Vanilla Marshmallows

Ahhh, mes amis, it has finally happened.  I’ve been afflicted with a baking malaise where the thought of baking the usual cookie, cake, or brownie has become total ennui to me.  So while I wait for baking inspiration to strike again, I am passing the time making things I typically deem to be too complicated to make from scratch.  Thus, I present to you homemade Vanilla Marshmallows which are like soft, fluffy clouds.  In the process of making them I’ve learned that 1) yes, it is possible to make marshmallows at home, 2) using gelatin does not require any fancy skills, and 3) marshmallows can have actual taste and flavor (other than sugar).   Vanilla Marshmallows- FC1

Vanilla Marshmallows

(from Fine Cooking)
Makes about 95 one-inch marshmallows

Ingredients

3 ounces (3/4 cup) confectioners’ sugar
1-1/8 ounces (1/4 cup) cornstarch (see note)
Cooking spray
4  0.25 ounce packets unflavored powdered gelatin (1 small box)
2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 vanilla bean, 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract, or 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste (use high quality vanilla as it really shines through in the marshmallows)
3 large egg whites, at room temperature

Directions

  1. Sift the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch into a medium bowl.
  2. Generously coat the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking pan (preferably one with straight sides) with cooking spray. Dust it well with about 1/4 cup of the sugar-cornstarch mixture, tapping any excess back into the bowl; set aside.
  3. Put 3/4 cup cold water in a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water, and stir until lump-free. Set aside to hydrate, at least 5 minutes.
  4. Put 1/2 cup cold water, the granulated sugar, and corn syrup in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan. If using a vanilla bean, split it and scrape the seeds into the pan; add the pod, too.
  5. Stir with a heatproof spatula just to combine (try not to get any sugar on the sides of the pan), then bring to a boil over medium-high heat without stirring. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.
  6. When the syrup reaches 240°F, begin beating the egg whites in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed until soft peaks form, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn the speed down to low.
  7. At this point, the syrup should be 250°F. If so, remove the vanilla pod, increase the speed on the mixer to medium low, and carefully pour the syrup down the side of the mixer bowl. (If not, turn the mixer off until the syrup reaches temperature and turn it on before adding the syrup.)
  8. With the mixer running, break the hydrated gelatin into several pieces and add it to the bowl one piece at a time, beating until incorporated.
  9. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until the marshmallow is white, thick, and almost tripled in volume, about 6 minutes.
  10. If using vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, add it now, beating until just combined.
  11. Pour the marshmallow into the prepared pan, smoothing it into the corners with an offset metal spatula.
  12. Sift about 1/4 cup of the sugar-cornstarch mixture evenly over the top.
  13. Let set at room temperature for at least 3 hours and preferably overnight.
  14. Run the tip of a paring knife around the edge of the baking pan to loosen the marshmallow, and invert the pan onto a large, parchment-lined cutting board. Lift a corner of the pan and carefully free the corner of the marshmallow with your fingers, after which it will fall onto the board. Generously coat a sharp chef’s knife with cooking spray and cut the marshmallow into 1-inch pieces, respraying the knife as needed.
  15. Gently toss each marshmallow in the remaining confectioners’ sugar mixture to coat, shaking off the excess.

Note: Store the marshmallows in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

I skipped the traditional Thanksgiving meal this year because I was visiting family in Thailand during the holiday.  I didn’t feel like I missed out on any of the usual Thanksgiving foods, except that I had a craving for cranberries.  So, after taking a break from baking for a few weeks (ovens are not common place among the regular household in Thailand), I promptly baked a Cranberry Upside Down Cake when I returned home.  Like most upside down cakes, this Cranberry Upside Down Cake is fairly straight forward to make.  The only “special” instruction is to whip the egg whites and then fold them into the batter.  The whipped egg whites made the cake light, airy, and tender, but this extra step was more trouble than it’s worth if I wanted to just throw a cake together.  That said, this cake has a nice contrast of flavors with a rich, tender vanilla cake that’s offset by the tart and tangy cranberries immersed in a caramelized brown sugar topping.

Cranberry upside down cake-AWaters1Cranberry upside down cake-AWaters2

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

(from Alice Waters)
Makes one 9-inch cake
My notes are in [   ] below.

Ingredients

Topping

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
¾ cup brown sugar
9 ounces (2 2/3 cups) fresh cranberries [this is less than one package, and I was tempted to use the whole package, but I’m glad I didn’t because the cake probably would have overflowed the pan I was using)
¼ cup fresh orange juice

Cake

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, separated
½ cup whole milk [I used equal parts heavy cream and 2% milk]
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Topping

  1. Put the butter and brown sugar in a 9-inch round cake pan, and put it in the oven.
  2. As the sugar dissolves, stir to distribute the mixture evenly over the pan. [Make sure to watch the pan carefully because the sugar starts to cook very quickly after a certain point and can burn easily.]
  3. When the sugar starts to caramelize, remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool. [I interpreted this instruction as when the sugar has melted and starts to thicken up a little, then it’s ready to be removed from the oven.]
  4. In a small bowl, combine the cranberries and orange juice. Toss to coat the berries well.
  5. Spread the berries evenly in the pan, and sprinkle with any juice remaining in bowl. Set the pan aside, and prepare the cake batter.

Cake

  1. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter with sugar until pale, light, and fluffy.
  3. Add the vanilla, and beat in the egg yolks one at a time, scraping the bowl once or twice.
  4. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, ending with the dry ingredients. Set the batter aside.
  5. Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar just until the whites are stiff enough to hold a slight peak.
  6. Fold the egg whites into the batter, 1/3 at a time.
  7. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, and spread it evenly over the cranberries.
  8. Bake until the top is browned and the cake pulls away slightly from edges of pan, 25 to 35 minutes. [This was not nearly enough time for my cake to be completely baked, and my oven tends to run hot.  It took about 40 minutes or maybe even a few minutes more before my center was set.  Make sure to test the cake with a toothpick or cake tester.  The center should not be loose/jiggly.]
  9. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes before turning it onto a cake plate.
  10. Serve with slightly sweetened whipped cream, flavored, if desired, with orange liqueur. [I served my cake plain, and it was delicious.]