Friday, January 27, 2006

Marshmallows

I was warned in August, that when cold weather rolled around it would be time for me to make marshmallows. I am not sure how I was supposed to use the advanced warning, or if Amy was just tired of the sunshine and daydreaming winter dreams. Soon enough, the grey days came, and shortly there after, the cold. Thus began my journey into marshmallows.

Amy brought me 3 recipes, one for standard white marshmallows, one for chocolate marshmallows, and one for old fashioned marshmallows. The old fashioned marshmallows stood out from the other recipes by calling for an ingredient I had never heard of.... marshmallow root.

Marshmallow root is the root of the Althea officinalis plant. The name is derived from the greek" Althe" which means, "to heal" referring to the plants medicinal value. Althea grows predominately in salt marshes, in damp meadows, by the sea, and on the banks of tidal rivers giving the plant it's common name, "Marshmallow". Tiny purple and white flowers cover the plant, and the young green leaves are said to be eaten in salads in France. During times of famine, the root was found to provide ample nourishment, and was considered a delicacy by the Romans. Even through the time of Charlemagne, marshmallow was cultivated for human consumption.

The plant is regarded as an herbal remedy to soothe sore throats and used as an expectorant for upper respiratory problems. In 19th century America, a throat lozenge made from whipped extract of the marshmallow root, sugar, and egg whites was given to children who suffered from chest colds. The flavor took on popularity and evolved from a hardened lozenge to the fluffy candy we know today. The binding properties of the marshmallow root were exchanged for those of gelatin, and the candy became sweeter, softer, fluffier, bearing little resemblance other than a name to the original.

While marshmallow root is readily available in capsule and liquid form, I chose to use a "modern" recipe which favors corn syrup and gelatin. The first recipe I made is representative of almost all recipes I have found. The sugar and corn syrup are boiled to 240 degrees, then whipped with gelatin for 15 minutes as high as your mixer goes. The resulting goop is spread on a greased, foil lined pan and let to set and dry out for a day or two.

I was quite pleased with the results until I tasted a marshmallow confection made by 3400 Phinney's chocolatier, Amber. I told her that her marshmallow was much fluffier than mine. She thought for a second, and rather than just accept the compliment, she ventured a question, "Do you use egg whites in yours?"

"No. I didn't know you could use egg whites!" I said.

"Oh," Amber said, "if you use egg whites, you get that melt-in-your-mouth texture."

Armed with this hot tip, I began to look for recipes using egg whites. It appeared easy, just whip egg whites and add the gelatin/sugar syrup after the whites have formed peaks. Just like an Italian meringue.

This method worked well. The texture is incredible light, melt in your mouth. I thought I was a genius, I must admit. But then I attempted to use them in a dessert I have on the menu. The dessert is a Millefuille of toasted marshmallow and chocolate cream with salted peanut ice cream. I got everything ready, toasted the marshmallow, and stacked it between layers of caramelized phyllo. Right before my eyes, they dessert collapsed, and the entire marshmallow spilled out the sides. Apparently, this method didn't hold up to heat well. In fact, it had completely liquefied, along with my "stay puffed" ego


I'll have to find out why, because logically, you can torch a meringue, and you can torch a marshmallow. So why cant you torch a marshmallow with a meringue base? There are many factors to play with, including, dare I say it..... human error?!?

While this dessert will be rotated off the menu shortly, a hot cocoa with home made marshmallows will remain as long as the cold rainy days create a longing for the warm beverage. Seattle's long rainy season should give me months more to perfect a marshmallow recipe.

11 Comments:

Blogger Blue said...

Hey Dana!
I've never commented here before but I do check in regularly. Having a blog myself I know you are probably curious about who is reading your blog so I felt I should leave a comment sometime. I have worked in restaurants a good bit but have never worked in pastry, though I do love it. So reading about your pastry days is fun for me. I hope you don't mind but I put a link to your blog on mine with other food blogs I like. If you object I will remove it.

January 31, 2006 7:06 PM  
Blogger Mona said...

Wow, what a great post about marshmallows. I learned something new today! Actually quite a few things :)
You're right, tis the season for warm marshmallows. You're inspiring me to try it for myself.

February 01, 2006 12:05 PM  
Anonymous Nicky said...

Dear Dana,
Like Mona mentioned above, what I really like about your blog - every time I visit, I learn something new :) And thank you for your sweet mentioning of deliciousdays in the previous post. To me, this is one of the sweetest compliments on our blog!!

February 02, 2006 9:55 AM  
Blogger Mouser said...

In Germany marshmallows are called "Mäusespeck" which translates to "mouse bacon" in english. I guess we always knew the Germans were strange!

February 07, 2006 7:44 AM  
Blogger Cycling Soup said...

Great article and picture in the Seattle PI!!! Good job!

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/food/259810_rest17.html

February 17, 2006 3:19 PM  
Blogger pete said...

commercial marshmallows are usually coated in cornflour. especially if cut into smaller pieces and coated I would guess this might help prevent the outside of the marshmallow from melting.

March 22, 2007 8:35 PM  
Anonymous Marleny said...

Hello!
I came to this blog through "dogpile" as I am looking for an old fashion marshmallow recipe(with marshmallow root) but can't seem to find it. Would you be kind to post the one you have,if possible? I would really appreciate it!
Thanks!
Marleny

March 25, 2007 4:19 PM  
Blogger stephanie said...

Hey,
I would also like to see the recipe containing marshmallow root. Do you know about any vegetarian alternatives to gelatin? I've been reading that agar and the like don't work, and I just thought you might have some experience.
Thank You

June 05, 2007 6:39 PM  
Blogger Patricia said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

November 23, 2007 9:11 PM  
Blogger Patricia said...

I too have been looking for a marshmallow recipe using mallow root. I would appreciate if you would post it. That said, I just came across a homemade recipe for graham crackers if you're interested. See bakingsheet.blogspot.com.

November 23, 2007 9:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found a recipe for marshmallows using Marshmallow root at the following site. It uses Egg Whites however so would not be Vegan.

http://www.hungrybrowser.com/phaedrus/m010702.htm

Marshmallows Treats

Make your children a natural treat without all the chemicals, coloring
and preservatives which make our children hyperactive.

2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup raw cane sugar
1 tbsp powdered Marshmallow (root)

Whip egg whites until almost stiff. Add vanilla and whip until stiff.
Then whip in the sugar, 1 tsp at the time. Finally, add Marshmallow and
whip again. Place by teaspoonfull on cookie sheet. Bake in 325 oven
for 1 hour.

April 15, 2008 3:54 PM  

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