preparing for the cold: homemade marshmallows

5136997522_e3d73510d4_b-3 Some people chop down firewood in preparation for the long cold months of winter, others make a batch of vanilla marshmallows to store through those tough, bitter months indoors.  Our journey began in a unique place, not the kitchen.

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Before the older girls and I could learn marshmallows from the master herself, we were finally able to explore our friends' acres of land and beautiful, quiet life near the mountain.

In the stillness of the forest, there stood their home in the middle of it all.  Oh, it is everything I long to have someday for my family. They even have a goose names Buddy, a stream, and an old outhouse on their property.

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(I loved this--a bird bath my friend made with her children when they were young.)

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After the tour, we were down to business.  How does she make puffy, dreamy, flavored marshmallows that melt perfectly in hot cocoa?

Homemade Vanilla Marshmallows

Makes sixteen 2-inch squares

  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 4 packages (1/4 ounce each) unflavored gelatin
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons yellow food coloring

(Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart's Candy-Cane Marshmallows)

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1.  Coat an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray; line bottom with parchment paper. Coat the parchment with cooking spray, and set pan aside. Put sugar, corn syrup, and 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring; let mixture come to a boil. Raise heat to medium-high; cook until mixture registers 260 degrees on a candy thermometer.

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2.  Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over 3/4 cup water in a heatproof bowl; let stand 5 minutes to soften. Set the bowl with the gelatin mixture over a pan of simmering water; whisk constantly until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat, and stir in extract; set aside.

3. Beat egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Whisk gelatin mixture into sugar mixture; with mixer running, gradually add to egg whites. Mix on high speed until very thick, 12 to 15 minutes.

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Pour mixture into lined pan. Working quickly, drop dots of yellow food coloring across surface of marshmallow. Using a toothpick, swirl food coloring into marshmallow to create a marbleized effect. Let marshmallow stand, uncovered, at room temperature until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight. Cut into squares.

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There is a bit of marshmallow heaven for you.  All in one pan.  I can tell you, if you don't care for store bought marshmallows,  making them from scratch and adding a flavoring, is like a totally different experience. My friend makes peppermint, vanilla, almond, and orange flavored marshmallows.  Each variety adds a bit of flavor to your cocoa as they melt.

My personal flavor, by far, is the vanilla.

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Stored and ready for us and neighbors.  It really is a wonderful gift idea.  Last night we gathered a handful, bagged it ever so fancy with Caroline's handwritten note--"This is Marshmallows"--and took it to a neighbor we've never met before.

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What about you?  Do you have any winter recipes that, once wrapped, can double as gifts?