22 August 2011

sugar & snaps: part 3

[Previously on sugar & snaps... part 1 and part 2: turkish delight]

I have some life rules. They're all quite personal to me, but one or two might also apply to you. Currently, the list includes:
  1. there is always room for dessert
  2. if I can knit/floss without a moment's preparation, it's time to put on more/bigger rings
  3. never attempt to go grey gracefully in my 30s again (disgracefully in my 40s maybe, but for now pass me the sodding bottle)
  4. never, ever read a Rastamouse book aloud to my daughter in public
After a wince-making storytime in an airport departure lounge recently, number four is definitely the most important on this list. My Jamaican patois isn't bad. It's insultingly bad. Shudder. But (moving swiftly on) no self-respecting list has only four items on it, does it? Thankfully, making marshmallows has furnished me with a fifth, to which I firmly suggest you pay heed.

I had to decide whether to go with the Hope & Greenwood recipe for "mallows d'amour" or Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's marshmallow recipe from the Guardian website way back in 2006. If I was being a smarty pants I'd say that I chose the latter because the very idea of presenting something called "mallows d'amour" to my husband makes me a little bit sick in my mouth, but actually I chose HFW's recipe because I wasn't confident about some of the substitutions I would have had to make to the Hope & Greenwood version.

Fundamentally the principles are the same though (for details, go to HFW's Guardian recipe link above). And luckily this list does have five parts.

1. You bring sugar to the hard ball stage.
HFW says 122C, H&G say 127C - I went with H&G on this decision because, although Mr HFW is a bit of a idol in our house, I reckon the people who run a sweet shop probably know more about sugar.

2. Meanwhile, you dissolve some gelatine powder.
I pimped this with some pink colouring and rose essence in a nod to Hope & Greenwood, but HFW doesn't bother.

3. Also, you whip some egg whites.

4. You pour the gelatine into the hot sugar.

5. You pour the gelatine/sugar into the egg whites, and beat.
HFW says to beat until it's thick but just pourable, H&G say to beat for 25-30 minutes. I managed 15 minutes and then my mixer started making bad noises and I figured a batch of marshmallows wasn't worth breaking my food processor over.

That's basically it. You pour the gloop into a prepared tin and let it set before cutting it into squares which you coat with sifted icing sugar and cornflour. The results were simply amazing. Light as a feather, Johnson's-baby-lotion pink, and with that perfect ever-so-slight crust around each piece. Truly, I thought that last week's turkish delight was a personal triumph, but it pales into insignificance compared with these marshmallows.

Perfection? There must be a catch. Well, yes, there is. And this is where life rule number five comes in. To summarise:
  1. always room for afters
  2. wear as many rings as impede knitting/flossing
  3. don't go with the grey
  4. no Rastamouse in public
  5. NEVER add stuff to boiling sugar in anything smaller than a cauldron
Hugh's fairly-witless instruction was that when you pour the gelatine into the sugar it will "bubble up a bit". A word of caution, making marshmallows is simple and everyone will think you're a genius, but unless you use the biggest pan you've ever seen, this will end in a bloody disaster.

I started with a really big pan for my sugar, but then I changed it to a smaller one because my sugar thermometer is only about five inches long, so I couldn't peg it to the side of the deep pan and still reach the sugar. Big mistake. The bit where it "bubbles up a bit" is like a potion out of Harry Potter, pink froth just kept coming and coming. And of course it's pink froth at 127C and full of gelatine. You can't put it over a basin because the plastic would probably melt, and you can't put it over your sink because you'll block it solid. In fact it's so hot you can't do anything except watch in horror as it pours over the side and burns immediately on your hob top. The house is full of smoke and the smell of burning, alarms are going off and a pleasurable morning has turned into August in North London.

The burning mixture did smell exactly like a thousand marshmallows singe-ing on a bbq. Every cloud has a silver lining I suppose.

I know, the pictures don't look that bad, but trust me, you would not BELIEVE how sticky this stuff is. Once the mess had cooled enough for me to start the clean-up operation, any gloop on the cooker that hadn't burnt solid was the exact consistency of warm chewing gum. When it's stuck in someone's hair.

It took an hour and a half to clean the hob, during which time I vowed that no matter how good the final marshmallows, I would NEVER do this again. But at that point I hadn't tasted them...

I will definitely be doing this again - that's how good they are.

Linking up with the lovelies at Life Made Lovely Monday, Gingerbread's Sweet Saturday and Happy Homemaker UK's Post of the Month Club


  1. Hi, found you at life made lovely link up - those marshmellows look so good! I'm so impressed that you made them from scratch.. I think I would win Mother of the Year award if I made these for my kids :)

  2. I've been toying with the idea of making them for some time so this is just what I needed to push me over the edge... will eventually post the results. Thanks for the big pan tip, you probably just saved me hours of clean up!!

  3. Moomser - go for it. Providing you know about the foaming pan of doom it's easy - and as Flor suggested, probably puts you in the running for Mother of the Year award!

  4. I am the world's biggest marshmallow fan! Wish you had made these when you were here. I do have a sugar thermometer now which has never been used so there is nothing really stopping me. Except maybe the possibility of an hour and a half of cooker cleaning - ughhhhh.
    Well done wifie - they look amazing. You can have the mother of the year award until Flor needs it.

  5. Solution: sit the sugar pan in a large roasting tin before you pour in the gelatine. Then, if it overflows you've not wasted any of the mixture, and you can just chuck the roasting tin in the dishwasher. That's what I'll be doing next time!

  6. Those look sooo yummy! I am a sucker for marshallows! I hope you will come link up with me here:

  7. Done April - all linky'd up! Thanks for the invitation :)
    Have a great weekend.

  8. I am going to have to do this and soon! Thanks for the inspiration :)

  9. Calling by from Post of the Month Club. Home made marshmallows, wow a blast from the past. :)

  10. An oldie but a GOODIE LindyLouMac ;0)

  11. Silly me, never crossed my mind that this is something one could actually make. What a great story - were you able to get the hob clean? Perhaps you have a new little business brewing with homemade marshmallows :)

  12. I know HHUK, marshmallows are just one of those mysterious foodstuffs that just exist don't they? You never think of people making them. That's why I became so intrigued by the recipe!

    And, yes, I did manage to get the hob clean eventually. I confess I probably would've turned a blind eye to quite a lot of it if I were in my UK house, but here in Sunny Sing we have these things called sugar ants that appear from nowhere at the mearest grain of carbs on a surface. So my cleaning was essentially a race between me & the burnt sugar and the appropriately-named ants. It focuses the mind. (I was going to post a photo of my clean hob. That's when I realised that enough was enough!)

  13. WOW...this is a fabulous post. So detailed and entertaining...thanks for sharing on Happy Homemaker UK.

  14. Thank Eli - that's so sweet of you!


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