Tuesday, January 21, 2014
For Christmas this year I gave my nieces hot chocolate mix, made with Droste chocolate and vanilla sugar (sugar that sits in a jar with the spent husks of vanilla beans), and peppermint marshmallows that I made using Alton Brown’s recipe with peppermint extract substituted for vanilla.
It was reportedly a big hit, with special kudos from their cousins who declared it “better than Starbucks” and “peppermint heaven.”
[A friend of mine made marshmallows a few years back while I was visiting her, otherwise I’m not sure I would have attempted these. I don’t think I even knew you could make homemade marshmallows before that. But they are not difficult. They are especially not difficult if you have a stand mixer, but even if you don’t, it’s not bad.
My friend and I were discussing recipes etc. in December when I was trying to decide whether I should make them. She said she wasn’t sure if she would do them without a stand mixer. I decided to try it anyway and see how it was. It was fine. It does take a little while but it’s easy — as I said to my friend, you’re just standing there holding a mixer, it’s not like you’re trying to hold a Volkswagen over your head. I looked at it as quiet time, like meditation. I was busy that week, it was a nice break.]
Because of the rave reviews, and because we are in the thick of hot chocolate season, I decided to post the recipes.
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
12 oz granulated sugar (approx 1-1/2 cups)
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp peppermint extract
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
Prepare the pans.
Combine confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly coat a 9×13 pan with oil, or use nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle the sugar and cornstarch mixture into the pan and shake the pan to completely coat the bottom and sides. Return the excess mixture to the bowl for later use.
Place the gelatin into a large bowl along with 1/2 cup of water.
In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Place over medium-high heat, cover and allow to cook for a few minutes, until the sugar has melted. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.
[No candy thermometer? Here’s how to tell what stage it’s at the French chef way.]
Turn the mixer on low speed using the whisk attachment if you have one (if not, regular beaters will work fine), and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the mixer speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and has cooled to lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the peppermint when the mixture looks to be about done, and continue mixing for another minute or so to incorporate.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan.
[Note: The mixture will be VERY sticky, and the process of getting everything out of the pan and smoothed will be somewhat challenging. Just do the best you can and happily enjoy the batter that is stuck to the beaters and the bowl and the spatula as a special bonus for the cook. That’s all for you. Yum.]
Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later.
Allow the marshmallow to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
Turn the marshmallow out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners’ sugar mixture. Once cut, roll each square in the confectioners’ sugar mixture to coat all sides. Store in an airtight container.
Alton Brown says these will keep for three weeks, but I’m here to tell you they will keep pretty much indefinitely. They will dry out somewhat, but will still be edible, and will taste fine.
I looked up a few cocoa mix recipes online, and the one that looked best was from Martha Stewart, so I went with that. The only problem was that it makes a huge amount, 92 eight-ounce servings, so I cut the recipe in half.
Hot Cocoa Mix
1 and 3/4 cups sugar
1 and 1/4 cups cocoa
1 and 1/2 tsp salt
Combine ingredients in a bowl or jar, and stir to distribute evenly. Store in an airtight container.
To serve, heat one cup of milk per serving. (Whole milk will taste good. Whole milk with a tablespoon of cream or half & half will taste better. Other forms of milk are an acceptable substitute. Do not attempt with water.)
To each mug, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of cocoa mix. (For a less sweet version, use two teaspoons of mix plus one teaspoon of straight cocoa.)
Pour a tablespoon or two of warm milk into the mug, and stir to make a slurry of milk and cocoa. Then slowly add the rest of the milk, and stir to thoroughly combine.
Top with peppermint marshmallows.
Share with your cousins to make them jealous that you get to drink this all the time and they only get it when they come over to your house.