My marshmallow odyssey started last Friday, when I attempted to make vegan marshmallows from scratch. Two very different recipes and clouds of powdered sugar later, I had nothing but marshmallow fluff on my hands (and counter, and floor, you get the idea).
I found out that there are only two vegan marshmallows on the market – one company is tight-lipped about what they use in place of gelatin, and the other is full of non-organic (and therefore GMO) corn products, so I understand now why you can’t buy them anywhere except specialty stores! There used to be a kosher, “vegetarian” gelatin on the market, but it was pulled because it was found to be both not kosher and consisted of fish bones (so definitely not vegan either!).
Not to be outdone, I was determined to make marshmallows. While I don’t personally eat gelatin products all the time, in a special treat like homemade candy (which is essentially what a marshmallow is – whipped candy) it would have to suffice.
I looked at about 30 recipes, and settled on one from MarthaStewart.com. She uses corn syrup in her recipe, and since this is the Co-op, I thought I would try using agave syrup since it can be used in the same ways as corn syrup (FYI – we do carry organic light corn syrup). There is a little controversy surrounding agave because it has a high fructose content and some companies were adding more sugar to it (which didn’t work out well for the diabetics that consumed it), but we carry 100% pure agave at the Co-op. While it is true that agave has a high fructose content, it isn’t the same as the chemically processed fructose in high-fructose corn syrup. Fructose in its natural form exists in fruits (and the agave plant) and is processed differently by your body (see this article by Princeton University). That said, any sugar should be consumed in moderation, and you can use brown rice syrup as an agave substitute.
My experience with gelatin-based marshmallows was different from the vegan experience from the start. The agave melted down into a great smelling sugar syrup (mixed with organic unrefined sugar, a pinch of salt, and some water), and the gelatin soaking brought back olfactory memories from my childhood. It was an amazing process to watch – as I slowly added the sugar syrup to the gelatin I thought I would have to settle for slightly brown marshmallows, but right before my eyes it hit the right temperature and consistency and magically turned pure white and super fluffy!
I was so excited! Now I just had to wait three hours for them to set…I made it, barely. I wanted to poke at them because they looked so fluffy and yummy, but I held it together. Once my three hours were up, I turned them out of the pan and started cutting them into bite-sized pieces – can anyone say marshmallow mountain? I ended up with so many that I couldn’t demo them all, so staff got extra samples, and I even had leftovers to bring to the party I am going to later today where I will put them to the fire-toasting test…
Vegetable oil, for brushing
4 envelopes unflavored gelatin (3T + 1 1/2t)
3 c granulated sugar
1 1/4 c agave syrup (or brown rice syrup or light corn syrup)
1/4 t salt
2 t vanilla
1 1/2 c powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/2 c water
Stand mixer with whisk attachment
- Replace vanilla extract with mint, orange, etc.
- Replace water (in which you bloom the gelatin) with fruit juice.
- Dip marshmallows in chocolate (and then roll in nuts, sprinkles, etc.).
1. Brush a 9×13” glass baking dish with oil. Line with parchment, allowing a 2 inch overhang on the long sides. Brush parchment with oil and set aside.
2. Put granulated sugar, agave syrup, salt and 3/4 water into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat and cook, without stirring, until mixture registers 238 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 9 minutes. Watch the pot to make sure it doesn’t boil over! Remove from heat
3. Meanwhile, put 3/4 cold water into the bowl of an electric mixer; sprinkle with gelatin. Let soften for 5 minutes.
4. Attach bowl with gelatin to mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. With mixer on low speed, slowly add hot syrup into gelatin mixture (being careful to avoid the whisk—it’s best to pour down the side of the bowl) and beat. Gradually raise speed to high—be mindful of splatter, as this will take about 15 minutes;
5. Beat on high until mixture is very stiff, about 12 minutes.
6. Beat in vanilla.
7. Pour into prepared dish, and smooth with an offset spatula. Set aside uncovered, until firm, about 3 hours.
8. Sift 1 c powdered sugar onto work surface. Unmold marshmallows onto sugar and remove parchment. Lightly brush a knife with oil, then cut marshmallow into 2 inch squares.
9. Sift remaining powdered sugar into a small bowl and roll each marshmallow in the sugar to coat.
Marshmallows can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks (they are best when consumed in 3 days or so).
Note: When you reach step 4, mixture will be brown—never fear, it will cool as it mixes and turn a beautiful white! Just remember that any flavor additions/substitutions to the recipe may effect the color of the final product. Another tip – use the powdered sugar liberally when cutting the marshmallows – I spread out a couple large sheets of parchment paper on the counter and covered it with powdered sugar, then as I was cutting them I would sift more on top because it made the knife stick less.