Spanish Vanilla Marshmallows

Last Friday we had a marshmallow party. It was fluffy and delicious, thanks for asking. And after the festivities I shared my favorite flavor with my coworkers, some of whom asked for the recipe, so here it is!

I call these “Spanish Vanilla” because it makes sense; there’s honey, vanilla, and almond–just like in Spanish nougat. The name is kind of a contrast with French vanilla, which is vanilla and hazelnut.

We originally got the proportions and the how-to from Cooking for Engineers’ post on marshmallows, but I did tweak some things.

Hardware you’ll need:
Stand mixer (or hand mixer and tall bowl if you’re not afraid of boiling hot sugar)
9 X 13 cake pan–glass or metal
two quart pan (or taller)
candy thermometer
Rubber spatula

Ingredients:
Butter
Powdered sugar

1/2 cup water
3 sachets gelatin (aka 3 tablespoons)

1/4 cup water
2/3 cup honey
2 cups sugar

~1 tbs vanilla extract
~1 tbs almond extract

Making marshmallows involves a lot of anticipation; there’s not much to do but wait for things to happen, and when the moment’s right, there’s a flurry of activity then you wait again.

To start, butter the pan to make sure the fluff doesn’t stick, then generously sift on powdered sugar. Now set the pan aside.

Next, prep the gelatin. That involves pouring the first 1/2 cup of water and the gelatin into the bowl you plan to mix in. If you have the option, use a taller bowl. Not only will that help protect you from fast-moving molten sugar, it will also make fluffier marshmallows. My awesome Kitchenaid works really well for this.

While the gelatin is blooming (absorbing the water), combine the sugar, water, and honey in the pan and heat on the stove just under medium. A problem you’ll face when making candy with honey is that it will puff up. When using corn syrup, I can set it to full-blast medium and walk away, but that’s not something you can do with honey. If it starts to puff up on you, lower the heat and start stirring. If it’s happening very fast, pick it up and move it away from the heat–that should deflate it pretty quickly. This needs to heat until it has reached 250 degrees. Once that’s happened…

Turn the mixer on low, then pour in the sugar-lava slowly, in order to avoid a fiery and painful demise. It will be hot and sloshy for a while, but increase the speed to high as quickly as you safely can. A tall bowl helps with this, but either way you should be there after a minute or two. Oh and be warned, it smells kind of horrible. Gelatin is made of ground up bones, and heating that up isn’t pleasant. But don’t worry–you don’t taste it at all in the final product and the smell goes away after a minute of mixing.

It will start to lighten and fluff up. That’s a good thing. Keep mixing for five minutes or so, and when it seems like it’s not going to get any bigger, add the extracts, then mix a little more and turn it off.

Now quickly pour the liquid marshmallow into the prepared pan. The faster the better, because it starts to set and get really thick and unmanageable. Then sift on some more powdered sugar and let sit for 24 hours. You will then have a slab of marshmallow. Cut it if you want, but the temptation to just bite in will be strong.

Marshmallow and Cashew Popcorn

A while back I said I’d be experimenting more with popcorn and candy, and I that wasn’t a lie. This is the result of that epic essai.

First of all, to make something this tasty you have to pop your own popcorn. It’s not very hard and it’s really easy to turn it into something you really want instead of a buttery, artery-clogging pile of puffed corn.

I started with:
A tall stock pot (nothing out of the ordinary)
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
Enough veggie oil to cover the bottom of the pan

Then cover the pan and heat on medium. As it’s cooking, shake occasionally and when the loud, scary popping noises become less frequent (when only one *pop* happens every 3-5 seconds) take it off the burner. I like to give it another good shake before talking off the lid. And then, wha-bam:

Isn’t it amazing?

Yes.

So what makes this special: before enjoying this wondrous bounty, I put it on a baking sheet mixed with marshmallows and cashews with a sprinkle of salt.

After the request of my roommate, I decided to put nutella on half before baking.

With the oven preheated to 275, make for 10 minutes, check, then 10 minutes again. The marshmallows on top get hard and dry, kind of crisp like the kind in cereal while the marshmallow under some popcorn becomes gooey and wonderful.

I ate all of it almost immediately.

How to Fill Hard Candy

You can’t make the “remember those strawberry candies that are hard on the outside then have that awesome strawberry stuff in the middle” without filling some hard candy. Over all it’s not too hard, but it does take a while. Luckily it’s really passive, though.

For this specific example, I used our honey hard candy and http://imakefood.net/2010/10/candided-jalapenos-and-strawberries/.

And to fill hard candy, you pretty much just need to make your first batch the same way as in the honey hard candy article and fill the molds halfway.

We had the mold sitting in ice so that it would cool faster, but that’s optional. If there’s any candy leftover in the pan, try to keep it warm (on 1 or 2) until you’re ready to bring it to temp again.

When the candy’s hard, fill it with whatever you want. In our case, candied strawberries. It was kind of tough, so what we ended up doing was gathering an amount of strawberry then plopping it in the candy shell. Sometimes it was too big, but most of the time it wasn’t. But since this was a first-time experience, we didn’t fret.

Once that was settled, we reheated the leftover candy (which then burned, so we made another, smaller batch) and poured on the bottoms.

It was so incredibly tasty. You have no idea.

Honey Hard Candy

This is part two of the making of “remember those strawberry candies that are hard on the outside then have that awesome strawberry stuff in the middle:” the hard candy shell. Part one was the filling. It’s got a slightly different taste from normal hard candy because instead of corn syrup, we used honey, plus there was a little left-over heat in the pan from the jalapenos. And even on it’s own this candy has such a good flavor, I have to say I like it a lot more than the other ones we’ve made.

For this you’ll need:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/s cup water

Keep in mind that it’s the proportions that matter, not the amount. So if you don’t want to make that much, you don’t have to.

Start by combining the ingredients in a saucepan, warm it over medium heat, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Next stick in the thermometer and wait.

While that’s going, bring a small pan of water to simmer on an extra burner. When the water’s warm, use a pastry brush dipped in the warm water to clean the sides of the pan with the soon-to-be candy in it. Here, and for the mold, silicon works best.

This stops the undissolved sugars from interfering with the crystallization process in the soon-to-be candy.

Because we want to make hard candy, we’ll have to let it warm all the way up to 300 degrees. It’s best to do this kind of slowly, so I’d recommend lowering the heat to a 3 and setting short timers to go and look at the candy. That way you don’t have to just stand there waiting. Also, when it’s on a lower heat, there’s less chance that it will try to overflow, which is a good thing because you’re not supposed to stir it while it’s warming up.

If you have molds, now would be the time to prep them. For mine, I put a thin layer of some as-close-to-tasteless-as-I-could-find oil on the mold to stop the candy from sticking.

You may recognize the mold as the one I used for madeleines. It’s made of a silicon that can withstand high heat, so it’s perfect for things like this. I wouldn’t dare use my metal one, though. I don’t think I’d be able to get the candy out.

When the candy’s reached temperature, turn off the heat, get the mold as close to the pot as possible, and using the same pastry brush from earlier, start filling.

If you don’t have a mold, no worries. Another thing you can do is prepare a baking sheet in a similar matter (with the non-stick oil) and drop dollops of candy on, or make designs with a fork. I made a sort of cotton candy with some of the leftovers by getting a string of candy on two forks then rotating them around each other. Molds are probably the easiest thing do to, but they are by no means the only thing you can use. When we made nougat, we used the leftover candy to make candy thread and small beads. At that point we were just playing around, but it tasted really good.

Candided Jalapenos (and strawberries)

For some reason, the jalapenos turned out much prettier than the strawberries. Both tasted good, it’s just that it’s weird when your fruit looks like beached jellyfish. That’s not to say that the strawberries were a complete failure, though; they made a great filling for a candy that I’m going to talk about later on. But the weirdest thing about then wasn’t how they looked but how they tasted. Once you make candied fruit you understand why fruit candies don’t taste like fruit–they’re the concentrated super sweet version of fruit.

To candy fruit all you need is
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Fruit
2 hours

To start, slice the fruit. No so thin that they fall apart, but nice and bite-sized thin.


Then combine the water and sugar in a saucepan then heat and stir until the sugar’s dissolved. Once that’s ready, toss in the fruit and let it simmer for two hours.

They syrup would be good to use for other candies or for pancakes, so if you have the means, strain the fruit and keep the syrup in an old pasta sauce jar or something.

When the fruit’s strained, let it sit in the open air to dry a little.

(See I told you they look like jellyfish. But they taste super good.)

You also want to stop them from touching, if possible, that way they don’t make clumps.

Once they’ve dried for a while, you’re done!

Personally, I like candied jalapenos, but they are super spicy. We boiled them along side habaneros which only made things hotter. But if you like spicy treats or Mexican candies you might really like this. But if you’re afraid, this is the same technique to make other candied fruits. Lemons and oranges taste really good when made this way, and you can even eat the peel!

Nougat

Though I don’t think this is quite the same traditional nougat that’s been around forever, this is a tasty substitute.

What you need is:

2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup water
2 egg whites
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 stick softened butter
3/4cup whole hazlenuts
3/4 cup whole almonds
3/4 cup whole pistashios

You also need
A stand mixer
A 9 x 13 pan
A candy thermometer

A recipe I found recommends using edible rice paper later on, and if you have it I think it would be a great idea. We used wax paper, but it still stuck really bad. With the rice paper, the paper sticks, but you can eat it, so it’s ok.

Combine the sugar, water, corn syrup, and honey in a large sauce pan. (I used a 2 quart sauce pan and it wasn’t quite large enough–so if you have a bigger one, use it. I was technically able to do it, but it was kind of hard and there were spills which were very hard to clean up.)

Now put in the candy thermometer and heat until it reaches 252 degrees F. Stir it constantly in the beginning to make sure the sugar dissolves and once it is, stop stirring. (It will foam up, and if it gets too close to spilling over the top, take it off the heat for a second until it goes down. I had to do this a lot because of the size of my pan, but it didn’t ruin anything.)

While that’s going, put the egg whites in the stand mixer. When the syrup is getting close, beat the egg whites until the form stiff peaks. When both elements are ready (the egg whites are properly beaten and the syrup is the right temperature) take out a 1/4 cup of the syrup. With the mixer running, pour in the syrup in a sow steady stream. Then beat it together for about 5 more minutes, until they have stiff peaks.

The way I transferred the syrup was a little messy, but it worked with the tools I have. Basically I dipped in one of my heavy-duty glassware measuring cups and scooped out a 1/4 cup. Syrup got all over the cup and hardened. Some of it was wasted and it was hard to clean, but it was easy to do.

After this, let the syrup heat up to 315 degrees F. It will be darker, but don’t worry, it’s not burnt.

When it reaches 315 degrees F, take it off the heat and pour it into the mixer. To facilitate that, I poured it into a 3 cup heavy duty glass measuring cup. It almost wasn’t big enough, so if you have a bigger one, I’d recommend using it.

Beat on high for another five minutes until the mixture is glossy and a thick ribbon forms when you pull out the whisk.

Now stop the mixer and add the flavorings–the vanilla and almond extract–and the butter. Then mix it some more for another 5 minutes.

When that’s done, stir in then nuts by hand. We went through a couple of tools for this job. A rubber spatula wasn’t strong enough.

And the wooden spoon broke.

But the wooden spoon nub turned out to do the job the best. (And all of this breaking is a testament to how fast you have to do this. Once it sets it’s hard to manipulate.)

As soon as it’s mixed, pour it in your prepared 9 x 13 pan (prepared = covered with wax paper and covered with a lot of butter). Ours didn’t pour very well, it was kind of lumpy, but as it set, it spread out.

Then let it sit for a while. We left it and made more candy, so I don’t know exactly how long it sat before we cut it.

One of the cool things we could do with the dishes was play with it and make candy strings. As the warm syrup cooled down and we were able to touch it, we pulled some out of the containers and it stretched.

A lot of this process is very similar to making hard candy, that’s why we were able to do this.

Gummy cats (the easy way)

I happened to have a little cat cookie cutter, that’s why I went with cats, but any shape would work. And I say “the easy way” because one day I’m not going to use the Jello shortcut.

Gummy candies are surprisingly easy to make, and you only need three ingredients:
1/3 cup Water
One 3 oz package of Jello (or whatever brand you like)
Two .25 oz packets of Gelatin

First you need to bloom the gelatins, like I did when we made Rose Marshmallows. All you do is combine the three ingredients in a sauce pan, stir, and let it sit for 10 minutes.

It’s going to look a little funny at the end of the 10 minutes, but don’t worry.

Now it’s time to heat it. (That’s why it’s in a pan instead of a bowl!) Put it on the stove at a medium heat for about 4 minutes, stirring constantly, until all the gelatin is dissolved.

When it’s ready, pour it into the pan and let cool.

If you have molds, you can use that instead of a cookie cutter, but I only have madeline molds. They’re not very expensive, but I wanted to try out my kitty cookie cutter. (And one thing that’s really cool is that you don’t have to prep the pan, because it doesn’t stick. One thing you do have to look out for is to make sure you’re not using anything porous, like stone bake ware.)

Now put it in the freezer for about 10 to 15 minutes to solidify them. If you used a mold, you can just peel them out and eat, but if you didn’t use a mold, it’s a little more involved. (But only a little.)

Just use your cookie cutter (or even a knife if you don’t care about fancy shapes) to cut out what you want.

And just make sure you don’t eat them as you go.

And if you’re worried about them sticking together, you can coat them with a little corn starch, but from my experience they don’t last long enough for that to be an issue.

This whole process is very passive and rewarding. It also doesn’t take a lot of time, which means you can make more as soon as you’re done!

Rose Marshmallows

Surprisingly, marshmallows aren’t that hard to make. But they are really sticky and you do need some tools (not much though, just an instant read thermometer and a mixer, hand or stand).

Other than tools, here’s what you need:
3 envelopes gelatin (make sure it’s unflavored/unsweetened)
1/2 cup water

2 cups sugar
2/3 cups corn syrup
1/4 cup water
Rosewater (to smell) (I think we used about 4 or 5 teaspoons)
1/4 tsp salt

First start by preparing a 9 x 13 baking pan. Grease it up with some butter and cover it with powdered sugar. Make sure you do this part well or you won’t be able to get the marshmallow out of the pan.

Then get your gelatin blooming. Basically put it in a bowl with some water and set it aside until you need it. If you want to save dishes, you can but it in the bowl you plan on mixing in. Here’s what it looks like bloomed.

Then combine all your ingredients except the salt in a standard 2 quart pot on the stove. (Bigger is ok too.)

Next insert the thermometer and turn it on high to bring the mix to a boil. You want to be stirring constantly so that it doesn’t burn. You’re waiting for it to get to 250 degrees.

Once it’s there, pour it into the bowl with the gelatin and start mixing.

Slowly work up to a high speed (you may want a deeper bowl than what I used; there were a few rogue splashes). Once it’s there, add the salt. A 1/4 teaspoon is very small, so you might not even have the little spoon for it, so don’t worry if you have to eyeball it.

It will soon turn white and fluffy.

Once it’s there, quickly move it to the 9 x 13 pan and spread it with a rubber spatula.

Then cover the top with another layer of powdered sugar (or sprinkles if you want. We did, but not until later).

Now let them set for about 24 hours before you cut them. We just left them out in open air, but if you want, you can cover them with a paper towel or something if you’re worried about something falling in.

When it comes time to cut, make sure your knife is well greased. A little butter does the trick nicely, and it doesn’t even leave a buttery taste. Don’t be surprised if you have to butter it after each slice. We cut ours into pretty big chunks because it was easier, but if you plan on sharing, you may want to cut them smaller.

Chocolate Dipped Goodness

This is something fun to do with somebody. They don’t always turn out pretty, but you’re going to have fun making them. A popular choice is, of course,

strawberries, but lots of fruit work great, as well as some candies.

There are different ways you can present the strawberries. One of my favorite ways to cut up a strawberry is like this:

Don’t cut off the leaves, and cut small slits up to near the very top. Try to make all the slits an equal distance from another, and when you’re done cutting, just spread them apart gently.

If you can manage it, they look really nice drizzled with chocolate. But they’re great just left alone too.

And before I went too crazy with the chocolate, I lined the counter with wax paper.

That way I had a big, flat surface to rest the strawberries and candies on while they cooled and hardened. Also it was really easy to clean.

Then I melted my chocolate on the stove, over low heat, stirring constantly. There are other methods, like double boiling, or microwaving, but I find this one to be the most convenient for me.

One thing you need to watch out for is wet fruit. I didn’t and so my chocolate seized up and got really ugly and hard to work with. The first few strawberries were perfect, but after 3 or so, I had to turn to other methods. You can avoid this by having a paper towel handy to dry off the fruit before dipping it.

There are lots of creative things you can do with chocolate. I can’t believe nobody’s thought of dipped marshmallows before.

I also dipped some peppermints and cinnamon imperials. One thing that’s super tasty but that I didn’t have on hand is Oreos. Dipped Oreos are incredible.

You can also try to incorporate the candy onto the strawberries.

All the things I’m playing with, including the chocolate, is stuff I had in the pantry from when I made Hot chocolate a little while back. Don’t feel like you have to go out and buy a bunch of stuff to make neat little desserts, chances are you’ll have something you can work with right in your pantry.

Once my chocolate seized up, I reheated it with a tablespoon of butter–I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do, but it made it more malleable. After that, we couldn’t get it to stick to the berries, so we started making shapes.

Here’s a cinnamon imperial chocolate:

And some hearts

This is something you can really have fun with. I literally made this with my boyfriend, standing in the kitchen, getting our fingers all chocolaty, and it was nice. Also, later when it cooled (and before it cooled) it was really tasty.

Ganache Truffles

Candy is pretty much a must on this holy of holy days, so here’s something fun to try out. I’ve also got a couple previous candy recipes that could be customized for Valentines Day–heart shaped toffee, candy roses, and some yummy hot chocolate–especially since this year’s V Day seems like it will be a cold one.

And presents always mean more when you make them yourself, so have fun with it!

For this, all you need is:
Chocolate (2 parts)
Heavy whipping cream (1 part)
Sweetened coco powder

I was taught to make this by a candy snob, so he insisted we use the expensive chocolate.

We used a mix of bittersweet chocolate and semisweet, but you can play around with this if you have more of a sweet tooth.

First you need to start off by chopping it up finely so that it melts nicely.

And set it aside. It would work best for later if you have it in a big, freezer-safe container. (You have to let it cool later, so the more spread out it is, the faster it cools–we used a 2 quart sauce pan and it took 3 hours.)

In a sauce pan, heat your cream until it boils. When it’s there, pour it into the chocolate and stir until it’s all melted and smooth.

Now it’s time to cool it. Like I mentioned earlier, the container for the chocolate matters. The thinner the layer of chocolate you have the better. For what we made–two bars of chocolate, I think a standard 9 x 13 baking pan would do the trick. The more spread out the chocolate is, the faster it will cool.

Once it’s solid enough that you can hold the container upside down, but still soft enough to be malleable, take it out and start rolling. You can scoop some out with a spoon or just use your hands. Be sure to wash your hands before this step, and make sure you don’t have anything else going on for the next few minutes because you will get covered in chocolate.

When they’re the proper shape, roll them around the coco powder.

And them let them sit. We happened to have a bunch of mini cupcake papers, so we put them in there. If you don’t have any, don’t worry; the coco powder will stop them from recombining, as long as they don’t get hot.