Homemade Marshmallows!

For a bunch of years now, I’ve made homemade goodies to give to my friends and family: spiced pecans, jams, knitted ornaments, etc.

This year I got the brilliant idea to make hot chocolate mix, which sounds really easy. Well, no, it is—if you read the recipe. I’m usually not so good at that. (I probably should have paid attention to the bit about putting the chocolate pieces in batches into the food processor because I ended up having to sieve everything and re-do it. Result: cocoa everywhere).

And then not content with all of that, I thought oooh, I could make some homemade marshmallows too. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try and the recipes I found looked pretty easy once I got over my terror about the candy thermometer. There seem to be two kinds of recipes out there: the comparatively healthy kind made with real marshmallow root powder and the kind that call for things like light corn syrup and sugar.

Yeah, I made the latter. For one thing, I know that hunting for marshmallow root powder is not something I have it in me to do this time of year. (Although I’d like to try this).

Hot chocolate with homemade marshmallow

A photo posted by Oxford Comma (@the_real_oxford_comma) on

Anyhow, the not-so healthy kind have a pretty similar recipe base.

  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup really cold water
  • 1.5 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

And then in a small bowl, make a mix of half cornstarch/half powdered sugar – I went with ½ cup of each.

The recipes differ on pan size and prep. I went with a 9 x 13 metal cake pan that I sprayed with non-stick spray and dusted with some of the cornstarch/powdered sugar mixture. I found some that said to use non-metal pans. One recipe called for lining the thing with parchment paper, another with tin foil, which you then spray.

You take a pot (I went with something on the larger side because molten sugar mixture is not something I wanted boiling over), you put in ½ cup of the cold water, the sugar, corn syrup, and salt and stir. Then over medium high heat, you cook it covered for 3 to 4 minutes.

While that’s going on, you put the other half of the ½ cup of cold water and the unflavored gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer. Don’t start it yet. Just put it in there.  You could use a hand mixer I guess. It’s just going to be more tedious—just make sure your bowl is heat proof.

After the 3 to 4 minutes is up, you take off the lid of the pot and get a candy thermometer. I bought one for $10 because I don’t anticipate making a lot of recipes requiring a candy thermometer any time soon. Anyhow, mine worked great. There was a clip, you attach it to the pot and you let that go to town until you get to 240F—also known as “soft ball stage.” I googled that because I had these visions of the molten sugar mixture forming a ball in the pot and that is not what you’re aiming for. Not at all, which is somewhat disappointing. Anyhow, this takes about 7 or 8 minutes. Once you get to 240F, turn off the heat and move that pot right over to your stand mixer. You turn the mixer onto low.

Now pour the hot mixture into the bowl. Carefully. Because 240F is super hot and no one wants a trip to the Emergency Room. Turn the mixer to high. And whip it for 12 to 15 minutes.

At this point, I got a little freaked out because steam is rising from the bowl of my Kitchen Aid and that so did not look normal.

Mine took about 13 minutes, but I think there are probably a bunch of factors that come into play. You’re looking for it to be super thick and for your bowl to cool down to lukewarm. I think. I read about 5 recipes—the one I followed most closely was Alton Brown’s  mainly because I liked his instructions about cutting up the marshmallows and it gave the most detail.

The last minute, you add in the vanilla extract.

And then you’re going to pour in a very thick and gooey mixture into your prepared baking pan. Brown suggested spraying a spatula so that you can spread things evenly into the pan. That worked great. You then lightly dust the top of the pan with some of that cornstarch/powdered sugar mixture and set them uncovered on a counter while you figure out how to clean the bowl of your kitchen aid which is now really sticky and gooey—not gonna lie.

Do not throw out the cornstarch/powdered sugar mixture. You will need that.

Then you wait. Minimum of 4 hours. I did all this around 6PM and dealt with it in the morning.

So now the fun begins. Per Mr. Brown’s instructions, I took a cutting board, placed that on top of my pan and then turned it over. When they didn’t come out immediately, I turned it back over and with my spatula, carefully ran it along the signs. This time success!

He suggests taking a pizza wheel and coating it in the cornstarch/powdered sugar and cutting out the marshmallows in 1 inch square sizes.

Homemade marshmallows

A photo posted by Oxford Comma (@the_real_oxford_comma) on

You will then want to coat all the sides of the cut marshmallows in that mixture before storing them in your airtight container.

So downside: my kitchen counter looked like someone had taken a box fan and turned it on full blast in the middle of an illegal drug operation.

However, I decided to try out my creation. Just as is, it was a fresher, lighter version of the store bought marshmallow. Where it really shone was when I took two and put them in a cup of hot chocolate. They melted within a minute and they were sooooo good.

Ginger snap icebox cake

My Christmas dinner dessert:

Ginger snap ice box cake

A photo posted by Oxford Comma (@the_real_oxford_comma) on

One sleepless night, I turned on Netflix and watched a couple of episodes of The Barefoot Contessa, a program I used to love back in the days when I had cable. (Whatever you think about Ina Garten, her recipes always work out and I have a couple that I’ve used with great success for years.)

She was making an icebox cake. If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s a cake you assemble by layering thin, crisp cookies with whipped cream, and then put in the icebox (an earlier incarnation of the refrigerator) overnight. The cookies soften and you end up with a cake-like consistency.

My mom used to make the one they have on the package of Nabisco chocolate wafers, which was really good, but the presentation was never all that fancy.

For hers, Ina Garten, lined a springform pan with chocolate chip cookies, and proceeded to make layers of a whipped cream/mascarpone mixture and more cookies until she came to the top of the pan. She then covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight. You can find her recipe here.

I like ginger for Christmas so I decided to adapt this. I found ginger snaps that have crystallized ginger baked into them. And then I adapted the cream mixture.

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 12 ounces mascarpone
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup brandy
  • 1 tsp orange extract

And this is how it came out!

I think if I made it again, I’d sub out Grand Marnier for the brandy and maybe put some candied orange peels on the top.

But very very yummy just the way I made it.

Ginger snap ice box cake

A photo posted by Oxford Comma (@the_real_oxford_comma) on

The Gift wrap conundrum: KonMari

Nothing has stumped me quite like a final storage solution for wrapping paper and gift wrapping items such as ribbons, tags, and bags.

I don’t feel too badly about this because judging by what I’ve found on Pinterest, blogs, and various web sites, I am not alone.

Continue reading

KonMari Reorg – Progress

I am moving along with Phase II.

Continue reading

Phase II: It begins

After finishing Phase I of my massive decluttering KonMari project, I took a bit of a break. I think I needed it. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad I went through the whole process, but it was emotionally and physically draining.

There were a few small projects in there. A year or so ago, I purchased some drapes that I finally had hemmed by a very kind person. Those are now in my bedroom and I replaced a few things, chucking the older items.

So Phase II.

Continue reading

KonMari – Next steps

So you want to try this Marie Kondo thing?

A couple of people have been asking me if I have advice about doing this. I do.

My first suggestion is that you pick a couple of small categories or subcategories that aren’t emotionally loaded for you. Make sure you get all of the category/subcategory together in one place, and then try the method. If it doesn’t work, you’re not out a ton of time or effort. If it does, you have proof of concept.

Then:

  • Use her category order (clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous, sentimental)
  • If you have too much of a category, do a subcategory
  • Identify a staging area – she suggests the floor, but it could be a bed, a table top, anything
  • Make sure you get ALL of the category/subcategory together for sorting
  • Have a disposal plan in place, be it charity donations, trash, recycling, consignment shop
  • Don’t let it all pile up, I got it out of the house as I went
  • There will be items you need, but cannot afford to replace right now. Create a list somewhere and just add those items to it. When you have the money, try and make a thoughtful purchase and get rid of the old item.

This worked for me.

I learned a lot about myself, what I really liked, just how much guilt I’d put into the things that surrounded me (I can’t possibly get rid of that even though I never really liked it because it was a gift from so-and-so), that I’m a very visual person, and that I’m not terribly self-aware about certain things.

It wasn’t always easy. In fact sometimes it was downright hard.

But since starting this, I’ve maintained all the spaces I’ve decluttered. I can find things now. Getting dressed is not a terrible chore.

Phase II is me trying to see what the best possible way to organize what remains. I have some ideas, but I’m trying to make thoughtful, careful decisions about this. I’ll blog about that as I go.

My life is still very stressful. Work hasn’t calmed down. My health is still a problem. The factors that were out of control are still kind of out of control, but for the first time like ever, my home feels in control. And for that I am very grateful.

KonMari – Sentimental Journey

It took a few days, but, Reader, I am done with “sentimental” and therefore also done with Phase I.

I have now gone through every single one of my possessions.

Continue reading