Thursday, December 18, 2008

Simple Homemade Gifts: Homemade Marshmallows

Last year I had the wonderful chance to experience a meal at Dovetail, a fabulous New American restaurant on the UWS that had recently received three stars in the New York Times. The meal was unforgettable from start to end, but of all the wonderful things they did, one detail stuck out in my mind: instead of culminating with a mint or petit four, the check came with three individual take-home containers of hot chocolate mix. I opened the container to find it came with a single homemade rose-infused marshmallow, and from then on I've been obsessed. Homemade marshmallows, rose-flavored or not, are heavenly.

This recipe from Gourmet yeilds tons and tons of marshmallowy treats, and they're fantastically delicious. The recipe has more steps than most of my others, but don't let that deceive you. They're very easy to make.

Toasted Coconut Marshmallow Squares

What You'll Need...
  • 2 cups unsweetened dried coconut
  • 3 (1/4-oz) envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup water, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract (optional)
What You Do...

Toast coconut in a shallow baking pan in a conventional oven at 350 degrees, stirring occasionally, until golden, 7 to 10 minutes. A toaster oven works fine for this step too.

Oil a 9-inch baking pan, then sprinkle the bottom with 1/2 cup toasted coconut. Sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup water in bowl of mixer and let soften. Meanwhile, heat the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup water in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved.

Bring to a boil over medium heat, without stirring. Put thermometer into syrup and continue boiling, without stirring, until it registers 240°F (soft-ball stage). Remove from heat and let stand until bubbles dissipate. Temperature is really important here, so the candy thermometer is a must. Fancy as this sounds, it's all really simple.

With your stand mixer at low speed, slowly pour hot syrup into gelatin in a thin stream down side of bowl. Increase speed to high and beat until very thick, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla and coconut extracts and beat 1 minute more. Again, the stand mixer is key here. I have an electric hand mixer but I highly doubt it would have done the job. Tip: use the whisk attachment for the stand mixer. If you have a mixer, you have a whisk attachment :)

Spoon marshmallow over toasted coconut in baking pan and press evenly with dampened fingertips to smooth top (it will be very sticky), then evenly sprinkle top with 1/2 cup toasted coconut. Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature until firm, about 2 hours. This is a no bake treat!

Run a sharp knife around edge of marshmallow and invert onto a cutting board. Cut into 3/4-inch-wide strips, then cut each strip into 3/4-inch squares. Put the remaining coconut flakes into a small bowl and roll each marshmallow square in them to coat.

Note: If you take out the coconut extract and flakes, these are plain vanilla marshmallows. If you add other things, like cocoa powder, orange zest, or rosewater, you'll get lovely variations on the recipe!

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