No, really. You can do this. I swear.
Contrary to popular (ok, semi-popular) belief, marshmallows don’t grow on bushes. You can actually make them. And it’s not that hard. All you need are a few basic ingredients—and a stand mixer.
The mixer part is important, because your ingredients need to be beaten steadily—and hard—for almost a half an hour. You might be able to do this with a hand mixer, but with the high temperature of the sugar, it just wouldn’t be safe. (Ever get a sugar burn?) If you don’t have a stand mixer, chances are, you know someone who does who would be more than happy to help you do a little sugar magic.
And of course, once you make your own marshmallows, we can talk about how you make your own hot cocoa mix. But one thing at a time.
2 1/2 Tbls. unflavored Knox gelatin
1 cup cold water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup Karo light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbls. vanilla
1-2 lbs. powdered sugar (this is imprecise because you’re using it for dusting)
Equipment: stand mixer with whisk attachment and splash guard, pastry brush, candy thermometer
Step 1: Bloom the gelatin
Put the gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of your stand mixer and stir to combine it. Let it stand for 30 minutes. (Technically, what you’re doing here is called “blooming” the gelatin, which helps ensure that it will dissolve evenly so your candy won’t be gritty.)
Step 2: Make the marshmallow mixture
Next, put the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and the other 1/2 cup of cold water in a 2-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Put the heat on low, and stir until sugar is dissolved. As you stir, wash down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to dissolve sugar crystals.
When the sugar has dissolved, clip your candy thermometer to the inside of the pot and crank the heat to high. Boil the sugar syrup without stirring (seriously, don’t stir it) until it reaches 244 degrees (firm-ball stage). Remove pan from heat.
Put on your oven mitts or otherwise protect your hands. With your mixer on the lowest setting, slowly and carefully pour the hot sugar syrup into the softened gelatin. Put the splash guard on the mixer bowl. (You don’t want this stuff splashing. I learned the hard way.)
Increase mixer speed to high and beat for 15-20 minutes. You want the marshmallow to be really thick and white and tripled in volume.
Add vanilla. Beat to incorporate. What you have should look like marshmallow fluff.
Step 3: Cool and cut
Spray a 9×12 glass baking pan liberally with oil. Pour your warm marshmallow mixture in and dust the top with powdered sugar. Depending on how much volume your fluff gained, you might have some leftover. Repeat with a suitable sized pan for the rest.
Leave the marshmallows on the counter overnight. Leave them uncovered, so they dry out.
To cut your marshmallows, turn them onto a board. They should come right out, but if they stick a little, use a knife and wedge the block out. You’ll be cutting these and rolling them in powdered sugar, so if the block is a little misshapen, it’s not the end of the world. If the block of marshmallow has oil on it, blot the excess off with a wet paper towel.
Cut marshmallows with a long knife in 1-inch squares, and roll in more powdered sugar, until they’re not sticky. Store in an airtight container. They’ll keep unrefrigerated for weeks.
How to be safe with boiling hot sugar
Hot sugar is dangerous stuff. I mean, think about it. Your superheating your sugar until it resembles napalm, then you’re pouring and whipping it around in your kitchen.
Wear long sleeves. Tie your hair back. Don’t have a few pre-candymaking cocktails. Kick your dog and your toddler out of the kitchen. Etc. You get the picture.
Basically, be smart, move slowly, and always be cautious.