Introduction: Beer / Fancy Cocktail Marshmallow
While there are several very nice Instructables about making fancy marshmallows, there aren't any real solid ones about making "adult" marshmallows. So here we are!
We'll be making marshmallows flavored like a popular drink in the US (it has a name offensive to readers in the UK so I've removed it): it's a "stunt drink" where you drop a shot of Irish Cream and Whiskey into a glass of Guinness. In the cocktail version, it foams up, and you have to chug it before it makes a mess! Sort of immature, but hey, it's a fun drink, and makes a tasty marshmallow.
This recipe can be made with any beer, or any liqueur. The ingredients are fairly cheap, so you can make it over and over again to practice. I've made several batches where the liqueur choice was... challenging. Absinthe marshmallows seemed like a good idea at the time, but ended up being inedible (the second version was a absinthe/vanilla cognac blend, which was more palatable).
You may have heard that baking is chemistry... well, candymaking is ESPECIALLY chemistry. That is, the quantities of ingredients, the order they are added, the ingredients' temperatures, and timing of the steps are all important.
To this end, I originally was going to try to do this the "real" way, that is, how a candy kitchen might make marshmallow, but it ended up being way too crazy. Ah well.
So this recipe is basically adapted from Jessica's recipe at How Sweet It Is - not as fancy as the "real" industrial way, but very yummy, and much much easier.
Safety warning: candy is hot. We're going to be boiling sugar, which is basically napalm. If it gets on your skin it will burn you and stick to your skin. It is real painful and will make an ugly scar. I've never met a professional candy man who didn't have a ton of scars on his arms. This is a relatively safe recipe, so don't be scared... but definitely be careful.
Step 1: Assemble Your Tools
- a metal pot big enough to hold around 4 cups
- 1c measuring cup
- 1/2c measuring cup
- 2c+ measuring cup to hold your wet ingredients
- measuring spoons (1T, 1/4t)
- depending on how you are measuring your gelatin, a scale. You may be able to fake this one if you have Knox gelatin in the envelopes.
- a whisk
- a big spatula
- ANOTHER big spatula (optional so you have to wash less of them) for the egg whites
- a small spatula or knife to help get the corn syrup out of the container you measure it in
- a 9x13 pan the marshmallow will set in
- An electric mixer with bowl for the gelatin and the hot candy. Ideally you will use the dough-kneading attachment.
- ANOTHER electric mixer and bowl for whipping egg whites.. IF you don't have this you can squeak by with a bowl and whisk, or an eggbeater.
- a timer of some sort
- CANDY THERMOMETER
Some of these pieces you can find a way to do without, but remember what I said about chemistry - if the ingredients are even a little bit off, you are no longer making the same recipe, and it may not set up correctly.
The one tool you absolutely need here, that you cannot improvise around, is the Candy Thermometer. You can buy it in the grocery store, and you basically need it for every candy recipe. See the clip on the side? That thing is real important, as we shall see...
Step 2: Assemble Your Ingredients
- 7/8 oz UNFLAVORED gelatin, by weight
- 2c granulated sugar (need not be refined, so you can use evaporated cane juice if you want)
- 1/2 c LIGHT corn syrup - the distinction is important!
- 1/4 t salt
- 2 large egg whites (I used reconstituted egg whites from powder)
- 1T vanilla extract
- a handful of powdered sugar to dust the marshmallows after they are cooked
- cooking spray for the pan and for the spatula - this stuff is sticky!!
- 1c cold beer (more on this later)
- whiskey and/or Irish cream (about 1 shot total)
A note on the gelatin:
I used Knox powdered gelatin, it comes in a can, so it was easiest for me to weigh it. Why this odd quantity? Because one form of this recipe used envelopes of Knox gelatin, and apparently 3 1/2 envelopes gets you 7/8 oz gelatin powder.
Another note on the gelatin:
Don't try to use leaf / sheet gelatin, because it doesn't melt the same way. If you don't know what that is, don't worry about it.
Trivia: the gelatin is the hardest thing to replace when converting this to a vegan recipe. Also, many granulated refined sugars are not vegan, because they are filtered with bone char.
Step 3: Prepare Beer
You can use other types of beer! Note that the marshmallows bring out a yeasty flavor in the beer, so you probably want something non-watery with a sharp taste. One technique I've used with milder brews is to start with a larger volume of beer, and boil it down to 1c. The alcohol all gets burned off, but I suppose that is what the whiskey is for later! As long as you end up with 1c of beer-flavored liquid, you can use whatever you want.
Important: the beer has to be cold when you make the recipe. The cooking part of the recipe will be a lot more difficult if it's warm, as we will soon see.
Why is this relevant?
Well, in addition to the basic fact that your beer should live in the fridge (this isn't England man!), most versions of this recipe require making the beer completely flat before you start.
To do this you can do one of the following:
- open a beer and leave it open overnight
- pour the beer in a heatable glass and microwave it, being careful not to let it boil over (trickier than it sounds!)
- pour a beer as messily as possible to make it foam up and lose a bunch of carbonation
- pour the beer into a big container and whisk it
I say MOST versions of the recipe ask for flat beer... I actually think it makes a better, fluffier marshmallow if you SKIP this step. It's a little trickier to cook though! We will cover that later.
You may note that 1c of beer is nowhere near the amount of Guinness that comes in a can - hopefully you can think of something to do with the remaining beer ;)
Step 4: Grease Pan
- Spray a sparse but even coating of cooking spray on your pan where the marshmallow is going to set.
- add a small handful of powdered sugar to the pan and shake it around until every part of the pan is uniformly covered with a thin coating of powdered sugar.
- throw out the tiny sugar chunks left over, as they will otherwise end up embedded in your marshmallow
Step 5: Prepare Gelatin Mixture
Here's the first instance where the cold beer is important:
Take half of the COLD beer (1/2 c) into the mixer and add the gelatin. Hand stir the gelatin with the beer so it's saturated completely, Let it sit!
If you used warm beer or any other warm liquid here, the gelatin will set, and the recipe is ruined. Start over!
Leave the mixer and bowl aside while we focus on....
Step 6: Cooking Part 1: Get Ready to Dissolve the Sugar
Important reality check: I strongly recommend you have everything weighed out and ready before you start this step, including your egg whites and any alcohol you'll be using.
Do not plan on measuring ingredients after this point, because it's kind of an action movie - everything happens at once!
Add all your sugar, corn syrup, and salt to the pot on the as-yet unlit stove top.
Before you add any other ingredients, look at your pot. If it looks as full as what I have here or fuller, you may need a bigger pot. Trust me on this one (or don't; you'll see photographic proof in the next couple steps). I make an enormous mess almost every time I use this thing, because it's too small for this recipe.
Make a little divot in the sugar and add the corn syrup. Use the spatula to pull every little bit of syrup out of the measuring receptacle.
Clip your candy thermometer to the side of the pan, so it's angled out of the way, allowing you to stir with your spatula. You may notice I removed it in a few of the pictures - just make sure that when the sugar starts boiling, it's sitting in the pot, clipped to the side, and NOT touching the bottom.
Now we are ready to rock. Make sure you don't have anything else to do for the next ten minutes! The next few steps will require your continuous attention!
Step 7: Cooking Part 2: Dissolve the Sugar
Add the beer remaining from after we added some beer to the gelatin - it should be 1/2 c. It may seem like there's barely enough liquid from your 1/2 c beer to melt all that sugar, but it will happen!
Turn on your burner under the sugar, but keep it on low. Sugar burns easily! If it burns, it's going to be an ugly caramelized mess.
Keep the sugar in constant motion with your whisk - do not stop whisking even for a second. You don't have to be stirring fast, just at a constant pace to keep the sugar from burning.
Once the sugar is completely dissolved, it will look like a broth, and this will probably take less than 5 minutes.
At this point the sugar will probably start to boil, but if not, turn up the heat to "medium." Now the exciting part begins!
Step 8: Cooking Part 3: Boil Down the Sugar-beer
The sugar mixture will now be boiling.
The beer, if not completely flat, will add more bubbles. This may be intentional on your part to add a lighter, foamier texture! If your beer started warm, it may be foamier (this is why we wanted cold beer).
The goal of this stage is to get the mixture to 240F. Your candy is not done cooking if it does not get to 240F at some point. After it's at 240F, you are ready for the next step (put in the mixer with the beer and gelatin).
To get an accurate reading on your candy thermometer, make sure that it's sitting in the pot, clipped to the side, and NOT touching the bottom. Otherwise, it will be measuring the temperature of the metal pot, and not your sugar, and you will end up with undercooked sugar.
Getting the sugar to 240F without it boiling over may be tricky. If it gets too dicey, change to a larger pot if possible. Stirring constantly and briskly will help you avoid a boil-over.
The sugar will want to boil over. The beer will want to boil over! It is very inconvenient if this happens, so try to avoid a boil-over at all costs. You can see in the picture what it looks like when it boils over. Sad times.
Again, your candy may boil over. Do not panic! If this happens, just turn off the heat entirely. That's all. Don't try to clean it right now - what looks like sudsy foam is actually molten sugar heated to over 200F. Do not touch it, it will burn you terribly and stick to your skin as you try to wipe it off. I wish I could say I'm just guessing about that one; it's terrible. Be very very careful.
If you want to continue after a boil-over, you have one of a few options:
- move to another burner (recommended)
- remove the pot, wait for the spilled candy to cool, and clean it up. Then start cooking again. This option is not ideal because since the spilled candy is cooling, the cooking candy is also cooling, and it may mess up the cooking process.
- turn the heat back on on the same, sugar-covered burner, and keep cooking. This will bake on the sugar onto your range and turn it into a hard, burned, caramelized mess. It may also burn like charcoal, filling the kitchen with smoke. Your housemates will wonder why you are trying to burn down the house and why you have set all the fire alarms off. Not recommended! Hey, it's an option!
Cleaning up boiled-over sugar is easier when it's slightly cooler, but not completely cooled. Why? Because when it completely cools, it will be a hard crust, and you'll have to scrub it off. When it's still warm, it will be like jelly.
Step 9: Whip the Beer-sugar-gelatin
Turn on your mixer, set at a low speed, before you pour in your boiling sugar.
Now pour the boiled sugar mixture, which has reached 240F, into your mixer that contains the gelatin. Use a spatula to get every last drop into the bowl.
Immediately turn the mixer speed up and start your stopwatch.
The idea is to keep this goo constantly in motion while it sets up. The mixture will get very thick, like a glue or spackle - this is intentional!
For the timing to work, you are going to have to whip the egg whites while this is still mixing. The sugar beating takes about 6-8 minutes, and the egg-white whipping will take about 3 minutes --
So, at around 3 minutes, leave the mixer running, and start on the next step -- you have about 3 minutes to whip the egg whites in another container.
Step 10: Whip Egg Whites
This second bowl should already contain your egg whites (possibly reconstituted from powder) and your vanilla extract.
- If you have an electric mixer to do this, turn that sucker up !
- If you are doing this manually, whip as fast as possible, because you only have 3 minutes
When it's done, you should have a foam that can stand on a spatula, as in the photo. Whip it until you get there!
I tried reconstituting the egg whites with beer, or adding liqueurs -- the problem is that too much liqueur, or the wrong kind of liqueur, will prevent the egg whites from forming a thick foam with "peaks" -- it's better to add the other flavors after this step.
Step 11: Combine Mixtures
By now your timer should read around 6 minutes. Watch your sugar mixture for consistency - when at rest, it should look like a gooey construction material (see the picture). If this looks right, you are ready to combine the mixtures. Do not be afraid to wait if your sugar goo is not thick enough yet!
See the movie attached here to see what mine looked like when it was ready to combine.
You'll be adding to the sugar mixture:
- the whipped egg whites
- the vanilla extract
- any additional liqueurs or alcohols
Run the mixer for only a few seconds, just enough to combine both mixtures.
Step 12: Place Marshmallow in Pan
It's time to put your marshmallow in the pan to set. Hurry! It gets hard fast.
Before you do, spray your big spatula with cooking spray. This is important! This stuff is really stick, and if you skip this, it won't stay in the pan.
Dump the entire contents of the bowl in the 9x13 pan that you sprayed with cooking spray and dusted with sugar earlier.
Use the spatula to remove every bit possible from the bowl, and to make the marshmallow as evenly spread as possible.
Step 13: Dust the Top
Before the marshmallow sets up, we're going to dust the top with sugar to make it easier to handle later.
Just as you dusted the 9x13 pan earlier, take a handful of powdered sugar and put it on top of the marshmallow. Tip the pan around so the sugar runs all over the top surface, and discard the left-over sugar.
Now wait a few hours for the marshmallow to harden - at least 3 hours.
Step 14: Cut the Set Marshmallow and Serve
While it's definitely possible to just eat the entire tray with your hands while watching movies on the couch, I really don't recommend it.
After you've waited for the marshmallow to set up, you can cut it. If you don't wait, it will be very difficult!
Cutting marshmallow with a knife is tricky - the marshmallow is very flexible, so is tricky to cut in the first place, and it's also sticky, and so sometimes will "heal" after you cut it.
But we have a secret weapon: powdered sugar. Just as we used sugar to dust the marshmallow in the pan, we can use it again to keep the cut marshmallows apart.
Here's an easy way to cut into serving-sized cubes:
- cut the marshmallow into parallel strips
- if you dusted both the top and bottom properly, each strip will have two sticky sides. The goal is to make them no longer sticky.
- put a little spoonful of powdered sugar on your cutting board
- dust each side of the marshmallow strips
- now you can cut the strips into cubes, dusting with sugar as you go!
As you can see, one tray of marshmallow makes a lot of marshmallows.
Step 15: Enjoy!
These little guys are ready for serving! I usually plate two per person, with a pile left over for "second seconds."
One of my favorite uses for these is putting in cocoa! Just one is usually enough, placed directly in the mug, and then you pour the hot chocolate over it.
Hopefully your batch worked out well, but if it didn't please try again! It took me a few tries to get this down to a science, and I still learn new tricks with each new batch.
Thanks for reading!
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