The first time I ever made marshmallows from scratch, my sister-in-law said, "You can MAKE those? I thought they were manufactured at some industrial Stay-Puft factory in the midwest somewhere." And to be honest, I did, too. They have that odd texture, aren't really a food in any nutritional sense of the word, and the process of actually creating them bore very strong resemblance to my polymer labs in Organic Chemistry.
Of course, for such a ridiculous kitchen experiment, I can only blame the influence of Martha Stewart, and some long-gone Christmas issue of her overly fastidious magazine. Well, Martha, insomnia, and I dare say a glass or two of wine. (Honestly, never, ever combine all those. It's like the trifecta of insanity.)
Anyway, all liquored up, candy thermometer firmly in hand, and nary a care for the volume of dishes about to be created, I did it. I made homemade marshmallows. And you know what? You should, too. Soon. Now. It's always the season for them... You either need to make them to toast over summer campfires, dip in an Irish Cream Chocolate Fondue, or to float in hot chocolate on a winter day.
You will absolutely need two things...one is a candy thermometer (guessing the temperature of molten sugar is not something I recommend) and the other is a stand mixer. Beg for one, steal one, or get married so you can register for it. A divorce is totally worth a Kitchen-Aid.
Following is the basic recipe for straight up, unadulterated marshmallows. You can, and should, try adding flavors (peppermint, almond), booze, and rolling them in powdered cocoa or toasted coconut.
Marshmallows from Scratch
Bastardized from Martha Stewart and Ina Garten
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
3 packages (1/4 oz each) unflavored gelatin
3/4 tsp vanilla extract (swap out peppermint, etc for flavors)
1/4 tsp salt
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting
-Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and allow to sit while you make the syrup.
-Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and cook until the syrup reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat.
-With stand mixer on low speed, slowly (and very, very carefully) pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Put the mixer on high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. (At this point, I stood over the mixer, mesmerized, as a clear liquid slowly turned into, well...marshmallow. Alchemy, I tell you!) Add vanilla and mix thoroughly.
-With a sieve, generously dust an 8 X 12 inch glass baking dish with confectioner's sugar. Lots and lots of the stuff, as this is what's going to enable you to pry the gooey beasts out later. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan, smooth the top, and dust with more confectioner's sugar. Allow to stand overnight until it dries out. Marvel at your domestic accomplishments, put the dishes to soak, and go to bed.
-Attempt to tidily turn marshmallows out onto a board. Fail. Take a bench scraper or large knife, lube it up with butter, and wiggle the big jiggly beast out. With the same bench scraper or knife, keeping it well lubed, cut the block o' mallow into squares the size of your choosing. Dust with yet more confectioner's sugar. Call in your insulin refill.
Makes 20-40 marshamallows, depending on greed
Ta dah! You've made them! And you've got lots and lots of sticky crap all over your kitchen to prove it! However, the second you put one in your mouth and realize what they're SUPPOSED to taste like, you won't care about the goo nearly as much.