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
The Author

About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

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