Corn Starch is Your Best Friend, Part 1

The 4th of July passed not too long ago, and friends back in the States emailed me their photos of red, white and blue themed BBQ’s, with hamburgers, corn on the cob and homemade pies, along with fireworks and bonfires on the beach.  This last image was my favorite, with thoughts of summer camp and roasting marshmallows around the campfire coming to mind.  Some kids roasted them until they were soft and just slightly browned, but I left them over the fire until they were completely black and burnt on the outside – the exterior crisp and weightless, the middle melted and gooey. Marshmallows are a part of my childhood.  And by that, I mean bags of Kraft’s white Jet-Puffed marshmallows for making S’mores and Rice Krispies Treats.

Then I moved to France and discovered multi-colored guimauve, French style marshmallows.  They are most commonly seen as long strips of delicate confections, proudly on display in the city’s pastry shops.  Fancy chocolate shops sometimes have more familiar cubes too, even with exotic flavors and herbs.

Chocolate Mint Marshmallows

I have wanted to make my own marshmallows for years!  Intimidated by the idea, I just never did.  Well if anyone reading this has similar hesitation, please hear me out – it’s actually very simple!  And really fun, if perhaps a bit messy.  Just keep in mind one thing, and all will be alright: corn starch is your best friend.  Have a box at the ready, and you’ll be very happy when it comes time to removing your finished marshmallows from the pan and to cutting them into whatever shapes you desire.

Chocolate Mint MarshmallowsWhatever you call them, marshmallows or guimauve are made of sugar, corn syrup and gelatin.  Most recipes use whipped egg whites as well, and that helps to obtain that light, spongey texture they are known for.  I decided to make two batches, one with and one without.  I pulled out the M folders from my baking files… Meringue, Mocha, Macarons, Maple syrup, and voilà - Marshmallow!  I read through all of the recipes I saved from newspapers and magazines over the years, all with very similar techniques and flavors, and decided to (finally) give it a go. I teamed up a friend of mine who had the same motivation — and a stand mixer.  Perfect!  We were ready to go…

First batch (and first of a 3-part series here): Chocolate Mint Marshmallows.  We used Dorie Greenspan‘s recipe from Baking From My Home to Yours, with guidelines for “a meringue base, sweetened and strengthened by a cooked sugar syrup and fortified by gelatin.”  She gives many ideas for playing around with the flavor too, but with a bar of Lindt 85% chocolate, cocoa powder and peppermint extract on hand, we had that covered.

Chocolate Mint MarshmallowsChocolate Mint MarshmallowsChocolate Mint MarshmallowsChocolate Mint Marshmallows

Making marshmallows at home can be a messy job – you have been warned.  Luckily, corn starch is a cinch to clean up!  Scissors seemed to be the easiest tool for me, and you can even dip the blades in the corn starch before cutting.  Choose whatever technique you’re most comfortable with for coating the marshmallows in corn starch (or powdered sugar) – dipping individually in a small bowl, tossing them all together in a big bowl, shaking them out on tin foil as above… and have fun with the shapes or sizes.  I made some standard square marshmallows and then lots of minis, which were so fun to just pop in to my mouth.  Both were great in sweetened steamed milk.  They slowly melted down and gave such an incredible flavor to the milk, making my very own minty hot chocolate!  I highly recommend it.

Got Milk?  Now you just need some homemade chocolate marshmallows!  The recipe is below, and then stay tuned for part 2…

Chocolate Mint MarshmallowsChocolate Mint Marshmallows

Chocolate Mint Marshmallows
Based on Dorie Greenspan’s recipe in Baking From My Home to Yours

Makes about 1 pound of marshmallows

About 1 cup cornstarch (or potato starch)
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
2 1/4-ounce packets unflavored gelatin
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup cold water
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 bar of Lindt 85% chocolate (100 grams or 3.5 oz)
2 1/2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Line a rimmed baking sheet or baking pan with parchment paper and dust the paper generously with cornstarch. Have a candy thermometer at hand.

Put 1/3 cup of the water, sugar and corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar is dissolved, continue to cook the syrup — without stirring — until it reaches 265 degrees Fahrenheit (129 degrees Celsius) on the candy thermometer.

While the syrup is cooking, work on the gelatin and egg whites. In a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the remaining cold water (a scant 7 tablespoons) and let it sit for about 5 minutes, until it is spongy, then heat the gelatin in a microwave oven for 20 to 30 seconds to liquefy it. (Alternatively, you can dissolve the gelatin in a saucepan over low heat.) In another bowl, break up chocolate and gently melt in microwave. Add cocoa powder and peppermint extract, and mix to combine.

Working in the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in another large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until firm but still glossy — don’t overbeat them and have them go dull.

As soon as the syrup is ready, remove the pan from the heat and, with the mixer on medium speed, add the syrup, pouring it between the spinning beater(s) and the sides of the bowl. Add the gelatin and continue to beat for another 3 minutes, so that the syrup and the gelatin are fully incorporated. Fold in the chocolate mint mixture.

Using a large rubber spatula, scrape the meringue mixture onto the baking sheet or into the pan and spread well.  Dust the top with cornstarch and let the marshmallows set in a cool, dry place. They’ll need about 3 hours, but they can rest for 12 hours or more.  Best to just leave overnight.

Once they are cool and set, cut the marshmallows with a pair of scissors or a long thin knife. Whatever you use, you’ll have to rinse and dry it frequently. Have a big bowl with the remaining cornstarch at hand and cut the marshmallows as you’d like — into squares, rectangles or even strips (as they’re cut in France). As each piece is cut, drop it into the bowl. When you’ve got 4 or 5 marshmallows in the bowl, reach in with your fingers and turn the marshmallows to coat them with starch, then, one by one, toss the marshmallows from one hand to the other to shake off the excess starch; transfer them to a serving bowl. Cut and coat the rest of the batch.

Keep the marshmallows in a cool, dry place.

18 Responses to “Corn Starch is Your Best Friend, Part 1”

  1. Patricia says:

    Goodmorning, nice recipe, have a nice day.

  2. Romy says:

    It was fun to make these with you, love how you set them up for pics! And congrats on the 2nd place award! :)

  3. Kerrin says:

    Romy, our marshmallow date was SO fun! And thanks to you for the chocolate mint idea – what’s a Swiss home without a bar of Lindt on hand anyway? That peppermint extract with it was excellent! (Thanks for the congrats wishes too) Just wish I had some marshmallows left over,… sadly all gone :(

  4. Julia @ Mélanger says:

    Yum, yum, yum! I am a marshmallow fan through and through. I love plain marshmallow. Toasted marshmallow. And I LOVE S’MORES! I have always wanted to make marshmallow. I remember my mum making marshmallow when I was a kid. I think in a bunny mould for Easter! Some fundraising effort from memory. I am so keen to try this recipe. I have my own (new!) trusty Dorie book so will curl up with that tonight and have a read through. :) Can’t wait for part deux……..

  5. kelleyn says:

    I adore Marshmellows! I have always wnated to make marshmellows, but I have heard you need a Kitchenaide to make them. Never thought about Chocolate Mint Marshmellows. Looking at the picutures you almost think they are brownies. Yummy!

  6. Kerrin says:

    Julia, add a love of marshmallows to our never-ending list of similarities ! :) Wow, I don’t remember my mom ever making that when I was a kid ! But she always had bags of those jet-puffed wonders for us for sure! We’d roast them over the stovetop on her kebab sticks, haha! Or, shhhh, don’t tell – forks !! :) Can’t wait to hear (and see) how your marshmallows come out. Enjoy the book, and especially page 404 !

    Kelleyn, nope – definitely don’t need a KitchenAid stand mixer to make them. Dorie says in her recipe above that it certainly makes things easier. BUT… those marshmallows above, truth be told – were made with a simple old school hand mixer. That said — part 2, marshmallows without egg whites, you’ll want to have a stand mixer, as the marshmallow needs to beat for over 20 minutes ! That’s a lot of elbow grease, ha ha!

    PS – I sent my parents pictures when I was baking, showing them what I was up to. My dad’s response — “looks like brownies” !

  7. Steve says:

    Looks great, and worth a try… in a friend’s kitchen, not mine :) . Question – do you “roast” or “toast” marshmallows? Or is the answer: who cares! :) Always curious. Awesome pictures, as always, to add lots of confidence to the baking experience.

  8. jen laceda says:

    You marshmallows look a lot more edible than those pieces of plastic we roasted while we were “camping” in Cottage Country here! I couldn’t eat those supermarket marshmallows because they look, felt, and tasted like, well, sorta like plastic. Can you imagine roasting those things? They melted in the fire like vinyl! But…hello! These marshmallows look totally edible; in fact, they look like little puffy brownies! I just know my dear little one will love this. MMMMmmm, especially as a treat in her milk!!!

  9. FN says:

    Kerrin, those look pretty good! You gonna take on Pain de Sucre? Here’s a treat for your marshmallow fans…..

    http://pufflist.blogspot.com/2009/02/sweet-tooth-winter-mashup-paris.html

  10. Kerrin says:

    Steve, good question – roasted, toasted – it’s all yummy to me too ! I think most people say “roasting marshmallows” for the activity – marshmallow on long stick over fire and all – and then you get a “toasted marshmallow” in the end. Does that make sense? Makes me think of Jelly Belly’s flavor – toasted marshmallow! Oooh my, when was the last time I saw jelly beans… ?!

    Jen, I have to say, roasting plastic doesn’t sound too appetizing to me either ! Try these marshmallows for sure – way more tasty than vinyl, ha ha! And it will be so fun with your daughter – you can make fun shapes and things in the end. Even use cookie cutters !! Let me know how they come out for sure.

    FN, take on Pain de Sucre ? oh boy – I think I’d rather just TAKE Pain de Sucre’s inventory !! ha ha! Thanks for the link, I remember that post of yours in fact – that bright pink marshmallow, and your bold move to put it in a rather luxurious chocolat chaud, non?! ;) Mmmm !

    Here’s my previous post on that pastry shop in Paris too – an absolute favorite of mine:
    http://mykugelhopf.ch/2008/10/marshmallows-and-macarons/

  11. Mom says:

    I do remember walking the streets of the Marais in Paris and looking at all the windows with colorful marshmallows….but to make your own…how adventurous! How sticky! I also remember making rice krispie treats in the kitchen and taking rice krispies and marshmallow out of your hair!!! All of course, are absolutely delicious. I wish that I could taste the mint ones and put them in my coffee in the afternoon when I need a pick me up. I just think your photography is so real and natural!!!

  12. BBE says:

    I tried S’mores for the first time this July 4th. Made with genuine Hershey’s chocolate, our hosts went to great lengths to give their multinational guests a genuine American 4th of July experience. The chocolate mint marshmallows sound tasty.

    BBE

  13. Kerrin says:

    Hi Mom ! Totally remember our days walking the streets of Paris, wish we were back there together – and looking at the marshmallows too ! Oh my, getting marshmallow in my hair, ha ha! Such fun memories we have…

    BBE, that’s awesome that you had a true American 4th of July celebration. What great hosts you had ! And by all means, the classic S’mores (of my childhood at least) is made with Hershey’s chocolate squares ! Ooooh, haven’t seen a Hershey’s bar in forever either. Thanks so much for sharing.

  14. agneta says:

    Ohhhhh, your blog is amazing & cool!

    Regards from Agneta in Sweden

  15. Kerrin says:

    Agneta, hello to you in Sweden! Thank you so much for your comment. And guess what – you just left the 1,000th comment on my blog !! How fun ! :) Not sure if you saw this previous post on my blog, you might enjoy it — my discovery of Swedish candy – in Paris ! Are you a fan of the salted licorice ?

    http://mykugelhopf.ch/2008/10/swedish-fish-from-sweden/

  16. Solo Road Trip says:

    THESE are beautiful! I’ve never been a huge marshmallow fan with the exception of their use for S’mores. As a camper, I’ve eaten more than my fair share. And like you, I like mine at the carcinogen stage. I think I would like to try your homemade ones or the ones your Mom refers to in the Paris confectionery shops. But I’ll wait until I either visit you or Paris. LOL P.S. love it that your Mom comments.

  17. Betty says:

    Wonderful,beautiful site-love the pictures -thanks for the great info!!!Betty http://www.geothermalquestions.net

  18. AmyRuth says:

    Ah, Dorie will love you!!! They look amazing. I shared that same hesitation. Uh oh, with Fall around the corner, they may be just the ticket to a warm snuggly night. Not scared anymore.
    AmyRuth

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