October 23, 2006

How Hard Could It Be To Make Fluffy Sugar?

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The people behind Slashfood really like candy. And who could blame them? Halloween is fast approaching and to get into the candy spirit, Slashfood is hosting a day of Candy Creations on October 24th. They’re going to talk about some of their favourite candies, homemade and store bought and offer some tips on where to find the best candies and what to give out for Halloween. Well Slashfood, I like the cut of your jib. I decided to join in on the fun by making marshmallows. For the first time.

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I’ve generally shied away from making anything that requires boiling sugar to an appropriate temperature. It kind of scares me. Candy making is something I’ve always longed to do, but lacked the expertise for. Well, I didn’t suddenly gain any knowledge about candy making, but I did get Wilbur, and I figured he would make up for anything I lacked. Wilbur certainly got a workout today. He didn’t realize what he was getting into when I decided to make marshmallows. I got a recipe online, realized it was somewhat sketchy, but went ahead with it anyway. Why do I set myself up for failure? The recipe wasn’t the only problem though, it was boiling sugar that really messed things up. The recipe told me to boil the sugar mixture until it reached 240°F. My (borrowed) candy thermometer told me that this was also known as “softball” stage. I’m sure all you candy makers are well aware of this, and are well aware that when a recipe tells you to boil until softball stage, you probably shouldn’t pass it. Well I wouldn’t know softball stage from golf ball or basketball stage. This is what led to my downfall. When my thermometer seemed to read 240°F, I removed the pan from the stove and poured the contents into Wilbur’s bowl which was already holding the gelatin. I was then supposed to mix on high for 6-10 minutes until the mixture was white and tripled in volume. I was not able to get to that point. I had to rescue Wilbur by shutting him off early so that he didn’t hurt himself, (you gotta love the guy, he just tries so hard). Apparently, I had passed the “softball” stage of cooking because instead of turning white and tripling in volume, my mixture turned about one quarter white, three quarters very hard golden blob. I was very successful in making rock candy which I then tried had to try to pry off of Wilbur’s paddle. This resulted in the mess you see below.

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But I plowed on, determined to have something to present for Slashfood. Now then, I had some of this supposed marshmallow substance, and to it I added the entire quantity of egg whites. A smarter person would have realized that, having thrown out three quarters of the sugar mixture, I definitely wouldn’t have needed to add all of the egg whites. I did anyways. I followed the rest of the recipe as it was and poured the meager contents of my bowl into a prepared pan. I waited for at least 3 hours and up to overnight (specifically 6 hours) and then turned the marshmallows out onto a cutting board. Those extra egg whites made themselves known. But Slashfood! Onward! What do you do when your cake/brownie/ice/candy/dessert is ugly? Cover it. Same theory applies here. Whipped cream works well for birthday cakes but not so much for marshmallows. For this job, I would turn to chocolate. Chocolate could be an entry for Slashfood’s candy day all on its own, but today it would be a sideshow to the main act. Other sideshows included peanut butter, graham cracker and milk. My marshmallows were far from what they should have been and I’m still scared of boiling sugar, but it’s a start. And it wasn’t a total waste, as with every kitchen experiment I learned something new. Today I learned that it’s much easier to drive your self to the store and buy a bag of marshmallows than it is to make them at home.

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13 comments:

veuveclicquot said...

You have such great courage! I have such terrible luck when it comes to candies that I've stopped attempting to make them. Kudos for you & for the lovely pictures!

Joe Pastry said...

Ouch! But what's not to love about your presentation solution? The ability to get creative with kitchen mistakes is the mark of a true professional. "Whipped fondant with dark chocolate drizzle" might make an descriptor for what you've created.

The problem was less you than it was the recipe, in my opinion. I generally prefer marshmallow recipes where you add hot sugar syrup to egg whites, and not the reverse. The reason, precisely the trouble you ran into: crystallization. Your crystals got too big too fast. Normally the process is kept under control by the corn syrup, but sometimes big "seed" crystals get into the solution and start replicating. The result: sweet foam insulation, er...whipped fondant.

Egg whites help keep this from happening by getting between the sugar molecules as they cool. Try one of those types of recipes and I'm sure you'll have success.

- Joe Pastry

wheresmymind said...

Those hands are why I generally stay outta the baking business ;)

Anonymous said...

Hi brilynn!
I’ve never made candy before...you're so brave!!
But he, now you know you can just buy a pack the next time! =)
If it's any consolation; your final creation looks really pretty and amazingly yummy...=)

Rachel said...

i have an easy recipe, if you are ever interested. i did it without a candy temp.

Foodie's Hope said...

Must have had lot of fun playing with that marshmellows:))

Anonymous said...

Well, they certainly look amazing! I've never tried homemade marshmallows because I'm afraid I will like them somuch better than store bought, and then I will be in a bit of a predicament when I need marshmallows. :-)

Your photography is stunning, btw. Do you do your own?

peabody said...

Wow, I made marshmallow with no problem. :(
And I'm sad because I did not realize that it was candy day...I would have participated :(

Lauren said...

So funny! Well at least you tried... it's very admirable. Nice cover up photos.. haha : )

Abby said...

Oh, my. Oh, no. I could have written that post - with the exception that I haven't yet TRIED to make my marshmallows. Which were supposed to join my homemade cocoa and cute Christmas mugs for gifts. Egads.

But I'll try it anyway! (Actually, those pictures are beautiful! If you hadn't admitted somewhat of a defeat, I'd have never known.)

Brilynn said...

Joe Pastry- That's why your blog is great, you provide the reasons for all of my mistakes. I also like that you blamed some of my problems on the recipe.

Erika- thanks, and yup, the photography is mine.

Abby- If you abide by Joe Pastry's suggestions and use a good recipe, I hear it's not very difficult at all. Peabody succeeded very well at making marshmallows, but then again, she succeeds at just about everything!

Angie said...

Hello Brilynn,

These sweets looks so good, beautiful!

cin said...

ewwww, sticky marshmallow hands! how did you manage to take that photo? ;)