I was a student in my favorite yoga class today when the instructor reminded me of a lesson I sometimes let slip to the darker caverns of my mind;
“It’s not about achieving the shape with your body. Whatever your shape looks like, it is your shape; your expression. Nothing happens when you make the shape in textbook form – you will only immediately start looking forward to the next seemingly impossible shape. Much like that pair of shoes you sometimes stalk online. You dream of all the adventures you’ll have together, all the places you’ll go and things you’ll do and you just can’t imagine living without having them in your life. But the truth is that you’ll go all those places and do those things even without the shoes. Remember: if you think there is anything you need to complete your experience in this life, it’s all bullshit. You’re already whole.”
I loved these words, and kept them with me as I moved through the most challenging practice I’d tackled in a long time. I got to thinking about how honestly I’d been boycotting our kitchen lately. And then, I came home and decided that there were no excuses (read: inadequate kitchen tools, a lack of a stand mixer, or a lack of time) for why I shouldn’t make marshmallows. And so that’s exactly what I did. A few times over. These GIngerbread Spice Marshmallows were my favorite.
A lot of you out there are thinking that this is just too much and wondering why you’d ever attempt to make them if you could walk into the store and throw a cellophane bag filled with perfectly fluffy and uniformly shaped mallows into your cart? If you feel that way, that’s exactly what you should do. BUT, if you are the type of person who is actually looking to laugh at themselves when they accidentally stick the mixing bowl to the counter with mallow fluff because you had to use a hand mixer instead of a stand then, well, read on.
Marshmallows are among the easiest, most rewarding, and messy candies you can make. You’ll notice that in the process I outline below I’ve left in little notes where I used less-than par equipment but am hoping that you’ll have the ideal gear so that you aren’t intimidated by not having Medusa arms, and your significant other doesn’t walk into the kitchen looking at you like you have genitals growing out of your forehead.
A couple of notes: if you really want to, you can use this same recipe to make Vanilla Bean Marshmallows — just leave out the spices. Ideally, you REALLY want a stand mixer for this job. The motors of inexpensive if you have a little extra time, and some forethought, go ahead and make yourself some cane sugar syrup to use in lieu of corn syrup. Your marshmallows will be fluffier and lighter, AND you’ll have one less processed ingredient in there! You’ll also see that this recipe has been written with a vegan option; gelatin creeps me out a bit too. I recommend using agar powder (instead of the stick or bar forms) and suggest that you allow the agar-agar bloom to sit for a full hour before using it to make marshmallows. If you’re using gelatin, you can mix and use immediately.
There is still time to whip these out before the holidays hit in full swing – I hope a few of you have the chance to make some candy magic at home for a little added merriment! – xo L
- 3 tablespoons of agar-agar powder or unflavored gelatin powder (typically 3 packets)
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp each cinnamon and nutmeg
- 1 tsp all-spice
- 1 vanilla bean split, seeds scraped
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cup sugar cane syrup (see note + link above) or corn syrup
- a pinch of sea salt
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp each cinnamon, nutmeg and all-spice
- small whisk
- a stand mixer OR large, deep bowl + hand mixer
- 9x13 baking pan or other flat container
- parchment paper
- cooking spray (I like coconut oil)
- 4-quart saucepan (slightly larger or smaller is ok)
- Pastry brush
- Candy thermometer, one that can clip to the side of the sauce pan
- Stiff spatula or spoon(as opposed to a rubbery, flexible one to be used for scraping)
- Sharp knife or pizza wheel
- First, prepare your pans and equipment: spray the baking pan with cooking spray, then line with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper with oil. Set it near your stand mixer, along with the kitchen towel and spatula. Lightly spray the spatula with a bit of coconut oil, spreading it over the blade with your fingers. Fit the stand mixer with the whisk attachment (or fit your hand mixer with its whisks.)
- Bloom the agar-agar or gelatin: Measure the powdered agar-agar or gelatin into the bowl of the stand mixer (if you're using a hand mixer instead - as I did - you'll want to measure the powder into the bowl that you'll ultimately mix the marshmallows in). Combine 1/2 cup cold water, the vanilla extract, vanilla bean seeds and spices in a small bowl, then pour this over the powder while whisking gently with a fork or small whisk. Continue stirring until the powder reaches the consistency of apple sauce and there are no more large lumps. If you're using agar-agar, you won't see quite the same applesaucy-texture. No worries. Let agar-agar sit for one full hour blooming before you progress to the next step. If you're using gelatin, continue...
- Combine the ingredients for the syrup: Pour 3/4 cup water into the 4-quart saucepan. Pour the sugar, cane sugar syrup or corn syrup, and salt on top. Do not stir.
- Bring the sugar syrup to a boil: Clip the candy thermometer to the side of the pan and place the pan over medium-high heat and bring it to a full, rapid boil — all of the liquid should be boiling. As the mixture is coming to bowl, frequently dip the pastry brush in the water and use it to brush down the sides of the pot. This prevents sugar crystals from falling into the liquid, which can cause the syrup to crystallize.
- Do not stir the sugar once it has come to a boil or it may crystallize.
- Boil the syrup to 245°F. Once this temperature has been reached, take the pan immediately off the heat and remove the thermometer with a towel (it will be HOT!) Now, its showtime!
- Whisk the hot syrup into the gelatin: If you're using a hand mixer, pick it up with one hand while pouring the sugar syrup over the gelatin with the other. Your pot is likely heavy so you might also want to recruit some help to do this. Carefully pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl with the mixer whisking at medium speed, working very hard to avoid pouring it onto the whisk of the mixer (which will cause hot sugar to splatter all over the kitchen. NOT fun.) The mixture will foam up — no worries, just go slowly and carefully.
- Increase speed of the mixer to high and continue beating: Crank up the speed to HIGH. If you're using a stand mixer, you can place a clean towel over (or the splashguard) over the mixer to prevent splatters. You're going to whip the marshmallows for a total of 10 minutes, at least. I go 12 minutes, just to be sure! You'll literally be able to watch your marshmallows become....mallows. The liquid will go from clear and frothy to opaque (around 3-5 minutes in) and then will start to increase in volume (about 7 minutes in.) From this point on, your marshmallows will gain in volume, and become thicker, and will look like a thicker, glossier version of vanilla soft serve ice cream.
- Immediately transfer to the baking pan: Once your 12 minutes is up, turn the speed of the mixer down to medium speed, then low speed to spin off any mallow stuck to the whisks. Take your coconut oil sprayed spatula and scrape the marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan. This stuff is very thick and sticky, so don’t worry about getting every last bit out of the bowl. Just get as much as you can. Then, spray your hands lightly with coconut oil and VERY GENTLY smooth out the top of the marshmallow so its as even as possible.
- Let the marshmallows set for 6 to 24 hours: Let the mixture sit uncovered and at room temperature for 6 to 24 hours to set and "cure."
- Prepare the marshmallow coating: Combine the powdered sugar, cornstarch and spices in a bowl. Stir them so that the powdered mixture starts to be flecked ever so little with the spices. Add more if need be (or to taste.)
- Remove the marshmallows from the pan: Sprinkle the top of the cured marshmallows with some of the powdered sugar mix and smooth it with your hand. Flip the block of marshmallows out onto your work surface. Peel the parchment away and sprinkle the exposed side with sugar mixture as well. I like to then flip the marshmallow back onto the parchment to cut (it seems to contain the powdered sugar mess better that way!)
- Cut and coat the marshmallows: Using a sharp knife or pizza wheel, cut the marshmallows into squares. I slice strips off, rub a bit of powdered sugar on the sides of each strip and then cut the strips into smaller marshmallows. As you cut them, toss each mallow into the bowl of coating sugar and toss it to coat completely. Then fish them out with a whisk or fork.
- Store the marshmallows: Marshmallows will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for several weeks. Leftover marshmallow coating can be stored in a sealed container indefinitely.