas). Turns out, marshmallows don't take too long to prepare.
So how on earth does one go about making homemade marshmallows? I'd never done it before, so it's not like I knew. I just bought the ingredients and stored them in the cupboard until this day popped up. I read on an unschoolers list somewhere about making them and one of the moms had posted about it on her blog. Reading the recipe when the time came for to use it, I decided to google for a recipe to see if maybe there was something a little more specific out there. Sure enough, food genius (or as Jon prefers, culinary control freak) Alton Brown came through for me. Even better, his version only used 3 packets of plain gelatin instead of 4, which was good because the kids saw the desserts on the package and emptied one expecting to find something yummy.

As it turns out, marshmallows are essentially composed of sugar, sugar, and sugar. And gelatin. 3 packets, plain.
The recipe specifically states "small saucepan" for the boiling of sugar and water and corn syrup. We discovered that "medium saucepan" might have been more appropriate when this mixture bubbled over and our entire house smelled like burning sugar. Bubbling sugar water does not behave in the same way as say, boiling pasta, where you can simply blow on the top or turn the heat ever so slightly down in order to end the overflow. I discovered the only thing for it was to stir for the 7 or 8 minutes that it was to take to get our sugar to 240°. We do not ordinarily make candy or randomly boil sugar, and thus do not own a candy thermometer, so we just boiled for 8 minutes, assuming that would work.
Another excellent variation in the Alton Brown recipe was the 12-15 minutes of whipping versus 28 minutes in the unshooler variety. I sought to borrow a stand mixer from a friend, but couldn't swing it in time. Our old Dormey worked beautifully, however, even if the mixing fell primarily to me.
Ultimately, I did most of the work and the children fell to the role of supervising and testing. I think it all looked okay, though.
I also got powdered sugar all over me. Which is the surprising bit of news from marshmallow making - that soft, powdery exterior? Equal parts cornstarch and powdered sugar, which look, feel, and behave nearly identically.
I will say this about making marshmallows - it is incredibly sticky work.
Aleks got all sticky too. But loved it.
The next day, cutting these things was a feat. There's no good way of doing it. The insides are all sticky and no kinda knife gets through that without sticking. So my edges turned out all sorts of uneven, as did the shapes and sizes of 'em. But it's amazing what a little creative photography'll do for that.
I am in love with my new vintage platter from the thrift store. I'm all plattered out now, though, and need to work on bowls.
We wrapped some up in ribbon and wax paper to give as gifts. If we can get it together, which we probably can't, we'll gift these with a hot chocolate mix (Jon's specialty with chili powder). Most likely, we'll just say, "Here! Homemade marshmallows!" And everyone will be amazed and say things like, "I didn't think one could make marshmallows at home," and look confused. Everyone will be convinced, as I once was, that marshmallow fluff was born of laboratories and giant stainless steel vats, little cloth-footed workers monitoring lights and buttons on control panels...And we will prove how very wrong they are.


The Stewart's said...

mmm looks tasty - love to have that hot cocoa recipe -- love spicy hot chocolate. we're gonna try to make the marshmellow recipe soon.

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog and am enjoying it! Funny... we just made homemade marshmallows for the first time too! We used a pizza cutter dusted with powdered sugar and cornstarch and it worked out pretty well. I'd definitely make them again. They're so much lighter and tastier than the one in the store. An added bonus: you can cut them to a size that is perfect for s'mores!!!! Keep blogging!