In common with many modern-day sweets marshmallows began life as medicine. Their current place in our hearts and stomachs are purely frivolous, however. If you’ve had marshmallows from Bea’s of Bloomsbury or The Marshmallowists, you’ll understand the difference between gourmet versions and the usual shop-bought kind. I love both ardently for different reasons; my infatuation with handmade marshmallows in particular is due to their delicately yielding character, like the softness of the inner thigh.
Furthermore, making marshmallows yourself opens up a wonderful range of possible forms and flavours. To ensure success I’d recommend a sugar thermometer: you can get them for around £5 and also use it for jam and candy; if not, you can test the sugar syrup with water. I am however immovable on the electric mixer (hand-held or stand): it’s necessary for the right texture and saves you from agony.
This is the easiest marshmallow recipe; there’s no egg white, making a slightly chewy and very dreamy sweet. I tried to keep it simple with classic vanilla marshmallow but couldn’t help myself and dusted them with cinnamon, making these the perfect topping for hot chocolate. Try toasting them or dipping them in melted chocolate, too.
Makes around 225g marshmallows, or a 20 cm square slab about 2 cm high.
- . 2 tbsp icing sugar, sifted to remove lumps (plus extra, if needed)
- . 2 tbsp cornflour
- . Lightly flavoured oil or butter for greasing
- . 200g white granulated sugar
- . 1 tablespoon golden syrup (optional; this is just for flavour and ensuring a smooth syrup – can be replaced with liquid glucose, corn syrup or omitted)
- . 150ml cold water
- . 4 leaves platinum-strength gelatine, or 1 tablespoon powdered gelatine (enough to set 1 pint of liquid)
- . Pinch of salt
- . 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- . ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon, more to taste
- Mix together the icing sugar and cornflour in a medium bowl.
- Lightly grease and line a 20 cm square pan (or equivalent) with baking paper. Grease the paper itself and sift over a thin layer of sugar and flour mixture.
- In a small saucepan, add the granulated sugar, golden syrup (if using), and 75ml water. Set over a low heat and stir gently until everything is completely dissolved, scraping up the bottom to check.
- Add the sugar thermometer to the saucepan and bring mixture to a boil over a medium-high heat until the syrup reaches 118 degrees Celsius (soft ball stage). It’ll take about 8 - 10 minutes; keep an eye on it.
- While the syrup is boiling, put the remaining 75ml water into a medium heatproof bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer). If using leaf gelatine, snip into strips and add to the water, stirring now and then to evenly soak the strips. For powder, sprinkle over the water. Either way, let gelatine sit until sugar syrup is ready.
- When the syrup reaches 118 degrees Celsius, gradually pour the hot syrup into the soaking gelatine a little at a time while beating the mixture on low-medium speed. Take care to avoid spatters.
- Once all the syrup’s all in, add the pinch of salt and vanilla extract.
- Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and continue to beat for 8 – 12 minutes (more for hand-mixer, less for stand). A timer is recommended. As you beat, the thin goo in the bottom of the bowl will double in size and become thick and opaque. The outside of the bowl should be completely cool to the touch. Don’t skimp: proper beating ensures the best texture.
- When it’s ready, scrape mixture into prepared pan, spreading as thickly or as thinly as you like. Leave to set and dry out at room temperature or refrigerated for at least 4 hours or overnight, preferably uncovered/lightly covered; marshmallow must be able to breathe or it will weep later, and you’ll be sorry.
- Once set, unmould marshmallow onto a chopping board thickly dusted with icing sugar and cornflour mixture. With a wet knife, cut the marshmallow into pieces – your choice of size. Toss marshmallow pieces in the sugar-flour mixture, coating all sides.
- Finally, put dusted marshmallow into a large bowl and sprinkle over the cinnamon. Toss well – your hands are the best tools for this. Make the ultimate sacrifice and taste a marshmallow: if you want a stronger flavour, add a little more cinnamon.
- Eat immediately or keep excess stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a week.