Mom: So, what do you have planned for Easter?
Kirsten: What do you mean have planned for Easter? Why would I do something for Easter?
Mom: You know, to celebrate.
Kirsten: Uhhh, Mom, well…… You know, Mom, Brian isn’t religious and I don’t really….
Mom: But it’s Easter. You should do something special.
So that’s more or less the conversation I had with my mom earlier this week. To put things into context, Easter is my mom’s absolute favorite holiday. I’m not sure what in particular she loves about it – the colors, the celebration of spring and rebirth, the festive activities for little children, or maybe even the proximity to her birthday.* Whatever it is, it certainly compels her to celebrate, and the celebrations of Easter in our house were always something special, indeed. Egg hunts, feasts, chocolates, gifts… we did it all, and it all was beautifully and thoughtfully prepared by my mom down to the last detail.
I may have given up my religious persuasions, but our conversation nevertheless rekindled for me happy memories of Easters past. In the spirit of these memories I decided that maybe I ought to do something special to celebrate, after all.
These fluffy, honey-scented marshmallows are the product of that decision, and I have to tell you they are a very good addition to a celebration. I chose them with my mom in mind; she prefers light desserts, and I wanted to make something frivolous and pretty for her, something in which she could indulge a few bites without regret.
Of course, I also had plenty of influence over how these turned out. As I scanned the recipe for marshmallows I had relied on before, I found that I just couldn’t bring myself to purchase one of the particular ingredients called for. That light corn syrup… it just doesn’t fit in with the way I think about food. Perhaps if I could find corn syrup made from non-GMO corn I could come around, but even then… I still can’t find a way to think about syrup made from corn as a real food. Honey, it seems to me, is a reasonable substitute. And more than just providing a safer source of sweetener, honey imparts a lovely nougat flavor. Not that I’m about to get carried away with thinking my marshmallows are healthy – they’re still sugar – but if I’m going to take a lashing from the devil or his assistant, I’ll choose his assistant every time.
*Happy (early) Birthday, Mom. I love you so much.
Very Fluffy Honey Marshmallows
Makes about 24 marshmallows
I think you might be surprised by how simple it is to make marshmallows at home, and how rewarding, too. Homemade marshmallows are one of those foods that barely resemble their store-bought counterparts. They’re fluffy, not springy, and delightfully sticky. Oh, and they have actual flavor, rather than tasting mostly like air.
If homemade marshmallows aren’t quite special enough for you, or if you (like some people I know) can’t call something dessert if it doesn’t contain chocolate, scroll down to find out how to enrobe these in dark chocolate. Coating them in chocolate is only one little extra step, and though I was reluctant to go there with these marshmallows (which I think are perfect on their own) I have to admit that it’s totally worth it.
4 packets gelatin (if I had more forethought, I would have used 4 tbsp of this)
1 cup water, divided
coconut oil or cooking spray, for greasing
1 cup honey
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split & scraped
1 cup powdered sugar
Soak the gelatin: Pour 1/2 cup of the water into a large bowl and sprinkle the gelatin overtop. Stir gently to evenly coat the gelatin. Allow to bloom for at least 5 minutes. (The gelatin will turn into a firm mass. Don’t worry, you didn’t ruin it, it’s supposed to look that way.) While the gelatin blooms, grease a baking dish. I used a 9×13″ dish, but would use a 8×8″ pan next time to produce taller marshmallows. Line with parchment paper then grease the parchment, as well.
Make the honey syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 cup water with the honey and salt. Place over medium-high heat and boil for 8-12 minutes until the temperature registers 240°F on a candy thermometer.
Whip the marshmallows: Carefully pour the honey syrup over the gelatin, beating with electric beaters (or in a stand mixer) as you pour.* Beat the mixture on the slowest speed, and over the course of several minutes gradually increase the speed until the mixer is going as fast as it can. Continue to beat until the mixture is very stiff and forms shiny, heavy ribbons when you lift the beaters, another 8-12 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and seeds and beat until well combined.
Pour the marshmallows: Pour the marshmallows into the prepared pan, using a wet spatula to scrape and smooth. Place aside for at least 2 hours (or overnight) to set.
Cut the marshmallows: Sift powdered sugar over the pan of marshmallows. Invert the pan onto another sheet of parchment, remove the greased parchment from the top, and sift over the exposed side. Cut the marshmallows into squares and coat all exposed edges with powdered sugar (either with the sifter or by rolling them in a bowl of powdered sugar). Marshmallows should keep in the fridge for 4 days.
*Caramel burns are serious business, I know from experience. If you’re as clumsy as I am it might be wise to get a responsible friend to do the pouring for you while you beat the mixture.
Marshmallows Coated in Dark Chocolate
7 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
1 recipe Very Fluffy Honey Marshmallows
Melt the chocolate: Place the chocolate in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high in 30 second increments, stirring between. Heat until there are a few pieces of chocolate lingering in the dark pool of melted chocolate and allow these to melt on their own.
Coat the marshmallows: Dip marshmallows individually into the melted chocolate, using a spoon to help coat all sides. Remove coated marshmallows to a parchment lined baking tray. Refrigerate coated marshmallows for 15 minutes to set the chocolate. Serve fresh from the fridge; the chocolate will melt if left out at room temperature for too long.