It is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! And a much cooler Christmas then I am used to which is novel. No stifling heat which makes it far more pleasant to put the oven on and get into a bit of festive baking. Today I finally baked the Christmas cake (I’m behind on schedule as the cakes are meant to soak up brandy for another 8 weeks) so the house is wafting with the scent of spices and alcohol.
So many shops around here have lovely little bags of overpriced marshmallows, and I don’t mean the mass produced kind. They look so tempting but I have to stop myself from buying them as I know they are a cinch to make – providing you have a stand mixer and a sugar thermometer, which luckily I have!
All the marshmallow recipes I have done are a little different. Egg whites, corn syrup, glucose syrup, gelatin or sheets of gelatin. So many options. I decided to go for a non-egg white recipe as I assume it will have a longer shelf life. And as I have some kids who are mad keen on the chocolate/mint combination I added the tiniest drops of peppermint oil to make peppermint marshmallows for our hot chocolates.
The joy of making your own marshmallows is that you have a whole slab of marshmallow to play with and cut how you like. Elliott got busy with the Christmas tree cutters which all the kids loved. I just wanted to replicate the simple, fat squares that I’ve been seeing all around town – perfect to melt into a mug of hot chocolate.
Providing the marshmallows are dusted well in icing sugar then they don’t stick together and are easy to present for gifts. They look lovely stacked in a cellophane bag tied with a ribbon or piled into a jar.
Don’t go overboard on the peppermint as it is a fine line between a hint of mint and a mouthful of toothpaste. I used 1/8 teaspoon and I wouldn’t go a drop more. It was the perfect amount of mintiness for our hot chocolates.
The other weekend we drove up into the Los Gatos hills to a Christmas tree farm where we were able to walk and find our own special tree to cut down. Joel found a tree that someone had cut down and left and decided it had to come home with us. So Levi and Joel carried our Christmas tree back down the hill and to the car. It was the perfect tree and such a special experience which called for hot chocolates and Christmas carols as soon as we got home.
(recipe adapted from Lisa McCune’s book ‘Hopscotch and Honey Joys’)
1 cup of water
3 tablespoons gelatin
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon peppermint oil
sifted icing sugar for dusting
Line a baking tray with baking paper and lightly oil with vegetable oil.
Put half the water into the bowl of the stand mixer, which is fitted with a whisk, and sprinkle over the gelatin. Pour the remaining water into a medium/large saucepan (the mixture will bubble up a little so you don’t want a small saucepan) along with the sugar, corn syrup and a pinch of salt. Stir over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and then leave it to boil until it reaches 116 degrees C (240 degrees F) on a candy thermometer.
Turn the stand mixer on to a slow speed and slowly pour in the bubbling sugar mixture in. Once it is all in and well combined then turn up the speed to high and continue mixing for another 12 -15 minutes. Add the vanilla and peppermint oil and mix through. Pour into the lined baking tray and pop into the fridge overnight. If you want to cover the marshmallows with more baking paper or plastic wrap then just be sure to oil it to prevent sticking. I wasted a batch of marshmallows for Essie’s birthday this year by skipping this one step!
I find it best to sift icing sugar all over a chopping board and then invert the tray of marshmallow onto it. Then sift more icing sugar over the marshmallow slab. If using cookie cutters to make marshmallow shapes then dip the cutters into some icing sugar before cutter. And when using a knife to cut squares I find it beneficial to give it a light dusting too as marshmallows can be sticky little suckers.
When the marshmallows are all cut, give them one more dusting in sifted icing sugar and enjoy them as they are, toasted over a fire or whatever way takes your fancy.