It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like….

Well….okay, maybe it’s not beginning to look a lot like Christmas because yes, I am a little bit late to the party, but hey, our neighbors still have up their Christmas decorations so that counts for something doesn’t it?  I just haven’t felt in the mood to write; however, the marshmallow recipes are starting to stack up and I’ve made four different varieties since my last post so here goes the first one.

Every December I make six or seven different types of cookies and confections to give to about 20 friends.  A few of the same friends get them every year, but the rest vary depending on who is in my life at the time when I make them.  It also depends on who has dietary restrictions (seems like everyone is on a diet these days).  There was the one year that I made all vegan cookies (not half bad), but that was before the gluten-free craze took over and I threw in the towel and decided that just once a year, people should eat the full fat, full everything dessert.  I don’t know if it’s just me, but food feels so ‘fussy’ these days.  Dan and I were just talking about this the other day.  If you’re not with the ‘slow food’ or ‘real food’ movement, then you’re eating on the other end of the spectrum with specialty foams and tiny pearls of food made with liquid nitrogen.  Everything is organic this or that (and yes, we totally fall into that category so I am poking fun at myself as well), but way back when before we became all modernized, wasn’t everything pure and wholesome and naturally organic?  So, now we are going back to our roots, but paying premium price for it.  It’s especially bad in Southern California.  I always laugh when my boys’ soccer teams play against boys from other parts of the country as the parents on our team always lament that our boys are so much smaller.  Um….well…when you raise your kids on quinoa, kale and sushi, things are going to look a little different….I’m just saying.  Seriously, those who know me know that this is all tongue-in-cheek, but for those who don’t, I’m definitely not trying to be controversial!  But, I digress (which you should be getting use to right about now).  Anyway, my point is, having gone full circle in the past 20 years through the cycles of being vegan and raw, I’ve come to the conclusion that what works for me is ‘real’ food. Plus, when you try to do things that are vegan or raw, you invariably always get the critic…like the time a friend made a snarky remark about a vegan birthday cake I made for my son that had a blue jello-like pool in the middle of it…as she talked over her nose to me and said, “….um, vegan?  You DO know that gelatin isn’t vegan, right?” Yes, I know that which is why I made the blue pool with agar agar.  I was tempted to tell her that I actually simmered down blueberries (organic, of course), then strained off the liquid and added that to the agar agar to get the blue color (which I didn’t, but sometimes you just want to go there with people who act all uppity….well, or at least I do).  But, I didn’t….I took the high road and said, “Oh really, horse hooves aren’t vegan?”  Just kidding.

On to the marshmallows…this year I decided to make peppermint marshmallows to include with my sack ‘o sweets for everyone.  I realize that peppermint and chocolate is something people either love or they hate.  I have one friend whose family is constantly in a debate over this….does mint enhance or ruin chocolate?  You be the judge.  Truth be told, I wanted to do this flavor because it reminds me of the holidays and because I found these awesome peppermint white chocolate bits that I wanted to try on top of the marshmallows (you can’t use actual peppermint candy because once they sit out in the air they start to liquefy and get pretty messy (and gross)…..I know this from past experiments)!  Another tip, if you are going to make these and give with other sweets, package them on their own.  I was fortunate enough that several years ago a friend was kind enough to let me know that the cookies I gave them had all been tainted by the peppermint chocolate brownies I included in that year’s gift…..everything tasted like peppermint!!  I was so glad she let me know as since then, whenever I make something with peppermint, I make sure to wrap it separately so that it doesn’t spoil everything else!! Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

As always, start by preparing a 9×13 inch pan with a 12×16 inch sheet of parchment that overhangs about 2 inches on each of the long sides of the pan.  Spray the pan generously with cooking spray, lay the parchment on top (I buy my parchment pre-cut/sized from Surface in Los Angeles, but you can purchase on Amazon or sometimes your local market may carry), and spray again with cooking spray.  Trust me, if you forget this step, you will NEVER get the marshmallows out of the pan.

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First sprinkle four packages of plain gelatin over 3/4 C. water in a large mixer to set for several minutes

Next, in a medium heavy bottomed pot, add 3 C. baking sugar, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1 1/4 C. corn 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 and keep an eye on the flame so that it doesn’t boil over.

The sugar mixture has to come to a soft ball stage on a candy thermometer (238° to be exact).  Be patient as the last couple of degrees to reach the desired temperature takes the longest!

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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:

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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. Add 1 Tbsp peppermint extract and whip until combined.  Once combined, use a spatula to scrape into your prepared 9×13 inch pan, making sure to smooth it out on the top.  The mixture will be VERY sticky.  Set pan aside for at least 3 hours (can be left overnight) for the marshmallows to set.

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While you are waiting for the marshmallows to set, chop up about 1/2C. of peppermint chunks and set aside.

Once the marshmallows are set, you are now ready to cut and roll them!

Get out a large cutting board, a sharp knife, vegetable oil spray and a large plate or pan.  Spray your knife with vegetable oil spray and keep the spray handy as you may need to reapply if your knife gets too sticky.

Dust your cutting board with powdered sugar.

Using the parchment paper, gently lift your marshmallows out of the pan and place on the powdered sugar dusted cutting board  with the parchment paper on top.  Gently remove the parchment paper. 

First cut the large marshmallow rectangle in half down the middle and then cut each half into four strips (you can really cut them any size you want).  Then cut each strip into six squares and roll in the powdered sugar you have on the separate plate or pan. Dust off each marshmallow and set on a clean baking sheet as you are now ready to drizzle and top with chocolate and peppermint chunks.

I usually melt about one cup of extra dark chocolate chips either in the microwave or on the stove in a double boiler.  You can melt more or less depending on the amount of chocolate you want to use.

You can then dip the tops of your marshmallows in the chocolate or drizzle a design on top.  While the chocolate is still wet, sprinkle peppermint chunks on some of the marshmallows.  I don’t put peppermint chunks on all of them and I also don’t dip all of the marshmallows in chocolate as some people like the straight up peppermint flavor without any chocolate.

And there you have it….Peppermint and Chocolate Marshmallows (aka The Yorkie)!

(Click here for full list of ingredients)

See you in the kitchen,

Pam

P.S. Next up…..yes, you can have your coffee and eat it too…..

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