I’ve had the urge lately to make a bite size piece of something fluffy, sweet, and totally unnatural. I am told this requires gelatin. I also happen to have a totally unhealthy relationship with marshmallows. I will indulge in campfire when I have to, but much prefer the pillowy, melty, homemade style from City Bakery. We’re on a baker’s schedule lately, so at 10:30pm on Wednesday it was go time. We needed gelatin and molasses (for an anadama sweet bread), which we guessed was a mission impossible. These once typical ingredients are not generally in high demand at the Manhattan supermarket/market/$8 peanut butter bodega, and especially not in the stiletto and cobblestone nether region of the Meatpacking District. Besides, why would you buy ingredients for bread and marshmallows when you can just purchase the products for under $5 with money left over for a couple of beers? Because I am the master of my belly and homemade is more delicious.
Our building is not exactly the kind of place where I can slap on some slippers, grab a one cup measure and head on over to the neighbor for some sugar, let alone gelatin. Maybe a fifth of whiskey. So we headed out in our PJs amidst the trashed pre-clubbers to find the elusive ingredients. We hit up a deli and then the Associated, where the response to our inquiry was a simple “Whaaaaat?” Desperate, we considered heading up to Chelsea’s Billy’s and offering to trade some “suga” for a couple packets of gelatin and 6 tablespoons of molasses. Thankfully on our third visit to the Westside Market we struck GOLD.
Once home I looked up how to make marshmallows and was admittedly completely deterred. Corn syrup? Heating honey? Food coloring and a bunch of “extracts”? Yes, of course one of my favorite sweet treats call for crap (crack?). Lured in by their texture and gooeyness, I guess I neglected to think about the recipe. I chose to substitute some of the more refined ingredients for agave, maple syrup, raw sugar, and a little orange blossom nectar. The results were excellent. These mallows are fluffy and melty, and the perfect spring accompaniment to… my bet is on Guinness. No need to toast them, really. Just pop ‘em in your mouth. Although a couple of these dunked in some homemade hot chocolate never hurt anyone.
Makes a massive amount to be stored in a mason jar
2 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin (3-4 packets)
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons water, divided
2 cups raw sugar
1 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3-5 drops orange blossom nectar (optional)
1/2 cup granulated sugar, ground in a coffee grinder (or use powdered sugar if you have it)
Butter for rubbing
Line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper, and rub down lightly with butter. Place the gelatin in 1/2 cup water and stir. Let sit until the gelatin becomes soft, about 6 minutes.
In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat the raw sugar, maple syrup, agave nectar, salt, and remaining 3 tablespoons water over medium heat. Stir. Once the sugar melts completely (about 10 minutes), turn up to boil and stir for 20 seconds. Add in the gelatin and vanilla extract and stir for 30 seconds more, making sure the sugar doesn’t burn. Remove from heat and continue stirring until all the gelatin has dissolved. Pour into a mixing bowl. Beat for 7 minutes with a hand mixer, slowly increasing the speed until mixture is light and fluffy. Coat a rubber spatula with butter and transfer mixture to the pan, removing as much as possible. Heh. Cover with another piece of parchment rubbed with butter. Let sit at room temperature for 6 to 12 hours.
Transfer the marshmallows to a cutting board and cut with a bench knife into squares. Roll around in the powdered sugar. Enjoy.