Monday, May 29, 2006

Tahitian Vanilla Bean Marshmallows

After pulling a cruel prank involving a pail of writhing snails, a large handful of salt and a gaggle of crying girls, let's just say I was never given the chance to finish my education in becoming a girl scout proper - so no rose-tinted childhood stories of crackling campfires to recount here. This disgraceful lack of scouting notwithstanding, I do have a weakness for 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 While the marsh mallow in marshmallows has long since been replaced by gelatine, marshmallows - despite their cosy, toasty, nostalgic image elsewhere in the world - have always been offered by the very best confiseries and maisons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 Recchiuti Brownies

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.

S'Mores Kit

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.


Blogger Pille said...

J - I always ask for my hot chocolate 'with cream, no marshmallows'. Seems I've been all wrong in doing that!!!
The picture in the middle is just amazing - I love how you can see the vanilla beans!

5:35 am, May 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My favorite part of making marshmallows is watching the mixture get ever thicker and fluffier in the mixing bowl until it threatens to overwhelm the bowl and spill out! Wonderful job; I love how you always pair your creation with other equally delectable treats!

5:48 am, May 29, 2006  
Blogger Cathy said...

I've always been intrigued with the idea of making marshmallows from scratch, but never actually tried. Maida Heatter has a recipe at the end of her cookie book - so I'll be making them then if not before (for a change, I have several of the books you pointed to in this post!)

6:24 am, May 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi J!

I love having marshmallows on top of my hot chocolate. In fact, as i type this comment, i am halfway through my mug of hot chocolate - what a coincidence. Except....... i have no marshmallows... not this time. And i so want some of your marshmallows right now.

7:10 am, May 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Every time I come here I always feel so inadequate because the best I can come up with is "WOW". I'm rendered speechless by your photos ... and writing.

The marshmellow is just lovely!

10:09 am, May 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I soo want to make marshmallows again! The first time pb (preblog) I whipped them by hand, I still don't have a handmixer so I am loathe to make them again.... suprisingly they whipped up really well.. by hand. But yours looks wonderful and I love the ideas for what to do with them

10:43 am, May 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They look wonderful...beautiful pictures! And the s'mores kit is so cute!

Now I have to try marshmellows myself!

5:11 pm, May 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Joycelyn - what beautiful marshmallows, and all of your pictures are absolutely gorgeous. I was thinking of making them from the book as M asked me to (he can't have hot chocolate without mallows ;)) - I wasn't confident enough but you've encouraged me a little... (still, mine won't be as beautiful as yours :)) And I fell in love with your version of the S'Mores Kit - it looks so pretty! Thank you for your inspiration, as always.

6:04 pm, May 29, 2006  
Blogger Nicholas said...

Hi J!
Your marshmallows look absolutely gourgeous! There's nothing more satisfying than making your own marshmallows, as opposed to buying store bought ones. It's just not the same!

11:16 pm, May 29, 2006  
Blogger Nic said...

Nice array of marshmallow treats, J. I always have homemade marshmallows floating around my kitchen. Chocolate orange is the flavor of the month around here!

8:11 am, May 30, 2006  
Blogger Ange said...

Wow, I didnt even know you could make home made marshmellows though of course you would have to be able to thinking about it, they sound dreamy & much better than those out of the supermarket packet

1:06 pm, May 30, 2006  
Blogger Annette Tan said...

Scrummy! Especially since I'm stuck in the office at this ungodly hour :-) I'm obsessed by sweet trolleys too. The one at Le Cinq in Paris nearly made me faint with desire. I've been meaning to try making jellies, now I'm going to have to add marshmallows to my list. I can't wait for the printing to begin and I can once more find comfort in my kitchen ;-)

7:24 pm, May 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

J: Your right homemade marshmallows are the best. Upon picking up my hot chocolate over the weekend at a local hot chocolate shop I was surprised to see a big cube of mallow in my spicy concoction. Delicious. Making them at home has resulted in a huge sticky affair for me.

9:22 pm, May 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

whoops, that was my son, migi. this is stef of i didn't realize he was signed in to his account.

3:13 am, May 31, 2006  
Blogger Anne said...

Lovely, as always. I can practically smell the vanilla in those beautiful marshmallows!!

7:09 am, May 31, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

J, you always have a knack for tackling a project I've always intended to do myself, but never got around to, in this case homemade marshmallows. Somehow these lovely specimens (and the brownies they adorn) escaped my notice when I read through my copy of Chocolate Obsession, but now that I see yours I can think of nothing else! Beautifully done.

8:03 am, May 31, 2006  
Blogger Unknown said...

omigosh, I've only ever tasted marshmallows from the bag (commercial ones that is) and am now so intrigued by your homemade ones.. lovely inviting tantalizing photos!

9:43 am, May 31, 2006  
Blogger Vivilicious said...

Wow, too fabulous for words! BTW, I am off to Chicago tomorrow AM for about 10 days. Anything you want from there? Email or text me if yes. Catch you later...

10:23 pm, May 31, 2006  
Blogger la femme said...

Oh... that hot chocolate...

2:48 am, June 01, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post - even the simple marshmallow becomes high art. And the s'more kits would have kept a bunch of kids occupied last weekd around the fire, if I'd read this sooner. Thanks for the idea.

6:50 am, June 01, 2006  
Blogger Ruth Daniels said...

As always, a gorgeous post! Although this one makes me sad a little. I just used up the last vanilla bean we actually purchased in Tahiti - well Moorea, to be exact.

Whenever I use vanilla beans I think of our spectacular vacation in French Polynesia.

Thanks for the memories

2:02 am, June 02, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi J, always amazed at your blog! couldn't agree more on homemade marshmallows if only i have time to make it! :)

6:28 am, June 02, 2006  
Blogger Anna (Morsels and Musings) said...

It never even occurred to me that it was possible to make marshmallows at home. They look so elegant and the fact that they are much moister than store bought ones is inspiration enough to whip up a batch. Great idea!

12:00 pm, June 05, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi J

Those look gorgeous! Gives me an idea of what to make for my friend's wedding as wedding favours. Did you buy the Chinese takeaway box in Singapore?

7:54 pm, June 05, 2006  
Blogger Michelle said...

J - incredible! I love the do-it-yourself smores idea! That's so creative! Homemade marshmallows are definitely one of my favorite discoveries!

8:21 am, June 07, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

YUMMY! These look fantastic. I just got some specialty honey... I think I just might have to give honey marshmellows a whirl!

Stunning photos, as always!

12:08 pm, June 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marshmallows - I could eat them every day. If you come to New York, you'll have to try the City Bakery marshmallow in their hot chocolate. I love all your images here - they look gorgeous! Sadly, though, I once attempted to make those strawberry guimauves from Paris Sweets and they were a total disaster. I have no idea what went wrong (probably not the recipe since Dorie Greenspan is one of those cookbook authors who does test everything she publishes) but they were a flabby mess.

10:34 pm, June 08, 2006  
Blogger *fanny* said...

What a torture! These marshamallows look gorgeous.
Now i can only blame you for making me spend 60 euros on amazon!


4:00 pm, June 11, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely sweet treats as always!!

2:45 am, June 12, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I LOVE marshmellows - any size! I've never made them before... but am tempted to try. Marshmellows are an absolute must as a winter companion.

7:53 pm, June 12, 2006  
Blogger cucina testa rossa said...

i LOVE making marshmallows! actually i love eating marshmallows we made them every few days when i interned at the George V in Paris. and I love saying the French word: guimauve. makes me smile.

2:24 am, June 28, 2006  
Blogger Anna (Morsels and Musings) said...

hope you don't mind, but i put a link to this recipe on my blog. let me know if this is a problem.

3:36 pm, July 02, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

City Bakery Marshmallows in NYC are out of this world. Never tasted anything like 'em. They wouldn't give me the recipe so for the last 2 days, I've experimented with terrible results. Tried the Gourmet recipe that got good reviews and they were too gelatinous. Tried French Laundry recipe with less gelatin - alittle better but still horrible. I'm thinking I need to find some other brand (than Knox) gelatin cuz it smells terrible and maybe is too strong. Tried different vanillas too and that didn't help. Maybe it's the corn syrup? Today's batch didn't use egg whites and I think that was an improvement but still too gelatinous even using less gelatin than the recipe called for - and not too tasty. Ok, I'm obsessed. Any ideas?

5:10 am, September 02, 2007  
Blogger Danna said...

Same here. I've made marshmallows twice, and while they are better than Jet-Puff, they are gelatinous and spongey. I dream of City Bakery a cross between a marshmellow and divinity candy. Hmmm....

11:58 pm, October 23, 2007  

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