Friday, December 24, 2010

Days of Christmas: Homemade Marshmallows and Hot Chocolate

First off, happy Christmas Eve everyone! I hope you and yours have a wonderful night tonight.

One of those things I've always wanted to try and make but never had were marshmallows. Up until recently, candy making of any type beyond my super easy fudge recipe kinda scared me. Candy sounds messy and easy to ruin, leaving you with a horribly burnt sugary mess to clean up.

Thankfully, I got over that. Making the candy favors for my sister's wedding certainly helped. A really good thermometer helps too, temperature is everything in making candy.

To go along with all the cookies I've made this year, I thought hot chocolate would be awesome. The nights are cooler, even in Southern California, and who doesn't like hot chocolate? And of course, with hot chocolate, you need marshmallows. This was my big chance to try and make my own.

Of all the candy making I've done before, marshmallows have the most hands off time. If you have a stand mixer, it does most of the work for you.

Once you get you sugar mix up to temp, it goes into a mixer for 15 minutes. And for those 15 minutes, it whips the mixture up to a stiff but fluffy consistency. And allows you 15 minutes to sit around and watch. Or blog. Whatever suits you.

Then you get the fluff into a pan to set up for a few hours, while you again, hang out, do something else.

Then you get your hands messy with the cutting up and dusting of the marshmallows, but really, there isn't much work to them at all.

And the flavor is something else, so much better than the jet puffed you get at the store.

And to go with them, I have a hot chocolate mix that not only is going out as a gift for my family, but I am serving it that day as well. I used a super intense cocoa powder for the mix, I am so excited to try it tomorrow!

Homemade Marshmallows

Taken from Epicurious

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 cup cold water, divided
3 1/4-ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil.
Coat foil lightly with nonstick spray. Pour 1/2 cup cold water into bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand until gelatin softens and absorbs water, at least 15 minutes.
Combine 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup cold water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over mediumlow heat until sugar dissolves, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush. Attach candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat and bring syrup to boil. Boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches 240°F, about 8 minutes.
With mixer running at low speed, slowly pour hot syrup into gelatin mixture in thin stream down side of bowl (avoid pouring syrup onto whisk, as it may splash). Gradually increase speed to high and beat until mixture is very thick and stiff, 12-15 minutes. Add vanilla and beat to blend, about 30-60 seconds longer.
Scrape marshmallow mixture into prepared pan. Smooth top with wet spatula. Let stand uncovered at room temperature until firm, about 4 hours. If you need to store the pans longer, cover with saran wrap sprayed with the nonstick spray to protest the still sticky top.
Stir potato starch and powdered sugar in small bowl to blend. Sift generous dusting of starch-sugar mixture onto work surface, forming rectangle slightly larger than 13x9 inches. Turn marshmallow slab out onto starch-sugar mixture; peel off foil. Sift more starch-sugar mixture over marshmallow slab. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut marshmallows into squares. Toss each in remaining starch-sugar mixture to coat, shaking off excess mixture. Store in air tight container.

Vanilla Hot Chocolate Mix

Also taken from Epicurious, but found via a blog I forgot to bookmark. :(

4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split crosswise
1 1/2 pounds high-quality semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
8 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process (I used some seriously good stuff, Valrhona, but any good cocoa will do it).

Place sugar in large bowl. Split half vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape seeds into sugar, and add pod. Work seeds in with your fingers. Cover snugly with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature. Or for a quicker version, blend sugar in food processor and slowly stream in 1/4 cup vanilla extract.
In food processor fitted with metal blade, process semisweet chocolate and milk chocolate until finely ground, using 4-second pulses. This will be very loud.(Process in two batches if necessary.)
Remove pod from sugar. Add ground chocolate and cocoa powder to sugar and whisk to blend.
Store mix airtight at room temperature for up to six months.
To serve:
For each serving, heat 8 ounces milk in small saucepan over medium heat until scalded (or microwave 2 1/2 minutes at full power). Whisk in 1/4 to 1/3 cup mix. Serve with marshmallows.

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