Monday, August 10, 2009

It's National S'Mores Day!

Vanessa Hudgens may have joined the Girls Scouts (see post below) just to get S'Mores, and we wouldn't blame her one bit! Today is National S'Mores Day according to the National Confectioners Association, but Ms Twixt and family don't need an excuse to eat or make these treats. Health food these are not, but one makes a real treat and can turn around even the worst day. These are our tweens favorite after school special snack.
For those of you who know me personally, you know that I have a thing for homemade marshmallows - I make marshmallows for every occasion in every flavor and color. Homemade marshmallows make an AMAZING s'more!
You can find recipes for marshmallows online, and I've posted my version here. This is a great dessert to make with your tween - just be sure to help her with cooking the syrup and pouring it into the mixer as sugar gets really, really hot. The process of making marshmallows is part cooking, part science experiment as you are turning liquid sugar into pillow-like marshmallows. Enjoy!

Ms Twixt's Homemade Marshmallows

4 pkgs Knox unflavored gelatin (you can find this next to the Jello in the baking aisle)
3 cups granulated sugar (I use vanilla sugar, which you make make by storing a vanilla bean in a bag of sugar for a few weeks)
1.25 cups Karo light corn syrup
.25 tsp salt (I use kosher salt)
1 Tbsp pure vanilla (don't skimp with fake stuff here; this is the main flavor of the marshmallow)
Lots of confectioners' sugar (about half a box)
cooking spray (not olive oil, though)

heavy duty aluminum foil
candy thermometer
rectangular Pyrex or other glass baking dish
standing mixer (like a Kitchen Aid)
silicone spatula
offset spatula
really good, non-slip, oven mitt
heavy saucepan
small strainer
sharp knife (not a paring knife; something with a longer blade)

First, prep the pan: spray the glass dish with cooking spray, line it with the heavy foil with a few inches of overhang on the two long sides, and then spray the foil with more cooking spray
Next, soften the gelatin: in a large mixing bowl (it must be large enough to hold the expanded marshmallow at the end), sprinkle the packages of gelatin over .75 cup of cold water.
Then make the syrup: in a heavy saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, .75 cup cold water, corn syrup and salt. Clip the candy thermometer to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook syrup until it reaches the "soft-ball" stage on the candy thermometer, which is about 238 degrees.
Now comes the alchemy: using the whisk attachment on medium-low speed, whisk the gelatin in the mixer bowl. Grab hold of the saucepan with the non-slip oven mitt and slowly pour in the syrup in a continuous stream into the gelatin. This will take some time, and your arms will get a nice workout in the process. After you've added all syrup, gradually turn up the mixer speed to high and beat the mixture until it is quite stiff - usually about 15 minutes. At this point, add the vanilla (you don't want to add flavorings when the mixture is still hot) and beat it in thoroughly. If you want to tint the marshmallows, now is the time to add in a few drops of food coloring.
Pour the marshmallow mixture into the glass dish; you'll need the silicone spatula to scrape the bowl. Using the offset spatula, smooth the top of the marshmallow mixture to make it as even as possible.
Now comes the hard part: you must wait overnight for the marshmallows to set.
"Unmolding" the marshmallows: put some confectioners' sugar in the strainer and sift it all over the marshmallow while still in the glass dish. Then sift more confectioners' sugar over a large area of the kitchen counter (be sure it's clean first!). Using the foil overhang, lift the foil from the glass dish and invert it onto the sugared counter surface. Carefully peel back the foil and sift more confectioners' sugar over the marshmallows. Spray the knife with the cooking spray and cut the marshmallows into squares or any shape you want (you can also use oiled cookie cutters). Roll each cut surface of the marshmallows in more confectioners' sugar so that they don't stick to each other.
Eat! (Warning: you may never buy a package of marshmallows again!)

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