Growing up, every so often, Mom would pull out the sleeping bags, air out the pop-up tent, gather a book of matches and tell us it was time to go camping. Although the locations varied, two things were always certain: first, a variety of hijinks, shenanigans and snafus would ensue (I’m recalling a bear outside of our tent at Cliffs of the Neuse State Park when I was 13 or so, and a rather unfortunate bout of food poisoning that afflicted us all when I was around 7 or 8), and second, there would most definitely always, always be s’mores.
As summer approaches and the likelihood for camping adventures increases exponentially, I figured it was time to talk about marshmallows and, naturally, s’mores. The ideal vehicle for that holy trinity of chocolate, cookie and marshmallow, there’s surely a s’more to satisfy every palate. Today I’m sharing a recipe for homemade marshmallows naturally flavored three different ways. After flavoring the marshmallows, I’ll offer three variations for rendering them into the s’mores of your dreams.
Whether you dust off your own air mattress and pull out the portable stove or simply pop these babies in the toaster oven, one thing is certain — you’ll love them. And if some hijinks and shenanigans should occur (hopefully no snafus, though!), well then, just do as Mom, my brother and I did: Fire up another marshmallow, gaze up at the starry night sky and remember that tomorrow is another day, life is long and sugar is sweet. — Ashley English
Read the full post after the jump . . .
The component linking all s’mores is marshmallows. This recipe is adapted from Karen Solomon’s, in her stellar book Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It. Making them at home couldn’t be easier, and the cherry on top is customizing the flavor any which way you prefer. For the three s’more pairings suggestions here, I used lemon, orange and peppermint extracts, but you could easily trade any of those with your favorite flavor.
The key to making great homemade marshmallows truly lies in timing. First, you’ve got to watch the thermometer closely as the sugar syrup boils, in order to remove it from the heat right when it reaches 240ºF (115ºC). Then, it’s a waiting game as you allow the candy to firm up for at least an hour. Please note that you’ll need the following equipment for making these confections at home: a candy thermometer (or other food thermometer that reaches 240ºF), a pastry brush (or clean paint brush used only for culinary purposes) and a mixer (a stand mixer is best, as you’ll be beating continuously for about 5–9 minutes, but a hand-held mixer will work, permitted it’s a sturdy, solidly built model).
- 2/3 cup water, divided
- 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin (1/4 ounce each)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup corn syrup (I use Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Light Corn Syrup)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon flavor extract of choice*
- 3/4 to 1 cup powdered sugar, for dusting (make sure it’s sifted and as light and airy as possible)
*I used lemon, orange and peppermint, respectively, in the s’mores here, but you could also use almond, butterscotch, cherry, coconut, coffee, maple, strawberry or more. I like to use Frontier natural extracts.
1. Lightly oil an 8″ x 8″ square baking pan. Coat the insides liberally with powdered sugar. Set aside.
2. Place 1/3 cup of cold water in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the contents of the three gelatin packets over the water. Leave to soften for about 8–10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, put the other 1/3 cup of cold water, sugar, corn syrup and sea salt in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, making sure it doesn’t touch the bottom.
4. Without stirring, allow the mixture to come to 240ºF (115ºC). Dip a pastry brush in water and brush down the sides of the pan (above the level where the mixture is boiling) to wipe away any sugar crystals that may form. Once it reaches 240ºF (also known as the “soft ball stage”), remove the pan from heat.
5. Turn your mixer on a low setting. Carefully and slowly, pour the syrup over the softened gelatin and beat to incorporate.
6. Add the vanilla and flavoring extract of your choosing. Turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until the mixture turns white and becomes quite stiff. For me, that took about 6–8 minutes. The time may vary based on your mixer, but look for the mixture to turn very, very white and become fluffy, glossy, firm and super sticky, anywhere between 5 and 9 minutes.
7. Oil a spatula liberally. Use the spatula to remove the marshmallow fluff from the mixing bowl and spread it around the prepared pan.
8. Wet your hands and pat the fluff evenly around the corners. It will be very sticky, so keep wetting your hands as necessary to keep it from sticking to you.
9. Set aside to firm up for at least one hour.
10. Place the powdered sugar in a shallow bowl. Use a wet butter or other dull-bladed knife to loosen the marshmallow sheet from the pan. Turn it out of the pan onto a cutting board.
11. Using a sharp, wet knife, cut the marshmallows into 20–24 squares. Toss each square in the powdered sugar.
12. Line a lidded, airtight container with wax or parchment paper. Store the marshmallows in layers separated by the paper. Kept this way at room temperature, they’ll last around a month.
Here’s where the fun really begins. Let your imagination take hold when it comes to flavor pairings and s’more combinations. Jams, jellies, fresh fruit, chocolate spreads, chocolate bars (my friends make some truly fantastic chocolate bars, perfect for s’more building; I also love using Green & Black’s bars) — the sky is the limit. Here are three suggestions to get you started:
- Shortbread cookies
- Strawberry jam
- Fresh strawberry slices
- Hazelnut chocolate spread
- Lemon marshmallows
- Graham crackers (plain or cinnamon)
- Blueberry jam
- Orange chocolate squares
- Orange marshmallows
- Chocolate wafer cookies
- Peach jam
- Fresh peach slices
- Mint chocolate squares
- Peppermint marshmallows
What about you? Have any sensational marshmallow-filled combinations you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about them. Otherwise, I raise my toasting skewer in salute to you, and encourage you to toast lightly, live fully and eat sweetly!
Photos and styling by Jen Altman