The other day, we had Little Monsieur's summer party, and, in keeping with the sky-bound theme of vintage air travel, I was determined to make little party bags with cloud marshmallows... I could picture them in my head, soft, fluffly, white, blue. But after a few days of browsing the internet with no other options in the shaped marshmallows department beyond the ubiquitous squares and (sigh) hearts, I almost gave up. But of course, ever the Little Miss Type A, I gave in to a thought that often crosses my mind: "Hmm, if it doesn't exist, how about I make it!"
Thankfully, I quickly found out that, when it comes to marshmallows, that is one idea that's not too difficult to implement (unlike the perfect black knee-high flat boots, which I'm still hunting for). I don't normally trust myself with sugar work or pastry making, for some reason I never manage to produce anything good in the dessert department, but I'm always up for a challenge...
These days you can find pretty much any recipe, so it wasn't long before I knew what I'd need:
- For the syrup:
450 g caster sugar
1 tbsp liquid glucose
200 ml water
9 sheets leaf gelatine
(plus, a couple of tbsp of corn flour, my own little special add-on after trial and error)
- For the mix:
2 egg whites (make sure they're super cold, they'll rise faster and firmer)
A pinch of salt
- For coating
2 tbsp icing sugar
2 tbsp corn flour
Ok, on to making the little clouds... First, line a deep baking tray with a mix of icing sugar and corn flour. Then, make a syrup using only the caster sugar, water and glucose, and only add the gelatine once it's been soaked for a good 5 minutes in cold water and once your syrup is thick a and sticky (the original recipe says to check something on your sugar thermometre, who has time for sugar thermometres?!) A word of caution: the moment when you pour the gelatine into the syrup is basically when it can all go horribly wrong, as the mixture bubbles up and can risk burning your hand! After you stabilise the syrup pour it into a metal jug and let it cool down a bit.
Next step, on to the egg whites. Make sure you whip them until stiff, and for that I can only recommend an electric whip, unless you're trying to break your own arm off. Carry on whisking as you pour the syrup in slowly: you'll see the mixture turn shiny and white... If you fancy a bit of flavouring add a couple of drops of vanilla extract here, or do like me and add some blue colorant for some funky blue clouds. Ok almost done. Now all you have to do is whisk for a further 10-15 minutes, until you get a thick mixture which holds on to the whisk. This is key. If you stop whisking too soon your marshmallows won't firm up and you'll have to start again (I should know!)
If you're happy with your mix, pour into the tray, and leave for a bit. Once cool, dust with more icing sugar and corn flour mix, then leave to rest and firm up for a couple of hours.Check the firmness by tapping lightly with your finger. If it doesn't stick to your finger, it's time to shape. I used a cloud-shaped cookie cutter, but for standard marshmallows, try cutting bands and squares with scissors dipped in the icing mix. Store in an air-tight container for a couple of weeks (remember the eggs in the recipe mean these need to go quite fast but they're so yummy I don't they would survive much longer) with a bit more of the icing mix.
My marshmallows turned out quite cute in the end, and they taste great! I put them in little candy bags for Little Monsieur's guests to take home after the party, they looked adorable!