S'mores are more commonly associated with campfires than campy holidays, but there's something about the smell of frosty nights and bonfires in the air that has me thinking about one of my favorite childhood treats: a hot toasted marshmallow smooshed between two graham crackers with as much chocolate as possible. (Parents and activity leaders were notoriously skimpy with the chocolate in my experience.)
Of course, now that I'm older, I'm not a fan of all the genetically modified sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and other food additives that I can’t begin to pronounce that are in, and smooshed between, those two graham crackers. So I decided to see if I could whip up the makings of some tasty whole-food s'mores, and as it turns out, homemade marshmallows and graham crackers are surprisingly easy to make.
A fresh batch of homemade marshmallows. (Photo: Kirsten Skiles/Flickr)
While there is actually a plant called the marshmallow, the bland sweet white pillows sold in plastic bags are, sadly, not its fruits. A long time ago, marshmallow treats were originally made from sweet syrup and marshmallow root, but in the modern version, the root has been replaced by gelatin or egg whites. Nowadays, commercial marshmallows are most often a blend of high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, gelatin, and artificial flavoring — yuck. These homemade marshmallows are so much better, and they're easily the most fun, new (to me) thing I’ve made in years.
A mug of hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows. (Photo: Gail/Flickr)
Prep time: 35 minutes
Total time: 4 hours, 35 minutes
Yield: 12 large marshmallows
- 1/2 cup mild local honey, agave syrup or maple syrup
- 1 envelope unflavored gelatin or 3/4 tablespoon agar agar powder (if you're vegan)
- 3 tablespoons cold water
- A few tablespoons organic cornstarch or cocoa (or toasted coconut, instant coffee, almond flour, or other dry tasty material) to use for finishing the sticky surface
- 1 teaspoon vanilla, almond, mint, orange or coffee extract,or any other flavored extract in your spice cabinet or 4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder, dissolved in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon hot water (Optional)
- Put the water in a medium saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over it so it dissolves.
- Line a loaf pan with parchment paper or use a silicone pan (I used silicone muffin cups) and have a silicone or rubber scraper ready.
- Measure and add your sweetener of choice to the dissolved gelatin.
- Stir, bring to a boil, and boil for no longer than 1 minute (any longer and the syrup will be too thick to whip for as long as is required).
- Add flavoring extract or cocoa paste if desired.
- Use an electric mixer to whip the syrup until it becomes fluffy and, somewhat amazingly, white (unless you added cocoa of course).
- When it is too thick to whip any longer — this will depend on how thick your syrup was, but anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes is possible — immediately scrape the confection into your prepared loaf pan (dip the scraper in hot water if it sticks)
- You need to work quickly to avoid sticky messes because marshmallow sets up rapidly as it stops moving and cools.
- Let the marshmallow rest for at least 4 hours, or up to 24 hours.
- After it rests, sprinkle a cutting board or tray with either cornstarch or cocoa powder, and dump the slab out onto it.
- Wet fingers work well for teasing the marshmallow away from the parchment paper or silicone pan.
- Sprinkle the top with more of your coating. Using scissors dipped in hot water (keep a glass beside you for re-dipping), cut the slab into finished chunks the size you want.
- Roll and toss your marshmallows in more coating to cover all the sides (this keeps them from sticking together), tap off any excess, and let them sit on the work surface for a few hours to dry a little more.
- Store the finished confections in an airtight container so they don’t dry out excessively.
Marshmallows have a pretty long shelf life, provided they don't get eaten. Plain honey marshmallows are mildly honey flavored and delectable; the chocolate ones we made with dark cocoa powder and rolled in cocoa were to die for. I look forward to trying a batch of maple syrup marshmallows, and to playing with more flavorings and coatings to create different gluten-free confections for Holiday gifting. I may even have to dip some in melted chocolate...
Mmm ... homemade raspberry marshmallows! (Photo: violeta pasat/Shutterstock)
This recipe was originally created for Rodale.com and is reprinted here with permission.