Sunday, February 2, 2014

Chemistry Lesson

So it started because the kids were home sick.  Day one was doctor appointments and bed.  Day two was four movies and a nap (quite an accomplishment for the three year old--she really wasn't feeling well).  Day three my wonderful business partner came in on her day off so I could give the kids one more day at home to drive me bananas recuperate.  I know they are starting to feel better, despite the icky cough, because they are eating non-stop and actually playing today.  After two snow days last week and three sick days this week, I am desperate for distractions.

Here is how the breakfast conversation went with the three-year-old...
Baby Girl:  What is that paper made of?
Me:  Paper.
Me:  What is this coupon holder made of?
BG: Plastic.
Me:  What is this piggy bank made of?
BG: It's glassy.
BG:  What is this chair cover made of? (it is a pillow case covering the back of the dining room chair)
Me:  What do you think it's made of?
BG:  Umm, diarrhea?
Me:  Umm.....

So after some Lucky Charms, she wanted to know what marshmallows were made of.  We looked up a recipe (Thank you Mr. Alton Brown *love you* and the Food Network), and here is what happened.

For some unknown reason, when I moved into my husband's house almost a decade ago, he had a giant box of unflavored gelatin.  Because of that, we had all of the ingredients to make marshmallows.  I forgot to put the vanilla in the picture, but you get a bonus photo bomb!
 1/2 cup water, 1 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup corn syrup heated to 240 degrees.  The last 10 degrees feels like forever!
 3 envelopes of unflavored gelatin softened in 1/2 cup of ice cold water.
 Mix the heated sugar mixture into the gelatin at low speed until combined.  Let the children find something else to do when you lose their attention.
 Whip it for longer than you think (12-15 minutes in a stand mixer if you have one), until it gets thick and lukewarm.  Add 1 tsp vanilla in the last minute of whipping.  Don't forget to call the children back every few minutes to see it get thick.
 Pour into a pan greased and dusted with a cornstarch / powdered sugar mixture.  Spread with a greased spatula.  Dust the top with more cornstarch / powdered sugar.
 Let sit 4 hours or overnight.  Turn out onto a cutting board and cut with a pizza cutter dusted with the cornstarch / powdered sugar mixture.
 Toss the cut pieces with rest of the cornstarch / powdered sugar mixture in a zip top bag, shake off excess and store in an airtight container.
My hubby says these taste better than store-bought.  The children say they don't look like the ones from the store...bonus math lesson: Marshmallows are cylindrical in shape.

Update 2/13/14:  Made the marshmallows again today, Cherry flavor by request.  We added a pack of cherry Kool-aid powder (the kind that you add sugar to, but don't add any sugar to it) to the 1/2 cup ice cold water before mixing in the unflavored gelatin.  They are delicious, as long as you like cherry kool-aid.  Very cherry flavored.  We are going to try to root beer flavored next (root beer extract in place of...or in addition to...the vanilla extract).

Homemade Marshmallows by Alton Brown / Food Network
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup ice cold water, divided
12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Nonstick spray

Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.

In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.

Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.

For regular marshmallows:
Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.

When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

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