documenting the epic marshmallow battle

It was a quiet, but determined, standoff.

Peeps, those store-bought delights that nobody actually seems to like (except for me, and three-year-olds nationwide), as the oppressor. The king corn. {This is particularly true, as Peeps are made from the king corn-est of products, corn syrup} On the other side of the battlefield, my homemade marshmallow friends heroically stood, looking thoughtful and wise.

Who would win this battle? Why was there a battle? And how did this otherwise sane 20’s-something female come to be scurrying around in her backyard photographing the whole scene? Read on, dear friend, to learn more.

Maybe it was because Easter came late this year. Having to wait so long to indulge in Easter candy, I built up my sugar tolerance to unprecedented levels in the weeks before E-Day finally hit. But aside from this, I think it’s because I just like to have fun with what I make in the kitchen.

Here in Maine, the day before Easter was gloomy and rainy. We took advantage of this by visiting the City Forest’s Orono Bog Boardwalk, which provides nice examples of the transition zones between forest and wetland. This gave me a chance to escape from the hectic world of blogging, and enjoy some good old-fashioned, laid-back bogging. At this point, I would link you to their site, but as the boardwalk doesn’t officially open until May 1st, I wouldn’t want to clue them into discovering that we hopped the fence. Because the place has rules. No shouting allowed, folks – contain yourselves, please. And leave your skateboards at home.

Signs of spring were abundant in and near the bog. Stunted larch trees, apparently also known as hackmatack (isn’t this the coolest name ever? yes. it. is.) were beginning to bud from their stubby shoots. Skunk cabbages had emerged and were taking up residence in the forest/bog interface zone. I scared a bird out from under the boardwalk – but it scared me more. Perhaps it had decided to make its nest there, which was poor planning on its part. Come May 1st it will be scared a whole lot more often.

ย 

Easter itself was drier. No rain. I spent most of the day making marshmallows and baking a cake (that will appear on here soon), but we found time to squeeze another nice walk onto the docket. My favorite part of the day? Baking a butt portion ham, of course! It was my first successfully baked ham, although I can’t actually take any of the credit for it. So I guess it was more my first successfully bought ham. And successfully eaten as well (still a work in progress, to be truthful).

At any rate, making these marshmallows was really easy, and the end product was, in my opinion, really tasty.

The trend-noticer in me, and in comrade Brianne, raised a few red flags. Apparently all those hipster bakers out there are filling their days with making homemade marshmallows – when not partaking in the pie v. macaron debate, of course. I don’t mind trends. I had my fill of opposing them as an angsty teen, but now that I’m a grown-up bona fide stager of epic marshmallow battles, I don’t quite feel the allure to buck all trends. Food-wise, that is. And so I pulled out my recent copy of Martha Stewart Living, as any well-mannered young woman would do, and got to work.

Making myself some marshmallow friends was my first task on Easter morning. After comforting the always-sorrowful crying cat, and having a good cup of tea, that is. So as I was saying, making myself some marshmallow friends was my third task on Easter morning. I had set aside the day, devoting it mostly to kitchen time, which provided a welcome break from the research- and presentation-heavy week that I had just had.

To make these creatures, all that one must do is cook a sugar syrup to the soft ball candy stage, stir it into some softened horse hooves, bovine hides, and pig skins [aka gelatin], and then proceed to beat it with a mixer for several minutes, until it attains an ooey gooey marshmallowy consistency. At that point I added some vanilla; my inner self kept prodding my organs (or stomach, or ribs… not sure where an inner self is located), whispering that I should add in a dash of Grand Marnier. This inner self of mine is very conscious of the fact that I have a large bottle of knockoff Grand Marnier taking up several square inches in my one precious cupboard dedicated to food. But my outer self knows that I have added this substance to too many baked goods in the past year, and that Marnier & Me should call it quits for awhile. One can only have so many strong orangeish-flavored treats before one longs to abandon liquoooooors indefinitely.

So vanilla it was. I poured these puppies (anatomically incorrect, as I used my set of spring-themed cookie cutters, rather than my household pets set) into a powdered sugar-dusted sheet pan, covered them in various colors of sanding and decorative sugar, and let them set for an hour or two. And then it was time to cookie cutter the bejeezus out of ’em.

And the end result? I think these critters would womp Peeps in a battle any day. They were flatter than Peeps, and they dissolved gently and fluffily in my mouth. They tasted like sugar, sure, but they had a subtle vanilla flavor that was quite delicate. The bunnies, sheep, flowers and butterflies that I carved out of the pan of mallow would do most anything gently and fluffily, I imagine.

Colored sugar granules wouldn’t stick to the bottom of my homemade marshmallow friends, as I had done a thorough job of coating the sheet pan in powdered sugar. However, this wasn’t a big deal; I think I prefer them this way. I do wish that I had more colors of true sanding sugar, as the larger-grained decorative sugars make for a substantial crunch. Not so gentle or fluffy. Alas, I didn’t have a chance to make it to the cake-decorating store the one day of the week that it’s open here.

I probably won’t be making these again for some time, but only because I’ve eaten my fill… and a few other peoples’ fill, too. Lesson learned: sugar is delightful. Now I just have to finish up those Peeps – good thing I’m not picky!

Although featured prominently here, I only made two lobster mallows. Just staying true to my current location: be proud of me, Maine. What Maineah could say no to an Eastah lobstah treat, deah?

Go mallow yourself silly:

Homemade Marshmallow Friends {recipe adapted from Martha Stewart’s Marshmallow Easter Critters}

Makes many friends

++Ingredients:++

Vegetable oil cooking spray
3+ tbsp powdered sugar
2 envelopes (1/4 ounce each) gelatin (1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons)
2/3 cup cold water, plus 1/2 cup room-temperature water
2 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Colored sanding sugars, for sprinkling and rolling

++Directions:++

Coat a 9 1/2-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray, and dust with powdered sugar, tapping out excess. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in the bowl of a mixer. Let stand for 5 minutes to soften.

Meanwhile, heat granulated sugar and room-temperature water in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Wash down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush if needed. Cook until syrup reaches 238 degrees (soft ball stage) on a candy thermometer. Stir syrup into softened gelatin, and keep stirring for a few minutes to cool. Beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, 8 to 10 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Spread mixture into prepared baking sheet using an offset spatula; sprinkle with sanding sugars. Let stand for 1 hour to set.

Martha’s instructions are to cut out marshmallows using your “favorite Easter cookie cutters” (wiping cutters clean between each cut), and roll cut sides in sanding sugar to coat. I used my only Easter cookie cutters, plus my lobstah cookie cutter. And at this thankful time of year (as I learned that many people are, courtesy of the Passover seder I attended), who isn’t thankful for lobsters?

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6 thoughts on “documenting the epic marshmallow battle

  1. I laughed ’til I cried–what an amusing entry! I sure do wish that I could go boggin’ with you. Wonderful photos, as usual, and you know something? With your descriptive writing, I think that I can taste those knock off Peeps!

  2. You broke in to the boardwalk!?! Kevin has tried to get me over that fence more than once, but I just can’t do it. The lobstahs are the best! My brother has made me a lobstah sugar cookie for both Christmases since I’ve moved to Maine. Also, I’m very glad you didn’t put saffron in your marshmallows a la Melissa Clark. Too silly. Making marshmallows frightens me, but you’ve made it much more approachable!

  3. Whenever I come to your blog, I know I’m going to be filled with delight at the beautiful colours distilled through your photos. Today was no exception. Thank you :)

    (And I’d like some homemade marshmallows, please.)

  4. Mum: Look at you, checking your email all quick-like… you internet-fiend, you! I amused myself with this one, so I’m glad you enjoyed it as well. I wish you could come bogging too, but having bogged here once, you can come along with me in spirit – – when not eating spiritedly some of my homemade marshmallow friends, right?

    Brianne: Now now, I didn’t break into anything! I merely circled the perimeter of gating, and oops, I ended up inside. Maybe if you start drinking some of that whiskey you were mentioning in your most recent post, you’ll feel emboldened in all aspects of your life, such as when the moment comes to sneak into bogs.

    That’s cute about the lobster sugar cookie – it’s much more difficult to make cookies in those shapes because the claws often break off:( No saffron, I’m not that much of a boxy glasses-wearing, pretend to be trend-eschewing, hipster baker!

    Hannah: Oooh, distilling and colorful! I felt that I had to balance out the ungodly brightness of homemade marshmallow friends with some rainy day plant scenes. I’m happy to distill you some colors any time! And missy, if you’d like some homemade marshmallows, then make yerself some homemade marshmallows:) Mine are beginning to harden up anyway…

  5. I am no Peep fan, but homemade marshmallows are awesome! I love how yours turned out. The Easter Lobsters are a great touch! And maybe I’m imagining it, but it looks like a blue Texas in your hand in the third photo. :D

  6. Jessica: Hah, that does look Texas! Or almost like its intended target, a sad butterfly. If only I had been wearing my favorite Texas kitchen apron while holding the pseudo-Texas marshmallow.

    The lobsters were the first on my list of “favorite Easter cookie cutters.” I would have made owls too, but they would have just become abnormally large blobs. Wah wah.

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