Chocolate-covered peppermint marshmallows.
Every year around Christmas I try to make some homemade gifts/treats for people at the office. Most – okay, all - of my past gifts have been cookies. After making a bunch of different cookies last year, I decided that was too hard and too time consuming, so I would do something much easier and make some candy.
Right, because making candy is totally easier and quicker.
I am an idiot.
Anyway, I planned early and even ordered special candy boxes and bought little mini muffin cups to set my candies in. My grand plan included eight types of chocolate truffles, candied citrus peels, three kinds of homemade marshmallows (two chocolate covered), three kinds of caramels, two types of brittle, and peppermint icicles.
I am obviously delusional; for some reason I really thought all of that would take less time than making 6-8 types of cookies. I do not know what drugs I was on, but by the end of my adventure I was down to six kinds of chocolate truffles, candied citrus peels, two kinds of marshmallows (one chocolate covered), two kinds of caramels, one kind of brittle (but the reason for that is a whole other story) [Um, tell us, please? I would have liked MORE BRITTLE – C], and peppermint icicles.
Of everything I planned on making, I was really only afraid of two things: the marshmallows, and the icicles. Those scared the crap out of me and I waited as long as humanly possible to make them. This was good, because my sister, Carol, ended up staying with me for several days and I roped her into helping me.
We started with the marshmallows. Of course I went with Martha’s recipe… I mean, how could I not? (Although, if you are looking for marshmallows that don’t use corn syrup – there are recipes out there.) [Cool, because for some reason I am afraid of corn syrup. Is it on the list? – C] The first time through, I followed the directions exactly for the peppermint marshmallows that I would later be cover in chocolate. And everything went just fine and was not at all scary. Why was I such a wuss?
Maybe it had something to do with scalding hot sugar.
Prepare your marshmallow dish; heat various types of sugar together with the water; sprinkle gelatin over water; beat egg whites and add everything else, mixing until “very thick.” Really, there was nothing much to it.
There were only two points of confusion for me: 1) Why do you only sprinkle the gelatin on top of the water and not mix it in? 2) What constitutes very thick?
For the first question, I did a little experiment. On the second set of marshmallows (made with fancy Vietnamese cinnamon) I went renegade and mixed the gelatin in! I know, calm down, I am a rebel. See, the first time all the gelatin just seemed to sit on top of the water and when I was whisking the gelatin over the simmering water there were some gelatin chunks that just didn’t seem to dissolve. The second time instead of just sprinkling on top, or “blooming” the gelatin, I mixed it in. This allowed for a much more even distribution with no annoying clumps, but it also totally changed the consistency (unsurprising after thinking about it, but worrisome at the time) and I got a little nervous until the gelatin melted over the simmering water.
You can see why I was worried about my experiment, right?
In the end, I really don’t think this messed up the process at all; it was just a little scarier that second time through and the marshmallows weren’t quite as fluffy. However, that could also be because I didn’t beat them as long as I did not really pay attention to the clock the second time.
Second question: What constitutes “very thick”? Well this is kind of like the definition of pornography: You know it when you see it (see: The People vs. Larry Flint). The whole mixture was very fluffy, almost coming out of the bowl, and was way thicker then I have ever seen egg whites get before breaking. It is really a gut feeling, but what is the worst that can happen? Your marshmallows are a little dense or a little fluffier than usual? It is not the end of the world and, believe me, people will eat them anyway without realizing a thing. I don’t think the mix will do anything too weird because of all sugar and gelatin in there.
Next up: Peppermint Icicles, also with a Martha recipe.
Okay, for reals you guys, this one was what had me the most nervous. I mean, it involved hot sugar being pulled by hand.
Don't you want to just start pulling and stretching that blue lava? (That's what she said!)
Again, the actual mixing and heating of the ingredients was not so hard. The hard/scary part (that’s what she said) came after this with the scooping and folding and pulling. Basically, you were supposed to pour out the sugar mixture on a pan coated in cooking spray and, using a spatula, fold the edges into the center until it is cool enough to handle, or “about one minute.“ Um, these people must have asbestos hands because I would not have called that cool enough to handle. But we tried! It involved wearing two pairs of rubber gloves, a lot of hopping up and down in pain, dancing in the limited space of my apartment, and trading off with my sister so only one of us was in pain at a time. Thank God she was there, I would have cried and given up. [Aw, what a nice sister. I would have pointed and laughed – C]
Anyway, once it is cool enough to handle (big fat liars) you are supposed to pull the sugar out to about one foot and fold over, and then repeat. We did this with as little actual holding and as much flinging as possible. [Heh. – C] You were supposed to do this until it turned white – mine never turned white, so once it was opaque-ish we pulled off the golf-ball-sized piece to color blue. Apparently, we were too late, so it never really integrated into the sugar and WE HAD TO MAKE ANOTHER BATCH. Because no-no, I couldn’t just have white(ish) icicles, I needed white and blue. (FYI: Maybe mine didn’t turn white because I had no lemon juice to add. I planned on using lemon juice from the lemon that I used for the candied citrus peels, but forgot and threw the sucker out. Oh, well.) At the end of the process, when the candy is almost cool (who the heck knows what that means) you are supposed to twist and pull into a taper, cutting six-inch pieces of candy – working quickly, of course. Yeah, I twisted and tried to taper, but not so much. We ended up with usable pieces and I just went with it, even if they didn’t look like icicles but more like tape worms. If you were wondering, the second batch really went no better, it was just bluer.
Remember when I said people would eat anything? Well maybe not these so much. I ended up throwing out a few that were left at work over a week. I will not be making these again until I see someone do it in person. [Your co-workers are losers. Those things tasted like homemade candy canes! I would have eaten all of them! Next year, you should do white and red, then twist them together! – C]