Tahitian Vanilla Bean Marshmallows
Remember the very first time you successfully baked a loaf of bread, sheeted a batch of puff pastry, or rolled your own pasta? The thrill of making marshmallows is of the same magnitude - somehow, attempting that which one hitherto picked up from the shop aisles rather than looked up recipes for is a surefire formula for feeling quite, to borrow Robert May's immortal words, the accomplisht cook. Until recently, I never thought of these sugary puffs of lightness as the sort of thing to make at home. And when I did, I thought to myself, "What were you waiting for?" Then again, I dream of candy trollies.
Simply based on the fact that they're astoundingly easy to make and always a crowd pleaser, marshmallows should already have scored major brownie points with the home baker. But that's not all. They are tenderer, moister, and more delicate than the store-bought variety. You are now also no longer confined to a choice of say tartrazine or E133 where "flavours" are concerned. The Tahitian Vanilla Bean Marshmallow recipe is from Michael Recchiuti & Fran Gage's Chocolate Obsession. But classic vanilla aside, there's a wealth of options to explore. I'm keen to experiment with different honeys (there's a honey marshmallow recipe from Nancy Baggett's The All-American Dessert Book), exotic spice blends (check out the five-spice marshmallows from Flo Braker's Sweet Miniatures), and an orchard's worth of fruit purees (try the recipe for fresh strawberry and orange flower water marshmallows adapted from Ladurée in Dorie Greenspan's Paris Sweets). And speaking of Paris, doesn't guimauve sound that much more chic? While the marsh mallow in marshmallows has long since been replaced by gelatine, marshmallows - despite their cosy, toasty, nostalgic image elsewhere in the world - have always been offered by the very best confiseries and maisons de gastronomie as coyly coiled laniards in heavy glass apothecary jars, ceremoniously lifted out with silver tongs and cut to order. As for that indulgent conceit otherwise known as the candy trolley, guimauve is virtually ubiquitous at the city's most Michelin-starred establishments as part of the sweet, bite-sized and post-dessert dessert offering.
Aside from munching the marshmallows neat, there're quite a few neat things to do with them.
Rocky road goes uptown what with the use of good chocolate, Tahitian vanilla bean marshmallows, and Michael Recchiuti's signature fudge brownie base - very fudgy, very chocolatey, and very habit-forming. In fact, I would go so far as to say this confection alone is reason enough to whip up a batch of marshmallows. The marshmallow topping, which goes all golden, crisp and chewy in the oven, and the walnuts (pecans also work really well) afford scrumptious contrast to the fudginess of it all, while morsels of chopped chocolate amp up the gooey quotient. W really approves of these - that, I can promise you thanks to many other not-so-warmly-received recipes I've tried and consequently had to finish all by myself, is the ultimate seal of brownie quality assurance. Recipe also to be found in the lovely Chocolate Obsession.The recipe makes at least 40 marshmallows - all the better to think of what other treats to use them in...
Pierre Hermé's Spiced Hot Chocolate
Wouldn't you come up with every possible excuse to drink hot chocolate at every conceivable moment if you had marshmallows lying around? - I did. The vanilla bean marshmallows are a perfect topping for the spiced hot chocolate recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé, infused as it is with cinnamon, vanilla, honey and citrus zest.
This picture was taken a few months ago, when I offered to make some party favours for a good friend's celebration of her little girl's birthday. For some reason, I seem to have misplaced the picture of the DIY kit's contents - homemade graham crackers and marshmallows, as well as squares of bittersweet chocolate. Anyways, the idea was inspired by this box of fun from Recchiuti Confections, and happily, seeing as it was a poolside barbeque, kids and adults seemed equally entertained by assembling their own S'mores.