Peppermint Crunch Marshmallows: I'm stuck on you

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Have you ever made homemade marshmallows?

I hadn’t, until recently. With the holidays coming up, I decided to try our new recipe for Peppermint Crunch Marshmallows.

Coincidentally, a reporter had called from our local newspaper, wanting to interview me about holiday baking. Could she come over and watch me bake? And bring a photographer?

Sure.

You know how they say, “Don’t make a dish for a dinner party unless you’ve tried it out first?” The addendum to that is, “Don’t make a recipe when there’s a newspaper reporter and photographer watching and taking notes – unless you’ve tried it first and experienced firsthand everything that can go wrong. Because, with an audience, it surely will.”

For the gory (make that sticky) details, read on.

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The process started out OK. The first thing to do (since you won’t have time to deal with it once you’re in the sticky midst of marshmallow-making) – is crack up enough hard peppermint candies or candy canes to make 1/2 cup of crunchy peppermint shards.

Easier route – use 1/2 cup (about 2 3/4 ounces) of our prepared peppermint crunch. I took the easier route. Pour candy into a measuring cup for the camera? I can do that.

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Combine 3 packages unflavored gelatin (3/4 ounce total) with 1/2 cup cold water in the bowl of your stand mixer, or a large mixing bowl. Set the bowl aside for now. (Man, she’s smooooth…)

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Combine the following in a medium-sized, deep saucepan:

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold water

Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 238°F to 240°F (soft ball stage) on a digital or candy thermometer. Thankfully, this didn’t take long; the photographer quickly tired of watching syrup boil.

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With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the softened gelatin. The mixture will become foamy.

Increase the speed to high, and whip until the mixture is very thick and fluffy and has cooled to lukewarm, 8 to 10 minutes.

When the marshmallow is fully whipped, add the peppermint crunch and 5 or so drops of red gel paste food color. Mix just until you can see swirls of red and white. If you use regular food color, add it, about 1/4 teaspoon at a time, until the marshmallows are the color you like.

OK, we’re going to call a halt to the proceedings right here.

This had all been pretty straightforward so far, but I made one BIG goof: I let the marshmallow whip too long. I followed the recipe directions’ “8 to 10 minutes,” but before 8 minutes had passed the marshmallow had already worked itself into a stiff ball inside the tines of the whisk.

“That’s OK,” I thought. “I’ll just use a spatula to scrape what’s in the whisk back into the bowl.”

I added the crunch and the color, whisked very briefly to swirl both into the marshmallow, then stopped the mixer. Time to deal with that big white wad in the whisk.

But when I used my spatula to try to scrape it out, nothing happened; it was, quite simply, a solid mass of marshmallow inside a wire cage.

Becoming a bit uncomfortable with this sticky conundrum (remember the reporter and photographer?), I thought I’d wet my fingers and poke/nudge the goo through the whisk.

No dice. I ended up with two VERY messy hands – beyond messy, actually, and into goop-encased. And at least one of those hands was supposed to be wielding the iPhone, taking photos for this blog. Now, that was definitely NOT happening.

The photographer and reporter looked at me quizzically. I could see the wheels turning. “Uh, is it SUPPOSED to look like that? Does she really know what she’s doing…?”

Babbling rather hysterically, I nudged the cold water tap on with an elbow, and started vigorously rinsing my hands – sending a good portion of marshmallow down the drain instead of into the mixing bowl where it belonged.

Continuing to plow forward (before the entire bowl of fluff turned into SpongeBob), I gave up on the whisk, and grabbed a spatula.

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Well OK, that worked. It was still ultra-sticky and stiff, but I managed to combine everything in an attractive (relatively speaking) marbled swirl.

I scooped the marshmallow into a greased, parchment-lined 9″ x 13″ pan, and smoothed it as flat as possible.

I won’t even show you what that looked like; picture a rough pink sea. The photographer raised her camera, hesitated, then lowered it, sympathy in her eyes.

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Well, thank goodness for confectioners’ sugar. I managed to cover most of my world of sins beneath a blizzard of white, and thankfully set the pan on the counter.

“Can you cut a piece for a picture?” asked the photographer.

ARRGGGGHHH… Wanting to be obliging, I tried. Lord knows, I tried.

Using a plastic (supposedly non-stick) knife, I sawed out one small square from the corner of the pan. Stiff enough to resist the knife, yet not stiff enough to hold its shape, I finally used a spoon to scoop out this… pink blob.

The photographer, perhaps feeling sorry for me in my obvious hour of need, took a photo; but I’m sure it went into the digital trash can as soon as she’d escaped out the door.

“What a mess” doesn’t begin to describe this whole experience. I sighed, and set the pan aside. Bid the reporter and photographer adieu, wondering if the holiday baking article would still happen. “Holiday baking disasters,” maybe?

A few hours later I came back to the marshmallows, and decided to try to salvage something out of this unfortunate situation.

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I greased a metal-bladed bench knife and… By golly, it worked OK. In fact, it was more than OK. I was able to cut several rows of nice, even marshmallows.

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And, surprise – I got them out of the pan intact.

Now admittedly, these are supposed to be cubes, not flattened rectangles. Their thickness is a direct result of SO much marshmallow being lost to “stuckage” – in the whisk, in the bowl, on my hands.

Still, these marshmallows are strikingly pretty – and yummy, too. I don’t particularly like peppermint, but these are nicely minty; for those of you who don’t love strong mint flavor, omit the optional peppermint oil called for in the recipe.

You have to admit, despite all the trials and tribulations I went through to get to the end of the story here – these peppermint crunch marshmallows are undoubtedly “pretty in pink.”

I emailed this photo to the photographer – maybe she’ll take pity on me and use it!

Read, make, and review (please) our recipe for Peppermint Crunch Marshmallows.

Print just the recipe.

 

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Elizabeth Hancarik

    I nearly cried laughing. It’s so nice to hear someone baking with a sense of humor. Better luck next time. I look forward to your next blog post.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Thanks, Elizabeth – the chicken and dumplings I’ve been working on isn’t nearly as sticky! PJH

  2. Marcia Campbell

    You’re funny! But it looks pretty good to me in spite of your troubles. Years ago I had a bad disaster at a dinner with lots of company….but we all had a good laugh when I showed them how it was supposed to look…opposed to how it DID look!!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      It never hurts to admit your mistakes and laugh about them, does it, Marcia? We’ve all been there; why pretend otherwise? PJH

  3. Maureen Tracey

    PJ, that was ever so entertaining!!! LOL!! Sometimes things we bake/make, just become SO DEFIANT & OBSTINANT for NO GOOD REASON!!! LOL ( a couple of days before Thanksgiving, one particular day, everything “TURNED” AGAINST ME!!!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Bad karma days Maureen, right? The planets aren’t aligned, or something… I hope your Thanksgiving pies didn’t turn against you! :) PJH

  4. BeckyInGSO

    When I saw the picture initially, I though, “Ooooooh! Cherry!” Hmm. I’ve got some leftover fruitcake cherries, tweak here, tweak there. Maybe with cherries, not peppermint. What do you think?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      1/2 cup chopped fine and the dried cherries should work! Happy Baking, er, marshmallowing! Irene@KAF

  5. marianne

    I’ve made marshmallows a few times–the first time they were spectacular and perfect. Once they never properly fluffed up and they came out flat and gummy instead of fluffy. Once I tried pouring the marshmallow over the crushed peppermints, but the marshmallow dissolved the candies and so they were all syrupy and sticky! I’ve seen where people scoop it out into cute little dollops rather than pouring it into a pan to set up, but I have no idea how exactly they can do that without it solidifying partway through!

    Worth it to keep trying though! Homemade marshmallows are delicious!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      There’s a lot of magic at work here, including using some gelatin but not too much – the right temperature for the syrup – and whipping with a stand mixer. Sounds like you have a goal in mind for the holidays or even to accomplish in 2014. Melt in your mouth treats will be worth the effort – Irene@KAF

  6. waikikirie

    PJ….you are great!!! Secure enough that you can share your goofs with us non-pros and make us feel better. That is one of the many reasons I love this blog.

    Reply
  7. Kim Knemeyer

    I see you were using the 11-wire whip. Bet you’ll never forget how much faster it works after this fiasco! Oh and the saying about never try a recipe for a dinner party until you’ve tried it first? I never learn that lesson. As much as you were sweating while it was happening, you know you’ll always get a chuckle thinking back on it.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Kim, you’re absolutely right – I didn’t even think of that. Thanks SO much for pointing that out… now I know what the disconnect was between what I was doing, and the recipe. I’m going to try a plain vanilla version of these and will cut back on the time. Thanks again – PJH

  8. Sue Conrad

    I know you’ve had lots of in-front-of-the-camera time over the years………..but this marshmallow caper was beyond brave!!! I think I’d have dropped to the floor and slunk out on my stomach!! As has been said, though, nothing ventured, nothing gained!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sue, I’m beyond chagrin – let the chips (and cocoa, flour and, yes, sticky marshmallow) fall where they may! :) PJH

  9. Dean

    Did you ever see the finished article and photo (or lack thereof)? Or if the reporter was kind in their telling of the story? It would be great if there was a link to it online.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Haven’t seen it yet, Dean – but the reporter emailed me the other day looking for recipe links, so I assume it’s still on track. We shall see – I’ll post a link to it when/if it appears. Thanks for your interest – PJH

  10. AnneMarie

    Something I’ve come across over the years of making marshies …

    dryness COUNTS. It can help or hinder. Sugar, being hydroscopic, will be your worst enemy if you are in a humid house/kitchen. Marshmallows never want to set up (nor toffee, or egg white cookies/cakes) if it is humid. I save all that for the joys of a dry winter house.

    For marshmallow dollups, I sprayed the inside of a large piping bag with cooking spray, lightly and squeezed. As it started to set up, my son would cut the mallow from the tube end like a giant pasta extruder.

    The 22 tine whisk will whip the whole mess together so quickly, you don’t dare walk away!

    Chocolate dipped marshmallows benefit from a 24 hour curing time before dipping. In a dry location of course!

    Reply
  11. AnneMarie

    I forgot. Gelatin come in all qualities. I have found the BIG name brand in the orange box that starts with a K to be too “gamey” smelling for me for the use of marshmallows. It smells of wet cow yard. While the no name store brands, sometimes do or do not smell off.

    :)

    If at first you don’t succeed……feed it to the teenagers and try again.

    Reply
  12. "Mandi F."

    Tried these out this weekend. I used vanilla and almond extract rather than peppermint but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. They were perfect. And they make a nice little gift for the neighbors. Thanks, PJ!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Mandi, so glad they worked out well for you – I like the idea of adding a touch of almond. I’m definitely trying that when I get up my courage to make marshmallows again – thanks! PJH

  13. Kelley

    :-) loved reading about your experience. Thanks for sharing!!

    I made the marshmallows and realized that I was not going to need the entire 8 minutes to beat the mixture. I stopped at about 5 and things were good. I also used a Delmarle Flexipat to pour the mixture into. I didn’t have to grease it and once the marshmallows set up I just turned it over, peeled the Flexipat off. I also used a perforated silicone pizza wheel dipped in powered sugar to cut the shapes. I’ve dipped some of them in chocolate although the addition of the powered sugar makes the chocolate not want to stick :-( I think I will keep the majority of them plain to give with hot chocolate mix. It will be fun to watch people experience a fresh marshmallow!

    Thanks again for sharing.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      And thank YOU for sharing, Kelley – good to know that different mixers need different amounts of time to bring the marshmallow to its optimum spreading point. Sounds totally yummy, what you did with them… PJH

  14. Donna Y

    Is there anyway to share the recipe. I have a niece that makes homemade marshmallows and I would love to send this to her. You have no share button. What do I do?

    Reply
  15. Nancy Gruber

    Is there anything that can be used in place of gelatin to make this suitable for vegetarians? Is there a vegetarian brand of gelatin?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Unfortunately there really isn’t a perfect replacement for gelatin in marshmallows. Agar agar is an option, however, it produces a much firmer and chewier product. Jon@KAF

  16. Nancy Lewis

    I have made marshmallows many times using Alton Brown’s recipe, and they come out perfect every time. I cut them with a pizza cutter if I want square marshmallows and use a small round biscuit cutter if I want round marshmallows. You can also use a piping bag to pipe long “snakes” and then cut those with a pizza cutter to make mini marshmallows.

    Reply

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