How to Make Marshmallows: Tips for Beginners
Over the past year and a half, I've become a little obsessed with marshmallows. I firmly believe that they are the cutest dessert ever. Am I right, or am I right?
I had no idea how to make marshmallows, and was very intimidated by the process the first time I read a recipe. Anything that calls for a candy thermometer just makes me want to throw up my hands in defeat before I've even started--too much trouble, too much room for error, too much science. But as it turns out, marshmallows are very easy to make, and very forgiving.
How to Make Marshmallows
There are a few tips for how to make marshmallows that I wish I'd known my first time out. Lucky you, I've done a lot of experimenting, so armed with this list, you'll be a pro before you even begin.
First, here are the basic steps for making marshmallows:
- Mix gelatin with water, set aside.
- Over the stovetop, melt sugar/corn syrup with water, then heat to 240 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Pour sugar mixture into the bowl with gelatin and beat until the batter is thick. Pour into a pan and let sit for 6 hours.
- Dust with powdered sugar and slice 'em up!
Recipes vary a little, but that's more or less all there is to it.
Check out this recipe for Emily's Famous Marshmallows.
Tips For Making Marshmallows
You don't have to use corn syrup
Many recipes call for sugar and corn syrup, but if you don't want to use corn syrup, you can just use 2 cups of sugar and call it good. I've tried both ways, and notice absolutely no difference in the taste. The one difference I have noticed is that the all-sugar ones tend to dry out a bit faster, so just be sure to get them in a resealable plastic bag after you slice them.
It's not an exact science
Can I tell you a secret? I still have yet to buy a legit candy thermometer. I've been using the thermometer from my home espresso machine's steaming pitcher, which doesn't even go to 240 degrees Fahrenheit. It only goes to 220 degrees, so I just kinda guess. I tell you this to reassure you that you will not ruin a batch of marshmallow batter if you take your sugar mixture off the stove at 238 degrees. There is definitely some wiggle room, so do not let this part of the recipe intimidate you like it did me for so long.
Melt the sugar, then crank the heat
When you're heating the sugar with the water on the stove top, you could technically get the temperature up to 240 degrees pretty quickly, but it's important to keep it at medium heat until sugar melts completely before you increase the heat and pour everything with the gelatin. I've noticed that the better job I do of getting sugar all good and melted, the fluffier my mallows turn out.
Beating the batter--getting the right consistency
First off, just know that even if you don't achieve the ideal consistency, your marshmallows will still turn out great. But here's what you should be looking for to get the best results: When you stop the beaters and lift them up, batter dripping from the beaters should melt back into the batter somewhat slowly (it should take a least a few seconds). If it sinks back in immediately, keep beating.
Here's another secret: the only time I've ever screwed up making marshmallows was when I over-beat the batter. We're not after meringue-like "stiff peaks," here. That's a wee bit too much, and you might have a giant bowl-shaped marshmallow on your hands like I did. The best way I've come up to describe the perfect consistency is to imagine pourable taffy. That's the sweet spot! ( Also, be aware that standing mixers take much less time to beat the batter than hand beaters.)
Using food coloring
I like adding food coloring sometimes -- it's a little more festive. But here's a couple things to know: Always add food coloring in during the last couple minutes of beating. If you add it to the sugar water, then beat it in, the color will end up being quite a bit lighter after the beating process. Adding it at the end lets you get exactly the color you want.
Also, the more food coloring you add, the heavier the batter becomes, and it tends to lose a bit of its oomph, becoming a little less fluffy, but still quite tasty.
Getting Super Fancy
Are you ready for next-level mallow-ing? My Valentinemallows are dipped in chocolate and feature a little heart motif. They're easy to make, but look so sweet!
How to Store Marshmallows
Put marshmallows in a resealable plastic bag right after you cut them up and dust with powdered sugar, or they can get dried out. If you dip them in chocolate, I recommend keeping them in the fridge or freezer to keep the chocolate really hard.
If you're storing them for more than a couple days, I recommend putting them in the freezer--I've kept some in there for weeks, and they were still fantastic. Marshmallows are sort of like alcohol in that they don't actually freeze, they just get really cold (and really delicious, if you ask me!)