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I could never get the hang of Thursdays

February 25, 2011

Damn Good Food is a damn good cookbook. Until last night I have been able to follow every recipe I have attempted and the results are always delicious. Last night I had my first real failure while attempting to make marshmallows. I was extremely frustrated and I eventually decided to just throw away the white goo that was never going to be marshmallows. I made the recipe again tonight and had slightly better luck, but I’m still not sure I would call it a success. I’m not entirely sure where I went wrong, but I have some ideas.

I was planning on making the marshmallows and hot damn cocoa a few weeks ago and I purchased all of the ingredients. On the scheduled night I reread the recipe and realized that it was going to be quite difficult because I was missing a few tools. At the time I did not have my awesome new stand mixer and the recipe instructions said to run the mixer for 10+ minutes with a whisk attachment. I am not sure what that would equal with a human doing the whisking, but I am not anxious to find out. I also did not have two other tools,a candy thermometer and a pastry bag. I was going to muddle through, but the recipe also called for a task after the marshmallows sat out for 4-5 hours and it was already 9pm. I bailed. In the interim I have obtained a stand mixer and a candy thermometer. Last night I decided to try to make the marshmallows and cocoa because I had everything I needed (I figured I could fake the pastry bag by cutting the corner off of a ziplock.) It had nothing to do with Kira pointing out several times that we were out of cocoa mix. I guess these things happen when you have a winter like we’ve been having.

I read through the recipe and determined that I definitely had everything I needed. Time to make some cocoa. The cocoa part was easy. I mixed together a bunch of sugar, vanilla, and unsweetened cocoa powder. No real cooking required. I heated the milk up in a saucepan and whisked in the powder to make the actual hot damn cocoa, but that doesn’t count.

The marshmallows. I’m still frustrated by the whole thing. I started out well; heating the sugar and corn syrup in a pan. I had my new candy thermometer clipped to the  side of the pan and when the mixture hot 255° I pulled it off the heat and threw it into my stand mixer. I mixed for about 10-11 minutes on high and when it was done I had a white sticky substance that would barely come away form the sides of the bowl.

It tasted pretty good, but I couldn’t really spoon it into the ziplock bag. I wound up inverting the ziplock and grabbing and handful of the goo and then flipping the bag back outside-in. I clipped the corner of the bag off and squeezed to create a line on the prepared wax paper. All that happened was the hole got bigger and the white stuff blossomed out not creating a line at all. I tried adding a second and third bag with no luck. I saw no clear path to actually creating marshmallows so I just threw it all away and watched Jeopardy with the girls. I’ll take Knowing When to Call It a Day for $400 Alex.

Once I calmed down I had some ideas on what went wrong. In order of increasing likelihood they are 1)break in the space-time continuum creating a new super sugar polymer, 2)Max added super glue to the bowl while I wasn’t looking, 3)I added too much gelatin, 4)It was never going to work with a ziplock and I needed a pastry bag, 5) the sugar and corn syrup was only supposed to reach 250°,  and 6)my stand mixer’s kung fu is too strong and I over-mixed the stuff.

The reason I suspected the gelatin is because the list of ingredients calls for “2 packets unflavored gelatin.” This seemed rather vague and maybe my packets of gelatin were not the same as Mitch’s packets. My crack Google research team explained to me that a gelatin packet is a fairly standard measurement of a 1/4 oz and my packets were indeed 1/4 oz. Not the gelatin. Today on my way home I stopped and bought a cake decorating kit for about $5. Worth it if that was my weak link. I really suspected it was my mixing time because upon reading the manual I found this bit of information:

Your KitchenAid® stand mixer will mix faster and more thoroughly than most any other electric stand mixers. Therefore, the mixing time in most traditional and non-packaged recipes must be adjusted to avoid overbeating. Beating time maybe half as long as with other stand mixers.

I had read that before, but I didn’t really believe/remember. Now I believe. Tonight when I made it all again I cut the beating time in half and I think that was still too long. The sugar mixture was not as bad as last night, but it was still very hard to get into the pastry bag and my hand was aching after drawing 4 lines of marshmallows.

The disposable pastry bag got a small hole in it almost immediately, but I was able to cover it up with my finger. After the first  five rows I switched to a new bag and filled it with more sugar mixture from the bowl. The mixture had already started to get harder and stickier. I was able to scoop a big blob into the bag, but for the life of me I couldn’t get anything to squeeze out of the icing tip. I kept trying and eventually the bag burst open. Five rows is plenty.

They won’t be ready to cut into little marshmallows until tomorrow morning, but I took a small taste and they are delicious and they are definitely marshmallows. I will try to update this post with a picture of the finished product before I head off to work tomorrow.

UPDATE: The end result was about a cup of farm fresh min-marshmallows. There will be cocoa tonight.

Recipe #46: Homemade Marshmallows

Damn Good Food Quote of the Day: Homemade marshmallows are far, far, far, superior to their store-bought illegitimate cousins.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 26, 2011 4:31 pm

    Wow! You’re amazing. Homemade marshmallows. I would have never though of that.

    • February 26, 2011 6:59 pm

      Trust me I did not think of it – it was all Mitch’s idea and I don’t see myself making them very often. Storebought marshmallows are just fine.

  2. Patti permalink
    February 25, 2011 12:36 pm

    Now don’t you have a new respect for the mini marshmallows, and the shaped ones? Granted a big machine does it, but still….. and I do know there are easier recipes…maybe not as good though.

  3. February 25, 2011 7:46 am

    i think making one’s own marshmallows is totally crossing the chili line.

    i had homemade marshmallows in Russia; they were crunchy. were yours crunchy? and i agree that you overmixed the batter. (batter? dough? what would you call it?)

    • February 25, 2011 8:22 am

      I mostly called it goo. My marshmallows are not crunchy. They are light and fluffy and melt in your mouth. So at least I have that to cling to.

      • February 25, 2011 8:45 am

        well, that sounds delicious. the russian ones, as i recall, were also a very unappealing pale gray in color.

      • February 25, 2011 9:04 am

        In Soviet Russia, Marshmallow makes you!

        (Sorry I couldn’t resist.)

  4. February 25, 2011 1:05 am

    Sounds like quite the baking ordeal! Let us know how that second batch turned out =)

    I think I might even be able to handle the hot cocoa recipe. Yay, idiot-proof cooking! 😉

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