Homemade marshmallows are my new obsession. I’ve put off attempting them for years — due to a misguided assumption that making them would be a giant hassle. They’re admittedly a bit fussy (witness the lengthy set of instructions below), but not at all as bad as I thought. And they’re a great stovetop option when it’s a million degrees outside and you don’t want to turn on your oven.
I should note that I actually made these pillows of sugary magic last month and am about 30 days behind the curve in posting. Apologies, friends. In my defense, I spent half of July and August mired in a sugar-free detox (thanks, Whole 30) and couldn’t bring myself to write about baking while depriving myself of its goodness. But I have now emerged, a few pounds lighter and much more aware of how food impacts my body. However! This is not a post about that. This is a post about the magic of marshmallows.
The great marshmallow adventure began when I stumbled on this how-to video from America’s Test Kitchen. It’s a 5 minute video that makes marshmallow making seem pretty straightforward. And, in this version, it is. Sugar, water, corn syrup, gelatin. Powdered sugar and corn starch to coat. No big deal. Also… not that great.
The ATK version tastes pretty identical to store-bought marshmallows – only with a lot more hassle and mess. The upshot, I suppose, is that you know what’s in ’em. No chemicals. No funky gunk. But also, not really worth the effort in terms of flavor or texture differences.
But then… I picked up a little marshmallow cookbook at my favorite book/antique store in Asheville. And I discovered the wonderful world of marshmallows made with egg whites! (I also discovered that in spite of pretty pictures and some great recipe ideas, the book is a bit of a let down. Alas, I wouldn’t recommend it).
Importantly, these particular lovely puffs of joy don’t require any funky ingredients (some other recipes in the book require glucose syrup, which I only have on hand because of my adventures with the Momofuku cookbook). They also have a rich honey flavor and wonderful, light texture. Well worth the effort for any peanut butter-loving person in your life!
The other upshot of making marshmallows with an egg-white base is that they’re nowhere near as sticky as the straight sugar/gelatin combo from the ATK video. As a result, you can much more easily cut and shape these marshmallows however you’d like. I went for the simple squares this go around, but I imagine I may get more inventive in future.
Honey Peanut Butter Marshmallows
NOTE: this recipe is created/meant for use with a kitchen scale, but I’ve done my best to provide approximations. You also need a good candy thermometer and a stand mixer.
- 1/2 cup water
- 150 grams honey (or 5 oz, which is like .4 of a cup – so somewhere just under half a cup)
- 400 grams sugar (1 3/4 cups), divided
- 2/3 cup water
- 2 Tablespoons powdered gelatin
- 70 grams (2 1/2 oz, 2 large) egg whites, at room temperature
- 185 grams (3/4 cup) crunchy peanut butter (not natural-style)
for the coating
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
Line a 9×13 pan with tin foil (or parchment paper) and lightly spray with cooking oil.
In a medium, heavy-based saucepan, pour in the water first. Then, add the honey. Carefully pouring into the center of the pan (’cause you don’t want crystals to form on the edges), add 345 grams (1 1/2 cups) of the sugar. Don’t stir. You can gently swirl to redistribute, but mostly you just want to let this dissolve on its own. (The ATK video is helpful in explaining how to manage this part). Insert a candy thermometer, as you’ll use this to guide your timing. Continue heating without stirring until the mixture reaches 127° C (260° F) – see below.
While the sugar syrup is heating, in a small, microwave safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 2/3 cup of cold water. Set aside for five minutes to give the gelatin time to dissolve. After five minutes stir gently to make sure all the gelatin is wet, then microwave for 30-45 seconds until all gelatin is dissolved.
When the sugar reaches around 115° C (239° F), start whisking the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer – with the whisk on medium speed. Once the egg whites are frothy (after about a minute or so), gradually add the remaining 55 grams (1/4 cup) sugar and increase the speed to medium high. Keep the mixer running on medium speed, mixing the egg whites to thick and glossy.
When the syrup reaches 127° C (260° F) on a thermometer, turn off the heat and allow the bubbles to subside.
With the mixer running on medium-high, gradually pour in the gelatin mixture in a thin, steady stream. Then, add the hot sugar syrup in the same manner.
Increase the speed to high and whisk until mixture is very thick and holds its shape – about 10-12 minutes. The outside of the bowl should be relatively cool by the time you stop beating the marshmallow mixture — close to room temperature.
While the marshmallow is whipping, put the peanut butter in a small microwave-safe bowl and heat on medium (50% power) in 15 second bursts until softened but not hot.
Reserve a few tablespoons of peanut butter, and use a large spoon or spatula to fold the rest into the marshmallow mixture. Stir and lift just 2-3 times – you don’t want to over-mix.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and gently smooth it out. Drop dollops of the remaining peanut butter on top and gently swirl with a knife.
Combine the corn starch and powdered sugar, then lightly dust the top of the marshmallows with the coating.
Allow to set for 3-4 hours.
Turn out onto a cutting board generously dusted with the corn starch/powdered sugar mix. Lightly coat a large knife with cooking spray, and cut into squares. Toss each square in powdered sugar/corn starch mixture, and knock off excess coating.
Store in an airtight container for 3-4 days (if they last that long).