Well, January is back in full force now.
‘Happy New Year’ cheers have stopped being spread. The novelty of the first week back at work is over, and now it’s just like work again. It’s cold and snowing but red noses aren’t cute anymore, they’re just running. No one has any money and, anyway, the Christmas sales have been reduced to the garments no one wants to buy at any price.
Worst of all, there’s not even anything in the calendar to look forward to. Robert Burns’ Day, maybe, if haggis is your sorta thing. Valentine’s Day? It’s okay but I don’t think it’s worth waiting the full six weeks from January 1. There’s St Patrick’s Day but you probably won’t remember that in the morning anyway. And don’t even get me started on Easter! It’s so flaky about dates and there’s the 40 days of Lent to endure prior to any chocolate gluttony. As if January wasn’t punishment enough.
But we can combat January. I’ve found the answer! Marshmallows. They’re like eating a hug.
Hoping to ramp up their already impressive levels of comfort, I decided to add strongly brewed tea to my mallow recipe. Another failsafe solution to any number of life’s most pressing problems, a steaming mug of tea can take the edge off most situations. Sweet tea is as soothing as wise advice.
So I’ve combined an embrace with some guidance and put them into a single sugary bite. Make them so that when you return home – and this is if you’re not lucky enough to have a puppy who waits for you anxiously, perched looking out the window, and then jumps up in excitement to meet you at the front door – and you’ve been rained on and the bus was probably late and a button fell off your coat and you put the spare in a ‘safe place’ (ha!) never to be seen again and, worst of all, it was dark when you left the house and its dark now you’re back… when the days get dark, eat these.
Or melt them in hot chocolate. Tea flavoured hot chocolate?! Yeah, I went there and I’m not apologizing. Let’s all sit in and drink hot chocolate with melted marshmallows and wait for summer. We can watch all those boxsets we got for Christmas.
The strongly-brewed tea (from a teabag because I'm impatient with loose leaf) is used wherever most other recipes call for water. So you could switch this around with coffee, or chai, or something different altogether. We begin by softening our gelatin in a bit of our cold tea and also using the tea as a base to heat sugar and liquid glucose in a pan with a sugar thermometer while we pray we don't burn ourselves. This sugar syrup is then added to stiffened egg whites and the whole thing is whisked some more - so a bit like the method for making Italian meringues, but with the liquid glucose added to allow us to heat the sugar at a really high temperature without sugar crystals forming. I've made marshmallows before which didn't require any egg whites and a much smaller amount of liquid glucose, and they didn't work as well. We need both of these ingredients: the liquid glucose (or corn syrup) to make the syrup perfect, and the egg whites for lift and bounce and fluffiness. Albeit the eggs aren't in my ingredients photo, nor are the icing sugar and cornflour mix to coat the marshmallows in once they're set. Because I forgot. So I'll stop with the boring explanations now.
Just make them.
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Makes: About two dozen regular-sized marshmallows
Time: 4 hours 40 mins (20 minutes + 4 hours setting time + 20 minutes)
½ c. icing sugar
½ c. cornflour
8g gelatin sheets (5 sheets for me)
250ml (1 cup) and 80ml (1/3 cup) cold strongly-brewed English Breakfast tea
100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
50ml liquid glucose (or corn syrup)
2 large egg whites – about ¼ cup
pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
A baking tin (to set the marshmallows in – I used a 4x8in loaf tin to get some height but you could use an 8x8 square cake pan if you prefer)
Small, heavy-based saucepan
Large heatproof bowl
Hand-held electric whisk
NB: These last two are my substitutes in lieu of owning a Kitchenaid. If using a Kitchenaid, the balloon whisk attachment will work best for whipping egg whites.
- Begin by painstakingly lining a tin with greaseproof paper, lightly greasing the paper with a mild vegetable oil if you have one (marshmallows are very sticky and will test the truth of any supposedly ‘greaseproof’ paper to the max)
- In a bowl, mix together the icing sugar and cornflour to create your marshmallow mix and use this to heavily dust the interior of your mallow tin.
- In another small bowl, add your gelatin sheets to 250ml (or 1 cup) of cold tea and allow to soften while you get on with the rest of the marshmallows.
- In a small, heavy-based saucepan mix the 100g of granulated sugar, the 50ml of liquid glucose and 80ml (or 1/3 cup) of more cold tea. Mix briefly to combine and then set on a medium heat.
- Now, because I don’t have a Kitchenaid, this all became a bit of a juggling act. Get out a large heatproof bowl and add your two egg whites to it along with a pinch of salt, and begin to whisk until the egg whites are voluminous and shiny.
- Coming back to your bubbling syrup mix, check the temperature. When it reaches about 118°C/245°F, it’s time to pour the syrup into the whites. Gear up with the handheld whisk in one hand and the handle from your saucepan in the other, and slowly add the syrup to the egg whites while beating slowly to incorporate. It’s best to aim slightly to the edge of the bowl, in case the syrup catches on the rotating whisks and splatters.
- Once the saucepan is empty, return to a cold hob. Add the softened gelatin sheets and a tablespoon of the cold tea and mix until the gelatin has dissolved from the residual heat of the pan.
- Add the gelatin to the egg white/syrup mix and continue to whisk for about 5-6 minutes, until the bowl feels cooler to the touch and you can begin a never-ending process of ‘quality control’ testing.
- Spread the marshmallows into your pre-prepared tin and allow to dry and solidify, uncovered, for at least four hours. Or ignore it overnight.
- With the remaining marshmallow mix, sift a coating onto the top of the open marshmallow tin and then tip onto a board, taking care when removing the baking paper.
- Using a pizza cutter, scissors, or cookie cutters (which have been heavily dusted in the mix. Assume everything, including yourself, will end up heavily dusted in this mix by the end), cut the marshmallows into shapes of your choice and toss in the mixture.
Storage: Can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.