The Magic Of Marshmallow (A Photoessay)

Well, it’s that time of year again — the twinkling lights are up, there’s advent calendar glitter all over our living room, and the stockings are hung on our bookshelves with care — it’s Marshmallow Season! December is, at stately IPB Manor, a bacchanal of Williams-Sonoma’s peppermint hot chocolate, and that hot chocolate is so staggeringly delicious that it can’t be defiled with just regular grocery-store marshmallows. Which is, naturally, why W-S sells fancy homemade marshmallows to go with the ho-cho, at a pearl-clutching $18.50 for a small box of the things. While we’re more than happy to overpay for the ho-cho, I decided a few years ago to save a tiny bit on our holiday-season budget by attempting to make my own marshmallows. As it turns out, the process is almost impossibly simple, and yields a delectable end result that puts the expensive Williams-Sonoma ones to shame.

The thing about making marshmallows is that they are basically a kitchen miracle. It’s a handful of easy ingredients mixed into a strange substance that goes through a crucible of deliciousness and comes out a fluffy, scrumptious ho-cho garnish. Whatever happens in the crucible is a mystery to me. I use the recipe from my CIA “Baking & Pastry” cookbook. You start out with 1 1/4 oz of gelatin powder, 16 oz of cold water, 1 lb 8 oz of sugar, 12 oz of glucose (corn syrup), 12 oz of honey and 1 tbsp of vanilla.

The Ingredients

You bloom the gelatin in half of the water, and combine the sugar, glucose, honey and the other 8 oz of water in a large pot.

Is it marshmallowy yet?

Then you stir things up until all the sugar is moistened.

How about now?

Then you turn on the heat and let it all boil, undisturbed, until it reaches the magic 252 degrees (F). I used to do this in a much smaller pot, and had to watch it closely, lifting off the heat when it flares up in its first flush of boiling; I also didn’t have a reliable candy thermometer, and had to stand over the steaming pot with my digital instant-read thermometer instead. It kind of sucked. Today I got to take my new digital candy thermometer for a test spin, and after some false starts, it ended up being like a dream come true.

Still not very marshmallowy…

Once the syrup hits 252, you take it off the heat and let it cool down to 210. Meanwhile, you melt the bloomed gelatin over boiling water, take it off the heat and add the vanilla. Once the syrup is cooled, you add the gelatin mixture. This is marshmallow in the raw.

Let’s get the magic happening!

With half the magic done, it’s time to get the mixer going for the other half of the magic. Just a few minutes whipping this stuff on high speed brings us to this…

Getting fluffy…

…then to this…

…and fluffier…

…then to this…

…ever fluffier…

…and finally it holds medium peaks! We have marshmallow!


The glorious, glorious goo is then spread in a sheet pan lined with parchment paper (last year I had issues with how sticky this stuff gets, and started dusting the paper with confectioner’s sugar before spreading the marshmallow in it), and is left to set.

Spreading marshmallow

And yes, this makes way more marshmallows than the wee little $500 box of them you get from Williams-Sonoma.

Pan of marshmallow

Once they’ve set, the marshmallow gets turned out on a cutting board, is dusted with more confectioner’s sugar, and is cut into chunks (which are dredged on all their sticky little sides with even more confectioner’s sugar).

Yummy slab!

Artsy Marshmallows

It’s getting to look a lot like Christmas.

a still-life.

The dredging

Storing up for a long winter

Then they sit in sealed containers, separated by layers of waxed paper, waiting for their opportunities to melt atop a cup of peppermint hot chocolate, looking like the world’s most delicious flotation devices, and making December taste like a month of holiday scrumptiousness.

Worth the trouble!



Filed under "You Make Your Own WHAT?", Worth Selling Your Soul For

23 responses to “The Magic Of Marshmallow (A Photoessay)

  1. I love how it’s tagged “worth selling your soul for”. Those things look beyond awesome and delicious :D

  2. HG

    This is filed for when I get a REAL kitchen. Although I did make 7 batches of peanut butter fudge on Wednesday. That was… interesting. I need one of the those thermometers because it’s hard to go by time. It turned out all right but needed to be less soft. I’m not sure what I could do next time to make it more solid.

  3. Yeah, I made these in our old, fake kitchen many a time, and it definitely works better in a REAL one. :D

    SEVEN batches of peanut butter fudge? You’re a beast! I used to be kind of “meh” about candy thermometers, because so many recipes give tips about what to look for, or how long to boil something, but really? You can’t make candy well without at least some kind of thermometer. It really is the most sciency thing I do in the kitchen.

    And thanks, Mags! They are super-delish AND super-easy!

  4. HG

    Yes, SEVEN. Mr. A signed up for cookie exchange at work and he picked peanut butter fudge to make. It wasn’t too bad but next time I’ll try out the recipe first next time. In return, he brought home Snickerdoodles; Mexican Rice Krispie Squares; some choco-nut squares and something we didn’t know so we didn’t eat it.

  5. Don’t you love being volunteered to make things for other people at work? :D

    I love, love, love Snickerdoodles, so I think you came out well on that one. What, pray tell, is a Mexican Rice Krispie Square? (I also applaud your choice not to eat the unknown item. Christmas cookies are great and all, but life’s too short to be spent eating mystery items from an office cookie exchange.)

  6. HG

    The Mexican Rice Krispie Squares have the same ingredients as normal ones but also have cinnamon and pecan pieces. I haven’t tried one yet because I had a croissant filled with chocolate for my weekly chocolate treat yesterday.

  7. like delicious. i want try.

  8. karin

    Oláaa!!!!Sou do Brasil e estou surpresa em saber como é fácil fazer marshmallow, por aqui é muito caro, mas, agora irei fazer e me deliciar com minha filha, estou agradecida por vc ensinar a receita e detalhar em imagens, parabéns e obrigada, beijos.

  9. yara (Brasil)

    kiss, kiss loving!!!!!
    amei adorei obrigado!!!

  10. Pingback: The Marshmallow Recipe (kind of) « The Willful Caboose

  11. J.B.

    Sounds and looks great! But what does it mean to “bloom” gelatin?

  12. Blooming gelatin is super-easy — all you do is sprinkle it into cold water (if you’re using powdered gelatin; if you’re using sheets, just plop the sheets into the water) and let it sit for a few minutes. It will hydrate into a sort of gummy solid, which you then melt into the liquid gelatin. It sounds much more convoluted than it is.

  13. threeblindmice

    You should watch your weight… sugar is dangerous!

  14. Uisgea

    I’m not a real fan of marshmallows, but my gal is. I’ve seen other recipes, but this is the first one that really looks interesting. I’ll be trying it soon. Great way to break in my brand-new KitchenAid (yes, I finally got one!).

  15. Sounds fantastic, Uisgea! I hope you have fun with this!

  16. Man,I love your backsplash. lol The marshmellow looks good too.

    God bless-

  17. Marisa

    Ohhhh… I’m thinking of my grandmother old standby marshmallow candy she makes ever Christmas season. With home made marshmallow’s… they could become something all together decadent! Thanks so much!

  18. Marisa, I hope they turn out deliciously! Sounds like a SUPER decadent treat! :D

  19. Pingback: Peppermint Marshmallows= Heaven | Sesame Seed Designs

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  22. Before you start whipping it, pitch in some orange zest, some orange oil and orange color (2 to 1 yellow to red). Orange Marshmallows!
    Cut them kind of thin and oblong, dip one half in dark chocolate. Mmmmm!

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