Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Adventures in Marshmallow Making - AKA What Not To Do

A few years ago whilst having Sunday lunch at a pub my husband enjoyed a dessert of chocolate fondant topped with homemade marshmallow.  Pretty much ever since then he's been asking me to make marshmallow for him and as quick off the mark as ever I have finally got around to giving it a go.

I'm not going to keep you in suspense here though; things did not turn out well.  My experience is a classic example of why you should always read a recipe through right to the end before you start doing anything else.  Learn from my mistake kids - I really ought to learn to follow my own advice.

Things started well enough with some egg white whisking and some sugar syrup boiling.  Simultaneously!  Eyes on the sugar syrup and a hand mixer taking care of the egg whizzing.  I was pondering at this point that I still don't have a stand mixer after all these years of baking and wondering if I'll ever give in and get one.  For most of the cakes, brownies and biscuits that I make I've never really felt the need but as soon as you start working with meringue and other eggy based recipes freestanding mixers start to make more sense as you can be whizzing away for a fair amount of time.  If you're trying to boil sugar syrup to hard crack at the same time then you're just asking for trouble.  Obviously I like trouble.

Anyhoo, where were we?

Ah yes.  Marshmallows.  So once your sugar syrup reaches hard crack (use a sugar thermometer, I think it's essential in this recipe, you can't guess) the next step is to pour your gelatin mixture into it.  The first alarm bell started ringing about now.  I'd already added my gelatin powder to some water as instructed but I was surprised just how thick it was.  The use of the word 'pour' definitely wasn't going to apply to my gelatin.  It looked scarily like wallpaper paste in fact and had a lot of lumps in it that just wouldn't go no matter how vigorously I stirred it.

I decided to persevere thinking that maybe the lumps would sort themselves out when there was more liquid from the sugar syrup.  I added, I stirred, I stirred a lot more and.....erm..... well take a look.

Yeah, that's not nice is it.  It was at this point that I took a look through the recipe again trying to work out where things had gone wrong.  And it was now that I noticed the comment at the end - if you're using vegetarian gelatin be sure to follow the instructions on the packet.  Bugger.

It's a long time since I used gelatin and I've never used the vegetarian version before.  The only reason I did this time was because the recipe called for powdered gelatin.  The only powdered one available in my usual branch of Sainsburys was their own brand vegetarian one.  I naively assumed this would do the same job.

On inspecting the box it sounded like one packet of gelatin would be enough for setting 1 litre of liquid.  I'd used four packets and my total liquid was less than that!  No wonder it looked so awful.  The only way forward seemed to be to sieve the mixture which would get rid of the lumps and reduce the gelatin at the same time.  I did this and finished off the making stage then poured my marshmallow into my prepared tin.

It looked awesome and on scraping the bowl I found it tasted awesome too so I was feeling a bit better.  I estimated that if I'd filtered out half the gelatin in the form of lumps then I only had double the amount of the recommended gelatin so perhaps it would be OK.

Now here's the really fucked up part.  MY MARSHMALLOW HAS NOT SET!!!!

Whichever way you look at this, that is absolutely ridiculous.  All through making this I was totally on board with the fact that I'd messed up and that I could learn from it for next time.  But you know what I've really learned after a quick Google about using gelatin in general and reading a review of Sainsbury's vegetarian gelatin?  This is a shit product and I'm not the only one who had massive lumps when attempting to use it.

Marshmallows will be attempted again because the large bowl of fluff that I've made does taste really good.  It's just not very transportable.  Next time though I'm all about Dr Oetker and Sainsbury's can bugger right off.

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