I have some life rules. They're all quite personal to me, but one or two might also apply to you. Currently, the list includes:
- there is always room for dessert
- if I can knit/floss without a moment's preparation, it's time to put on more/bigger rings
- never attempt to go grey gracefully in my 30s again (disgracefully in my 40s maybe, but for now pass me the sodding bottle)
- never, ever read a Rastamouse book aloud to my daughter in public
I had to decide whether to go with the Hope & Greenwood recipe for "mallows d'amour" or Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's marshmallow recipe from the Guardian website way back in 2006. If I was being a smarty pants I'd say that I chose the latter because the very idea of presenting something called "mallows d'amour" to my husband makes me a little bit sick in my mouth, but actually I chose HFW's recipe because I wasn't confident about some of the substitutions I would have had to make to the Hope & Greenwood version.
Fundamentally the principles are the same though (for details, go to HFW's Guardian recipe link above). And luckily this list does have five parts.
1. You bring sugar to the hard ball stage.
HFW says 122C, H&G say 127C - I went with H&G on this decision because, although Mr HFW is a bit of a idol in our house, I reckon the people who run a sweet shop probably know more about sugar.
2. Meanwhile, you dissolve some gelatine powder.
I pimped this with some pink colouring and rose essence in a nod to Hope & Greenwood, but HFW doesn't bother.
3. Also, you whip some egg whites.
4. You pour the gelatine into the hot sugar.
5. You pour the gelatine/sugar into the egg whites, and beat.
HFW says to beat until it's thick but just pourable, H&G say to beat for 25-30 minutes. I managed 15 minutes and then my mixer started making bad noises and I figured a batch of marshmallows wasn't worth breaking my food processor over.
That's basically it. You pour the gloop into a prepared tin and let it set before cutting it into squares which you coat with sifted icing sugar and cornflour. The results were simply amazing. Light as a feather, Johnson's-baby-lotion pink, and with that perfect ever-so-slight crust around each piece. Truly, I thought that last week's turkish delight was a personal triumph, but it pales into insignificance compared with these marshmallows.
Perfection? There must be a catch. Well, yes, there is. And this is where life rule number five comes in. To summarise:
- always room for afters
- wear as many rings as impede knitting/flossing
- don't go with the grey
- no Rastamouse in public
- NEVER add stuff to boiling sugar in anything smaller than a cauldron
I started with a really big pan for my sugar, but then I changed it to a smaller one because my sugar thermometer is only about five inches long, so I couldn't peg it to the side of the deep pan and still reach the sugar. Big mistake. The bit where it "bubbles up a bit" is like a potion out of Harry Potter, pink froth just kept coming and coming. And of course it's pink froth at 127C and full of gelatine. You can't put it over a basin because the plastic would probably melt, and you can't put it over your sink because you'll block it solid. In fact it's so hot you can't do anything except watch in horror as it pours over the side and burns immediately on your hob top. The house is full of smoke and the smell of burning, alarms are going off and a pleasurable morning has turned into August in North London.
The burning mixture did smell exactly like a thousand marshmallows singe-ing on a bbq. Every cloud has a silver lining I suppose.
I know, the pictures don't look that bad, but trust me, you would not BELIEVE how sticky this stuff is. Once the mess had cooled enough for me to start the clean-up operation, any gloop on the cooker that hadn't burnt solid was the exact consistency of warm chewing gum. When it's stuck in someone's hair.
It took an hour and a half to clean the hob, during which time I vowed that no matter how good the final marshmallows, I would NEVER do this again. But at that point I hadn't tasted them...
I will definitely be doing this again - that's how good they are.
Linking up with the lovelies at Life Made Lovely Monday, Gingerbread's Sweet Saturday and Happy Homemaker UK's Post of the Month Club