Learn to Make Marshmallows at Home and Your S'Mores Will Never Be the Same
The Institute of Culinary Education is one of the largest culinary schools in the world, offering both professional and recreational programs in New York City. Here, Chef Jenny McCoy, chef instructor in their School of Pastry & Baking Arts gives PEOPLE her tips for getting perfect biscuits every time.
Did you know that the history of the s’more dates back as far as the early 1900s? Or that marshmallows were being roasted in the late 1800s? Or better yet, that the marshmallow is a confection that has been around for over 200 years? If you’re the average marshmallow consumer and not a food historian, that can be hard to believe. The commercially made and mass-produced treats that seem to have a never-ending shelf life feel like a product of the 1950s to me, right alongside Cheez Whiz. However, there’s more to the history of marshmallows.
In the briefest way, I shall now tell you the history of the marshmallow:
It began with a plant called “marsh mallow,” which happens to grow in swampy, marshy regions of the world, and has a super sticky, thick, white sap. The sap was mostly used for medicinal purposes, often as a remedy for sore throats. Over time the root of the marsh mallow plant was combined with sugar, making it sweet and perhaps the first rendition of a throat lozenge. Fast-forward many, many years (maybe even centuries), the French decided to transform its purpose as cure into confection. The marsh mallow sap was whipped with egg whites and sugar to create what we now know marshmallows to be—a super sweet, soft, fluffy and, when melted, deliciously addictive gooey treat.
According to Tim Richardson’s account in Sweets: A History of Candy, this mild illness remedy turned fancy French confection occurred in the mid-1800s or so. By the late 1800s, the mallow sap was replaced by a less expensive and more readily available ingredient—gelatin. The gelatin was used as the gelling agent in marshmallows to hold their shape—just as they are made today. This replacement reduced the price of the sweets, making them easily procured by all. Marshmallow roasts became popular activities and groups would gather to enjoy these sweet summertime festivities.
But, who could just stop there? As roasting marshmallows became popular, so did the exploration of their uses. Enter: the s’more.
Loretta Scott Crew dubbed s’mores as “Some More” in 1927 in Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts. (If that’s not enough to sign your daughters up for the Girl Scouts, I don’t know what is—so clever, those little darlings!). The recipe directs readers to roast marshmallows on a stick over a campfire and press them between two graham crackers and a piece of a chocolate bar, like a sandwich. The recipe also says something like, “while the recipe is called ‘some more,’ eating one is enough.” (Clearly, the author and I have never met.)
So there you have it. S’mores have been around for a looooooooong time. Still, the original method of making a s’more remains the same. The only thing that has changed, really, is the spelling of its name. I can’t say that for a lot of desserts.
For a fancier twist on s’mores, make your own marshmallows! This recipe below is the same one I teach my students at ICE.
WATCH: How to Make DIY Chocolate Shell
Homemade Marshmallows Recipe
Makes about 4 dozen
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting pan
3 tbsp. powdered gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
4 large egg whites
2 to 3 tsp. vanilla, almond, peppermint, lemon, raspberry, coconut or orange extract, to taste
Food coloring, as desired
1. Lightly coat a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Line with plastic wrap, pressed to the base and sides of the pan, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides. Sift confectioners’ sugar over the entire bottom of the pan until the pan is no longer visible.
2. In a small bowl, sprinkle the powdered gelatin over ¾ cup of cold water, and set aside to dissolve.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, set over simmering water, combine the granulated sugar, the remaining water, corn syrup, and egg whites. Whisk the mixture constantly until it is hot, the sugar has dissolved, and it has reached 165° F. Carefully transfer the bowl to the stand mixer, fitted with the whip attachment. Add the gelatin mixture, and whip on medium-high speed until the mixture is thick, light, and fluffy, and just warm, about 5 minutes. Add the flavoring to taste and the food coloring, and mix until just combined.
4. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Sift confectioner’s sugar over the top of the marshmallows until they are completely coated. Let stand at room temperature or freeze until cool and fully set. Cut into desired shapes.
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