Hello, Willy Wonka! Making candy is just delightful.
There’s no two ways about it. And making marshmallows? From scratch? That’s downright magical.
I mean, take a handful of regular old ingredients through a few very simple steps, and…presto!
I’ve done this dozens of times over the years, and it never fails to amaze me.
Homemade gifts with heart
Pack up some homemade marshmallows with a couple of big mugs and a tin of hot chocolate mix, and you’ve got a fabulous gift.
Use molds or cookie cutters to make them into special shapes.
Give a box of chocolate-covered marshmallows to an extra-special person.
To take a gift basket over the top, make your own hot chocolate mix and toss in a bottle of Godiva liqueur, Kahlua, or other yummy, booze-y treat.
How to make homemade marshmallows: The basic technique
This article contains a step-by-step, visual walk-through of how to make marshmallows at home.
Here’s the basic technique:
+Soften unflavored gelatin in water
+Boil a sugar syrup on the stove until it reaches 244 degrees F.
+Pour the boiling syrup into the gelatin
+Beat the mixture for about 25 minutes, until it turns into marshmallow fluff
+Pour the fluff into pans liberally dusted with powdered sugar
+Let the marshmallows set overnight
+Cut the marshmallows and roll in powdered sugar
An important tip for making any candy
Sugar loves water, so don’t make candy on humid days.
The humidity will affect your cooking times, and can even keep candy from setting up properly.
Equipment for making homemade marshmallows
You don’t need a ton of special equipment for making marshmallows. A stand mixer fitted with a splash guard is best.
And a candy thermometer.
The best way to measure powdered gelatin
All gelatin packets were not created equal. Literally.
Like envelopes of instant yeast, each gelatin packet will have a slightly different amount in it, so you really need to measure the gelatin out by hand, and not just assume that each packet contains the same amount.
This time, it took 7 packets of gelatin to yield 5 tablespoons worth.
To get the amount you need, pour the gelatin out into a small bowl, then measure it from there.
That way, if one packet doesn’t exactly equal one tablespoon, like in the following picture, your measurements won’t be off.
Recipe: Homemade Marshmallows
5 Tbls. unflavored gelatin
2 cups cold water (1 cup for the gelatin and 1 cup for the sugar syrup)
3 cups granulated sugar
2 cups light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tbls. vanilla extract
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Soften the gelatin
Put 1 cup of cold water in the bowl of your mixer.
Add the gelatin to the water.
It will immediately absorb the water and turn into a kind of sandy mass, like this:
Give it a stir to combine the gelatin and water well.
It will look about like this, and have the consistency of soft, wet sand:
Let the gelatin sit just like this, uncovered, for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, it will have solidified. That’s just fine.
Secure your mixing bowl onto your stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment so it’s ready to go when your sugar is hot.
Homemade Marshmallows: Prep your pans and molds
While the gelatin is resting, prep your pans.
I used 2 heart-shaped silicone pans (hey, Valentine’s day is coming) as well as a 13 inch x 9 inch glass baking pan.
With a strainer, dust your pans with a thick layer powdered sugar.
This will keep the marshmallows from sticking to the bottom.
Set down a few paper towels under your pans. This can make a wee bit of a mess.
Set your pans aside, so they’re ready when your marshmallow fluff is done.
Homemade Marshmallows: Make the sugar syrup
Once your gelatin is ready and your pans are dusted, put 1 cup of water in a medium-sized pot on the stove over high heat.
Use a pot that’s deep enough so that the sugar will have plenty of room to boil, without boiling over. I used a 5-quart pot.
Toss in the sugar and salt.
Pour in the corn syrup.
Whisk the mixture together to combine well and melt the sugar. This will take a minute or two, since the corn syrup is so thick. Keep whisking ’til the mixture is even and easy to stir.
Homemade Marshmallows: Boil the sugar syrup
With any candy making, it’s important to dissolve all the sugar, even the little bits stuck to the side of the pot, like this:
Sugar is pesky, and wants to clump together and re-crystalize when it’s in a supersaturated solution like this. (Which will screw up the consistency of your marshmallow.)
As the mixture is coming up to a boil, wash down the sides of the pot with a brush dipped in cold water.
Keep dipping and brushing ’til you can’t see any sugar crystals.
This won’t take long, but it’s important to do.
Don’t make yourself nuts, but get as many as you can.
Next, clip your candy thermometer onto the side of the pot.
The end of the thermometer should be submerged, but not touching the bottom of the pot.
Keep the heat on high to bring the mixture to a boil. When it boils, it will rise up a few inches rapidly, then stop.
It’s kind of alarming the first time you see it, but if your pot is deep enough, you shouldn’t have any problems.
That said, keep a close eye on your pot and have a pair of potholders handy.
(If it boils over, turn the heat off and fan the surface of the sugar to cool it. It should recede rapidly. Hot sugar is nasty stuff, so keep your hands and face clear. Better to have a mess on your stove than get burned.)
Boil the sugar (keep the heat on high) until it reaches Firm Ball stage at 244 degrees F.
When it does, take the pot off the heat.
Homemade Marshmallows: Whip the sugar into marshmallow fluff
Turn the mixer on low speed.
The whisk will start to chunk up the gelatin. That’s just fine.
With the mixer running on low, slowly (and carefully!!) pour the hot sugar mixture into the gelatin.
Now, at this point, it’s going to smell kind of awful. (It is just unflavored gelatin and sugar, after all.)
Never fear. That’s just fine.
Unflavored gelatin is kind of stinky business. You’ll fix it with a little vanilla extract at the end. Trust me.
When all the sugar is in the bowl, fit your mixer with a splash guard, if you have one.
Turn the speed up to medium-high (do this slowly if you don’t have a guard on, to avoid splashes) and whip the mixture for 20 minutes.
As you whip the mixture, it will gradually increase in volume and turn an opaque white.
And, voila! After about 20 minutes, you’ll have a bowl of bona fide marshmallow fluff. (Magical, eh?)
After 20 minutes of whipping, pour in the vanilla extract.
Beat to combine for another 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, stop the mixer, and remove the bowl and whisk.
Your marshmallow fluff should be thick, white, and look about like this (give it a taste!!):
Homemade Marshmallows: Pour the fluff into your prepared pans
When your fluff is ready, pour it slowly into your prepared pans.
I used two heart-shaped silicone molds and a 13 inch x 9 inch pan.
Dust the tops of the marshmallow with more powdered sugar.
Leave the pans uncovered on the counter overnight to set up.
Homemade Marshmallows: Unmold and cut the candy
The next day, it’s time to unmold and cut your marshmallows.
Put a cup or two of powdered sugar in a gallon-size zip-top bag. (This is for rolling the cut marshmallows.)
Dip a thin, sharp knife in a glass of hot water, then run the knife around the inside edge of each pan until the marshmallow loosens.
If the knife starts to stick, just dip it back into the hot water.
When the marshmallow is loose, lift it out and set it on a board.
With a large, sharp knife, cut the marshmallow into cubes (or any other shape you like).
Roll the cut marshmallows in the bag of powdered sugar to coat each side.
Knock the excess sugar off and…voila! Marshmallow!
Repeat with the rest of the marshmallows.
Store them in an airtight container or zip-top bag.
For an extra-special treat, make chocolate-covered marshmallows
Melt some chocolate in the top of a double boiler.
Dip each marshmallow into the chocolate.
Refrigerate to set the chocolate.