On any given Friday night, you'll find our family racing out the door to our favorite trendy hot spot to rub elbows with the movers and shakers in our community. That's right, we're headed to the diner, and to see Elsie.

I know you may not have met my Elsie, but you do know her. She's in her mid ’50s , the prime of her life, and loving every minute of it. She works her day job at the local dentist's office, and nights and weekends at the diner to make ends meet.

She has grown children, and grandchildren too, and is happy to share stories and photos, but is just as interested in what you and yours have been up to. She knows how you like your tea, your burger, and will give you the big slice of chocolate cream pie to go, so you don't have to rush through it.

Elsie is the first waitress Shannon ever gave an order to by herself, and we're always sure to go in about an hour before closing time, so that things have slowed down and Elsie can sit with us for a bit and chat. Last month, she let us know the business is up for sale, and darned if we weren't tempted to make an offer then and there, because Elsie said she would work for us anytime.

This past Mother's Day, we gave Elsie a gift card to our King Arthur Flour Baker's Store, as she's a big fan of the bakery's éclairs. The card read, “To our Friday night Mom.” She said no customer had ever done that before, and hurried off to get our drinks a little misty-eyed. Yep, I love Elsie.

On a recent Friday, Elsie asked what I'd been up to.

“Making marshmallows,” I said.

“Marshmallows? You can make those? I've never heard of such a thing!” she said.

After explaining how easy it was, I knew I needed to write a post here on marshmallows. So, I dropped off a bag of “shmallows” (as we say at our house) to Elsie, who was delighted, and headed home to make a new batch (or two). I even fancied them up a bit for the holidays. They're still so easy, you'll be amazed; and the flavor beats any store- bought imitators hands down.

Do plan on making these the day before serving, or at least in the early morning, as they have to sit for several hours (or overnight) to firm up. So, let's make Homemade Marshmallows. Here goes...

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Place the powdered gelatin in the bowl of your mixer, and get out the whip attachment. You can use the paddle, but it will take longer to beat and your marshmallows will be a little less fluffy.

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Add 1/2 cup of the cool water, and stir until the gelatin is thoroughly wet. It won't dissolve at this point, but will stay grainy.

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In just a few minutes, the gelatin will begin gelling. It'll still appear grainy, but will be firm like pudding.

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Marshmallows require a cooked sugar syrup. You'll need an accurate thermometer. I use my Thermometer Timer. You can set the temperature at which you want the alarm to sound, so you never miss a crucial stage. I like to set mine just under the final temperature I need, so I can be back at the stove just before my target temp.

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Next, secure the probe to your pan. You want the tip of the probe just above the bottom of the pan, but deep enough to be in the syrup.

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While I do have a Wonder Cup that's excellent for sticky foods like corn syrup, I just couldn't put my hands on it, so I sprayed the inside of my glass liquid measure with cooking spray, and wiped most of it out. Works like a charm.

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Recognize this? I love our dough rising buckets for storage. They're translucent, so you know what's inside; they hold a TON; and they're stackable. I have at least 4 at any given time, and several 1-cup measures as well, so each bucket has its own cup.

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Heat the remaining water, corn syrup, salt, and sugar over medium heat until it boils. It will sound like Rice Krispies as the small bubbles burst.

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Check on the gelatin; it should be fully jelled. I like to break it up into cubes, partly because it's more surface area to melt faster, and partly because it's fun to play with.

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In about 15 minutes the syrup will be nearly the right temperature. Now's not the time to walk away; stay near the stove for the last few degrees.

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The bubbles are now much larger, and the syrup has colored slightly.

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The snapping now sounds like bubble wrap, and the temperature will be 240°F. Take the pan off of the heat.

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With the mixer bowl and whip in place and the mixer on low, slowly pour the hot syrup into the bowl. You're aiming for the space between the whip and the side of the bowl, so the syrup isn't splashing onto the bowl or the whip.

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The gelatin will now be dissolved, and the hot mixture is ready to whip.

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You'll want to start off on a low speed and gradually increase to high. Keep yourself back a little, as the mixture is going to steam.

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Whip on high for about 5 minutes, until the marshmallow mix is thick, white, and nearly room temperature. Now it's time to add the flavoring(s).

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I buy my vanilla in a big 32-ounce bottle. it really is the most economical way to buy; but it's also cumbersome at times, so I purchased a small bottle, as well, and some vanilla beans. I leave the beans steeping in the small bottle of vanilla, which keeps them soft and pliable, and makes the vanilla extra-strong. I just refill from the big bottle when needed.

If you want mint marshmallows, you could add peppermint oil or extract. Ditto for cherry, or eggnog, or any flavor that catches your fancy.

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If you want plain white marshmallows, continue with the recipe exactly as written. If you want to have a little fun with your ’mallows, you can divide the mix into 1 or 2 bowls and add some gel paste food coloring. You need to work fast, as the mixture thickens and sets quickly. I use the back of a spoon to add some red and green to some of the mix, and like to leave a little white, too. A silicone spatula works best for mixing in the color.

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Line a pan with parchment, spritz with cooking spray, and start layering the colors. You can see that I was a little uneven in dividing my mix into equal portions, so my pink filled the pan, but the white was a little sparse. Oh well, the green will cover it, and no one will complain, right? Let the marshmallows set for several hours (or overnight) before de-panning.

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To add sparkle to the outside of the marshmallows, instead of using a confectioners' sugar coating, sprinkle your work surface with colored sugar.

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Next, flip the layers onto the sugar, peel away the parchment, and sprinkle with more sugar, for an even coating.

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I have owned many pizza wheels, but I love this one we carry now. IT DOESN'T WOBBLE!!! Spritz your wheel with cooking spray, and cut strips, and then cut those into squares. I make pretty generously sized squares, but you can choose your own sizes.

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Ohhh, lovely layers and lots of sparkle. They look great in a footed glass dish or candy dish, and can be eaten out of hand like candy, or added to a cup of hot cocoa.

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Being an “over the top” type girl at times, I whipped up another batch of marshmallows, and spread half of the mix into a spritzed glass pan. I wet my hands to make the spreading easier.

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Next came the Nutella. This chocolate hazelnut spread is becoming more and more popular, and you can find it in most major grocery stores now. I heated about 1/2 cup in the microwave to make it more spreadable. Do work quickly, as the rest of the mixture needs to be layered on top of the Nutella. Let the marshmallows set for several hours or overnight before turning out of the pan.

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To coat the marshmallows, mix about 2 tablespoons of Double Dutch Dark Cocoa with the confectioners' sugar. Yep, I'm on a chocolate kick this holiday season!

Using a sieve, coat the table with a layer of the sugar/cocoa mix, and prepare to turn the layers out. Reserve about 1/2 cup to coat the top, and to toss with the marshmallows to coat them fully.

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I find it helps to loosen the edges of the pan with a plastic scraper before de-panning.

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Again, once the slab of marshmallows is turned out, be sure to coat the top to prevent sticking as you cut. Spritzing the cutting blade will help, too.

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Mmmm... Soft, tender marshmallows, scented with vanilla and filled with creamy chocolate hazelnut spread. Bring on the graham crackers!

I hope I've inspired you to try marshmallows at home. They're easy, delicious, and can be dressed up or down for any occasion. Enjoy!

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MaryJane Robbins
The Author

About MaryJane Robbins

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team the following year. MJ loves to create decorated cookies for the catalogue, and blog about all kinds of foods, especially sweet treats.