Maple Bacon Marshmallows & Maple Pecan Marshmallows
One of our favorite family vacations is the infamous road trip. You know, the one where you each live out of only one suitcase because that’s all that will fit in the trunk of your Toyota Camry (Hybrid, of course). The one where your two boys are squashed in the back seat with their pillows and backpacks filled with non-tech amusement purchased specifically for the trip (i.e. Yes and No Books, Travel Checkers, Mad Libs)….ah….at least I am always hopeful. I am not talking a measly 6 or 8 hour road trip from San Diego to San Francisco….after all, we’ve been doing that haul every year for the past 10 years. We have even figured out that if you leave at 6am, you can make it to San Francisco and be standing in line by 1:30pm at one of your favorite restaurants. Ours, on that particular trip was Bangkok Thai Noodle Express. OMG, this place was to die for. Notice how I said, was? Sadly, during our trip to S.F. last year we discovered with much despair that the restaurant had closed its doors. Poor Dylan’s face was crushed….he was dreaming of their mouth watering flat noodles. In fact, that trip last year was sad for the whole family as we noticed several of the iconic hole in the wall restaurants we use to haunt were now being replaced by upscale hipster joints with fusion cuisine….Korean tacos, Indian burritos…you get the gist. I think I actually shed a tear on the cable car as we passed by the corner where our favorite pot-sticker restaurant, U-Lee, stood for over 25 years. They were famous for their fist-sized pot-stickers…this place was tiny and was a classic family-run Chinese restaurant. I had a particular fondness for this place as my grandparents owned and operated the first Chinese restaurant in Rancho Cucamonga called Jongs. And, prior to that, my Mom tells me stories of their first diner called Cupid’s Diner and my Dad tells of his Mom’s food stall in Grand Central Market (although, everyone says she was a horrible cook….perhaps that’s why she ended up owning a small corner grocery store with an apartment on top). At any rate, I have a particular soft-spot for small family-run Chinese joints. Thank goodness my husband was inspired by U-Lee and now makes fist-size pot-stickers that rival U-Lee. If that isn’t true love, I don’t know what is. Some women want diamonds, I’m easy, just make me great food and game over. That’s how Dan won my heart (well, that and his hilarious twisted sense of humor and of course, his dashing good looks). Oy….I’ve digressed again!
As I was saying, the road trip! On every road trip we like to find a theme food that we search for ‘the best of.’ The Summer we drove from San Diego to Zion (hiked the Narrows and stayed at a Buffalo cabin…highly recommend) to Park City, Utah and McCall in Idaho, to Flat Head Lake, Montana and then down to Jacksonhole, Wyoming; Camus, Utah; and finally the Grand Canyon all the while in search of the perfect beef jerky (preferably without nitrates). The funny thing about this is that my husband and I don’t even eat beef! However, the boys love it and hence, we ended up with piles of the stuff in our car that Summer.
I know, I know….where the heck does the maple and bacon come in? Be patient, I’m getting there. The last road trip we took we drove from San Diego to Vancouver. Yes, as in CANADA! Can you guess what we decided to search for? Wait for it…the perfect DOUGHNUT!! Come on, you have to admit it….doughnuts are amazing! There is something about a doughnut that turns even the most serious adult into a child. At one of my former biotech employers they would bring in VG Donuts every Friday. It was hilarious to watch the MDs and PhDs get to work early to scoop up their favorite one (or two) and smile giddily (is that a word?) like school children with a funny secret. Just the idea that something as simple as a doughnut can illicit that type of joy is why I love creating food for others. Life is just too short and there is so much stress and angst in the world today, that if for one small moment you can breathe and smile about something, well, I think that’s worth exploring! (By the way, if you are confused whether they are donuts or doughnuts, there is an on-going debate about the proper spelling. Here is one explanation).
After doing much research on donut shops in the various cities we were visiting, we decided to try Blue Star Donuts in Portland, Top Pot Doughnuts in Seattle and Voodoo Doughnut Tres in Eugene (the Tres part is because there are three Voodoo Doughnut shops throughout Oregon). While our personal favorite was Top Pot Doughnuts because they weren’t too sweet, were incredibly fresh, and had original and traditional flavors (Blue Star was delicious, but a little too fancy for us….I want my doughnut to act like a doughnut, not act like a doughnut that wants to be a French pastry), the most fun was Voodoo Doughnuts Tres. Voodoo Doughnuts was the first place that I saw a MAPLE AND BACON DOUGHNUT! This was several years ago before the bacon craze really took hold and that’s why it stood out to me. Now, I’m not saying they invented it, I don’t know the history behind that, all I’m saying is it’s the first place I ever saw it and it just made sense. You know, we look for maple bacon in the stores, whenever you eat pancakes and bacon, the maple syrup from the pancakes seeps off the short-stack onto the rest of the plate and mingles with your bacon creating a tantalizing taste sensation of sweet and salty. At any rate, I was sold and hence, now you know why I wanted to try making a maple and bacon marshmallow. I do admit, I was a little nervous that if they tasted horrible I’d have an entire batch that would go uneaten, so, I decided to make half of the batch maple pecan (sorry, Mom, I know you mentioned walnuts, but all I had at home were pecans)!
Onto the recipe: HALF BATCH MAPLE BACON/HALF BATCH MAPLE PECAN
As always, start by spraying a 9×13 inch pan with cooking spray and line with a 12×16 inch sheet of parchment that overhangs about 2 inches on each of the long sides of the pan. Then, spray the parchment with cooking spray, too.
First sprinkle four packages of plain gelatin over 3/4 C. water in a large mixer to set for several minutes.
This time I knew I wanted to substitute maple syrup for the corn syrup so, in a medium heavy bottomed pot, add 3 C. baking sugar, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1 1/4 C. maple syrup (I use 100% pure maple syrup) and 3/4 C water. Mix everything together well and then place over a medium-high heat with a candy thermometer attached to the side of your pot. Make sure that your thermometer does NOT touch the bottom of the pot.
The sugar mixture has to come to a soft ball stage on a candy thermometer (238° to be exact). Be patient as if you take it off the flame too early, your marshmallows won’t set up and if you take it off too late, your marshmallows will be too stiff. Keep your eye on the mixture as when it comes to a boil it does tend to boil up and if you don’t turn down the flame, you will have the biggest mess on your stove that will harden quickly and you’ll be cursing me until the end of time. The last couple of degrees to reach the desired temperature takes the longest!
Once the sugar syrup has reached the soft ball stage, add to gelatin mixture and let your mixer rip. In no time you go from this:
To this (about 12 minutes):
Make sure your mixture isn’t too soft…you really can’t overbeat it, so when in doubt, BEAT IT SOME MORE. Once the mixture is stiff enough, add 2 tsp. maple extract and whip until combined.
If you just want to make a whole batch of maple pecan marshmallows, then spread the entire mixture into your prepared pan. However, since this time I wanted to make 1/2 batch of maple pecan and 1/2 batch of maple bacon, I only spread half the mixture into what I estimated to be 1/2 of the prepared pan using a pastry scraper to help keep the marshmallows from spreading throughout the whole pan.
Mix 1 Cup of bacon into the remaining mixture (I used a combination of Oscar Mayer Real Bacon Pieces and Hormel Real Bacon Bits).
Once combined, spread the mixture into the other half of the prepared pan and let set for at least 3 hours.
While the marshmallows are setting up, toast about 1 Cup of pecan halves (I do this on the stovetop as it’s much easier for me to keep an eye on).
Chop the pecans and spread onto a large plate.
Once the marshmallows are set, carefully turn onto a cutting board that has been lightly dusted with powdered sugar (to prevent sticking) and gently peel off the parchment paper. Then dust the top of the marshmallows lightly with powdered sugar.
Oil a large knife with vegetable oil or spray with cooking spray and cut the plain maple marshmallows into long strips, setting each strip on the plate with the pecans.
Roll the strips in the pecans and then cut each strip into 6 pieces and roll each piece in the pecans.
With the remaining maple bacon marshmallows, cut into strips, cut each strip into 6 pieces and roll in powdered sugar. Since I wanted to add a little extra something, I also made a quick maple drizzle from maple syrup and powdered sugar and drizzled it back and forth over the marshmallows. I didn’t measure the maple syrup or powdered sugar as you can do it to your preference in consistency and flavor.
To top them off, the other day as I was literally running through Michaels, I saw these fun candy maple leaves and thought they’d be a perfect adornment for my marshmallows.
And there you have it, Maple Pecan and Maple Bacon Marshmallows!!
(Click here for a full list of ingredients)
See you in the kitchen,
Chief Marshmallow Officer (CMO)
P.S. Hm….it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….so many flavor combinations this time of year….what will the next one be???