Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Cooking With Dani

This is what we're shooting at, how to get there follows. (click to enlarge)

Home Made Marshmallows

This all started with a phone call. Dani's school called this morning and said that Dani was complaining about an upset stomach. Would I come and pick her up? Certainly.

I had some errands to run which included a stop at the grocer's. After making sure that she wasn't on death's doorstep or anything requiring a visit to the doctor I invited her to come with me to the store.

While we were wandering the aisles she saw the candy display and said "I think some candy might help to settle my stomach." Then she gave her charming little giggle and said "I was just kidding, I know that candy isn't medicine."

I told her that quite to the contrary, there are some candies which started out as medicine. Like marshmallows which were developed by a doctor and given for sore throats. I wasn't even able to get started on licorice. Because she started doing this little coughing thing, and using an obviously phony hoarse voice like she just developed a murderous case of strep.

Dani: "Marshmallows are good, They would help me feel so much better."
Me: "Your Mom would kill me."
Dani: "No she wouldn't, she'd be glad that you took such good care of me."

This was all done right next to a display of marshmallow bags. I looked at her and said "I know how to make my own marshmallows, would you like to give that a try?"

Dani: "My mom wouldn't kill you for teaching me how to make marshmallows. It's almost like school, learning stuff."

Me: "Even if she gets mad, I can handle it. It's totally worth the risk."

She said "You're the best, most wonderful, and absolutely the coolest uncle in the world."

I said "You bring out the best in me, my darling."

Then we started singing in the aisles:

Don't you fuss or shout or bellow
We're making our own marshmallows

Soft and fluffy sweet and good
Fix up a kid just like you should


Cooking spray
1 cup cold water (in half cup measures)
3 tablespoons (or three envelopes) Unflavored Gelatin
2 cups regular granulated sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (I have some homemade vanilla extract that i made by sticking 4 Tahitian vanilla beans, split, and placed in a jar with 2 cups of Cuban rum)
confectioner's sugar (for the dusting later on)

First, we line a standard baking pan with foil and give it a generous spritz with cooking spray.

Next, we put 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of the stand mixer, and sprinkle the 3 tablespoons (packages) of gelatin over it.

Place the sugar, 1/2 cup of water, corn syrup, and salt in a heavy saucepan over a medium heat and stir constantly until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture begins to bubble.

Cover the pan tightly and allow it to boil for three minutes. The condensation will bring all the little sugar crystals down into the syrup. After three minutes, uncover, bring the heat up to high, insert a candy thermometer, and allow it to reach 240°. Be careful not to overcook. If you don't have a candy thermometer, the stage we are going for is called "soft ball." That means that if you drop a bit of the syrup into a glass of cold water you will form an easily worked soft ball of candy.

With the mixer on "Stir," slowly add in the hot syrup.

Once all the syrup has been added in, make sure to immediately fill the pan with hot water and soap. Otherwise you'll be needing a chisel and a ball peen hammer for the cleanup. Slowly increase the speed levels of the mixer. As the fluff cools, it will stiffen. As soon as you can increase the speed, one level at a time, without sloshing the hot stuff about (and please, be very careful here, this stuff is quite hot, and it's also very sticky, it makes for nasty burns) until the mixer is on its highest speed. Set your timer for 10 minutes. Prepare yourself to field lots of questions, like "Is it ready yet?"

Or, they'll say things like "Oh, this is going to be sooooooo goooood!"

After ten minutes of whipping on high, turn the mixer off and add in the vanilla extract.

Bring the mixer back up to its highest setting and continue to whip for another five minutes. You'll get a lukewarm, fluffy glossy white goopy concoction.

Turn this out into your lined and greased pan. Allow this to set and cool overnight.

**Hints for extra success***

a flavor variation for lemon

You can substitute, maple syrup, molasses, or honey, for up to half of the volume of corn syrup for interesting flavor variations.

Make sure that you wash all the pans, spatulas, and any other equipment or utensils that came into contact with the syrup, or the fluff immediately. If you dally or lolly gag on this it has a tendency to turn into diamond hard concrete like stuff that will resist your best efforts like Taliban insurgents. I've found that kids with tongues are great for those hard to reach little nooks on things like the mixer's beater.

Up soon. Cutting, dusting, and several more wonderful things that can be done with homemade marshmallow. Bring your own kids. This one's mine.