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Did you know that marshmallows have been around for over 2000 years? I had no idea these confectionary delights were so old. As with most things, the delicious candy came from humble beginnings. The marshmallow gets it’s name from the mallow root, a sticky substance that grows in marshes. People harvested them for medicinal purposes as they are great for soothing sore throats. Initially, in the 1800’s it was thought to add sugar to the mallow to improve the taste. Then, the French got creative and developed it from a medicine into a candy with the invention of the marshmallow in the mid-1800’s. Eventually, people replaced the mallow root with gelatin, making it easily accessible to everyone.
Although the history is interesting, I never liked marshmallows. It’s true. I would tolerate them in a good campfire s’more, or atop sweet potato casserole at Thanksgiving, but never plain. That all changed when I tried homemade marshmallows. Pillow soft, they melt in your mouth and taste incredible. Add to hot chocolate or coffee for a decadent treat, use in baking, or make a gooey s’more.
Why Make Homemade Marshmallows?
Something as novel as homemade marshmallows sounds hard to make, but it is quite easy. All it takes are a few ingredients, a candy thermometer and a mixer. It is a bit messy, but totally worth it! This recipe is for classic vanilla bean marshmallows, but you can add any flavor imaginable. Think root beer, cinnamon, almond, orange, chocolate, peppermint, etc. This past Christmas, we made marshmallows with salted caramel, eggnog, and crème de menthe and chocolate chips. If you can find a flavoring, it can be added to marshmallows.
This recipe is for classic vanilla marshmallows. With luscious vanilla bean specks, and a decadent texture, I predict you will find any and every way to eat these homemade treats. Use to top homemade pudding cups, hot cocoa, or just enjoy them plain. I promise, you will never look at marshmallows the same way again!
Serves: 9×13 pan, about 50 marshmallows
Active Time: 30 minutes
Rest Time: 3+ hours
Supplies to Make Marshmallows
Stand mixer with whisk attachment, or large bowl and hand mixer
9×13 pan, lined with parchment
2 Cups water, divided
4 Tablespoons Gelatin
4 Cups Granulated Sugar
¼ tsp. real salt
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
Vanilla Bean Paste from 1 bean, about 1 tsp. OR 1 Tablespoon of Any Flavoring
Corn starch or arrowroot powder for dusting
Powdered sugar for dusting
Preparing Your Space
- Prepare your work space before starting as marshmallows set up fast. Sprinkle a tablespoon each of corn starch and powdered sugar even over your pan. Line with parchment paper and allow it to overlap the edges. This will create handles for you to lift the sheet of finished marshmallow out of the pan. Add another sprinkle of starch and sugar. (This helps prevent the marshmallows from sticking to the pan.
- In the bowl of a mixer with a whisk attachment, add one cup of water and the gelatin. Let it set to soften.
Making the Mixture
- In a medium saucepan, add the remaining cup of water, 4 cups sugar, ¼ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. cream of tartar. Set over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat to medium high and cook without stirring until the temperature reaches 240°, or soft ball stage on a candy thermometer. You may need to turn the heat up to reach this stage, it usually takes about 10 minutes.
- With the mixer on low speed, slowly and carefully pour the hot liquid sugar into the mixer. (note: liquid sugar burns skin on contact. Be extremely careful and have an adult do this step.)
- Add the vanilla bean paste or flavoring of choice and gradually increase speed on the mixer.
- Continue mixing on high until the mixture turns cream colored and doubles in size. At first it won’t look like marshmallows, but as the mixture whips and cools it will change color and texture. Once the marshmallow has doubled and is fluffy, turn off the mixer and pour into the prepared pan. (note: Do not over mix. The marshmallows will cool quickly and begin to stick, making it very difficult to pour into the pan.)
Cutting the Marshmallows
- Smooth the marshmallow mixture into the pan as best you can. Don’t worry if you don’t get it all perfectly. Let the pan sit, uncovered for at least 3 hours. Once the pan has cooled completely, you may loosely cover with a towel or sheet of parchment to protect it.
- To cut the cooled marshmallows, lift the marshmallow sheet out of the pan with the parchment. Use a sharp knife, scissors, or pizza cutter to cut into equal squares. You may find it helpful to dust your cutting utensil with cornstarch and powdered sugar after each cut. For shapes, you may try a small cookie cutter instead. Save the scraps of marshmallow for baking.
- After cutting, toss each marshmallow in a bowl with corn starch and powdered sugar. This helps prevent them from sticking together. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. Homemade mallows dry out quickly, so keeping them stored properly extends the shelf life.
Homemade marshmallows have a softer texture than commercially manufactured mallows. While this makes homemade marshmallows highly desirable for hot cocoa, coffee and baking, it can be tricky to use them in S’mores. We have had difficulty in S’more making as they melt quickly and start falling off the roasting stick. One way to combat this is to set the marshmallows uncovered at room temperature to dry slightly before roasting over a fire. Another option is to roast them on a sheet of aluminum foil and then transfer to graham crackers. Finally, you could make S’mores in your oven.