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If You Had Asked Me An Hour Ago

If you had asked me an hour ago whether I wanted to make homemade marshmallows, I would have said oh sure.  In fact, I would add, it’s good to get out there and try new things.  Otherwise you might as well spend your life in an armchair just attracting lint, wearing the fabric of the butt cushion down more and more each day until the springs give out and you fall, finally, into the armchair, where you live silently ever after, occasionally sat on by your friends and family and pets.

That’s what I would have said an hour ago.

marshmallowBut that was before I tried a recipe for strawberry marshmallows that I found in Saveur magazine.

To be fair, I didn’t follow the directions exactly.  The recipe said to simmer corn syrup and some other stuff in a saucepan until it reached 250 degrees on a candy thermometer.  I didn’t have a candy thermometer and I was hesitant to use the the digital thermometer in the medicine cabinet, lest it short-circuit.  So I estimated.

Then I “combined all the ingredients in an electric mixer,” which is when things took a hard left turn for the worse.

marshmallow Maybe I overmixed?  Or maybe marshmallows require more whimsy in the kitchen than, say, a pot roast.  Perhaps I should have tweeted Zooey Deschanel and asked her to hum a song about fairies while I spread the pink goop into the pan. marshmallow 2I don’t know.  All I can say is the goop seized up.  It was like Spiderman died in my kitchen, leaving behind a pile of tacky, unspun web.

marshmallow Now the recipe says to remove the marshmallow sheet from the pan and cut it into squares, which reminds me of the time my high school calculus exam said to “Find f ‘(1) where f(x) = (x2 + 3x +1) (ex + 1)” and I was like “um, yeah.  Not going to happen.”

I’m not sure what the moral of the story is here, to be honest.  I’m going to sit in my armchair (which has risen greatly in my esteem in the past 60 minutes) and think about it.  And when it comes to me, well,  I’ll let you know, my friends.  I’ll let you know.

thunder sleepingIt’s a good thing there’s a box spring for support, otherwise this little one would have fallen into the mattress by now.

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62 Comments Post a comment
  1. Lol. .. good to keep in mind if I ever attempt marshmallows! I’ve seen recipes, but I figure how much better could they be than the store bought kind you can buy for a dollar or two? I think I’ll keep thinking.

    January 22, 2014
    • From what I’ve heard, homemade marshmallows taste great. I just don’t think I’m ever going to get to the “tasting” stage. . .

      January 24, 2014
  2. Well, there’s yer problem! Can’t make candy w/o a thermometer. I don’t make ‘shmallows because of all the dead cow action, but I bet if you gave it a try with the thermometer they’d be fluffy and lustrous.

    January 22, 2014
    • Is that really true? About gelatin? I always assumed that was an urban legend. Maybe I should not have made that assumption. Ew.

      I definitely need a candy thermometer. You should have seen me try to make a caramel cake without one last year. Lordy.

      January 24, 2014
  3. zee #

    I’ve always wanted to make homemade marshmallows (I love them so much when I buy them from other people)… what I took from this post was as much as I don’t want to get a candy thermometer I probably should in the event I give in and make marshmallows…

    January 22, 2014
    • Yeah, I was surprised that candy thermometers are 20 bucks! That’s why I passed on one. I don’t think I’ve ever had a homemade marshmallow, actually. Maybe I can rope someone into making them for me.

      January 24, 2014
  4. Okay well thanks for saving me a bunch of time (and frustration)! I’d been thinking about trying to make homemade marshmallows, but I too am sans candy-thermometer. Enjoy your armchair!

    January 22, 2014
    • What I’m starting to take from this comment and others is that we should start a Sisterhood Of The Traveling Candy Thermometer so don’t all have to buy one…

      January 24, 2014
  5. Fiona #

    I love this blog. So funny, so…normal.

    January 22, 2014
    • Aw, man! Thanks, Fiona! Thanks for telling me that.

      January 24, 2014
  6. It’s harder than it looks, folks!

    I thoroughly enjoyed watching you fail. Too funny. Very entertaining. Well done!

    January 22, 2014
    • Why thank you, Miss Food Scientist! I left the marshmallow goo out for 12 hours before I could bring myself to clean it up. It’s finally, finally behind me now. I think I will make something I can’t screw up, like Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies.

      January 24, 2014
  7. Laurie Colwin wrote a great essay once about kitchen disasters and how they aren’t an entirely bad thing. You learn, expand your skills, etc. However, I bet it’s a lot easier to write an essay like that when you’re looking back on it from a comfortable distance, say ten years or so…

    January 22, 2014
    • Interesting. I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of Laurie Colwin until you mentioned her. Have you read her book “Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen”? Apparently it’s a food memoir. I LOVE food memoirs. I might have to order it.

      January 24, 2014
      • Yes, I have all her books. Order “Home Cooking,” you will not regret it! Especially with the weather the way it is right now – it’s the perfect book to curl up with.

        February 10, 2014
  8. christine #

    Mrs. Kovatch would be greatly dissapointed 🙂

    January 22, 2014
    • Haa!!! Christine, I love how you just GET ME on this one.

      January 24, 2014
  9. You poor thing! Nothing worse than a sticky kitchen. I was going to try these in the near future but am so glad I read this post. Thanks for trialling it for me 😉

    January 22, 2014
  10. It actually looks pretty yummy. Did you taste it? Great story of epic culinary fail 🙂

    January 22, 2014
    • Hollu, I *did* taste it, and so did Scott, and we are totally at a loss to describe what it tasted like and what the consistency reminded us of. The best way I can describe it (but this falls far short) is that it was like salt water taffy crossed with marshmallow. It didn’t taste bad at all–not too sweet, but it collapsed and got chewy and sticky instead of staying puffy. Go figure!

      January 24, 2014
  11. Trish #

    I have made marshmallows! Two or three times, actually. You do need the candy thermometer if you want to actually end up with marshmallow, but it still doesn’t make it any less of a sticky mess to work with. Marshmallows require infinite patience and complete acceptance of sugar-goo being stuck to every conceivable surface in your kitchen and on your body. Possibly some other rooms too. Maybe some other bodies.

    Also, homemade marshmallows don’t toast worth a hoot over a campfire. Disappointing. I think I’ll go back to my armchair.

    January 22, 2014
    • I’m so glad to hear they work with a thermometer, but that the goo situation is unavoidable. Makes me feel better somehow!

      January 24, 2014
  12. Cindy #

    Darn! That was actually on my list of culinary adventures to try. On the other hand, if I attempt marshmallows it’s more likely to be a recipe from Sandra Lee than from somewhere as upper-crust as Saveur…

    January 22, 2014
  13. sue ellen #

    I have never considered making marshmallows. You see, I can purchase them in nice bags and can even select “large or tiny” mallows. In the past (hundreds of years ago actually) I could even purchase pastel colored mallows. And there is even jars of marshmallow cream out there..
    I am so glad you tried… now I know for sure the marshmallows in my home will be in those nice bags from the grocery store .
    Let’s sit in the comfy chairs together and have a cup of hot cocoa with mini marshmallows on top and a little crème de mint swirled in. Sound good?? I agree!!

    January 22, 2014
    • Oh my gosh, I’ve never swirled creme de menthe in my hot chocolate. That sounds amazing. I have a bottle, too, because my mom puts it in the most amazing cake. (https://eggton.com/tag/creme-de-menthe-cake/) Someday when I remove myself from this armchair (just. . . so. . . comfy) I’ll try it. 🙂

      January 24, 2014
  14. Oh my God this is freaking hilarious. “It was like Spiderman died in my kitchen….” Seriously. Fantastic. (Also your dog picture is aaaaadorable.)

    January 22, 2014
    • It was a an unmitigated mess, I tell you!
      I love those dogs. Thunder photographs so freaking well, it’s ridiculous. All I do is point the camera in her direction and press the button. Done and done.

      January 24, 2014
  15. Such a funny, great read. As for the marshmallows, did they at least taste good?

    January 23, 2014
    • They *did* taste good, Cathy. I had added some lemon extract so they were nice and lemony. The consistency, though, was just so weird. They got stuck in my teeth. And when I finally got around to cleaning the kitchen, I noticed that the batter (if that’s what you can call it) melted into something resembling really puffy silly string when immersed in warm water. It was just so bizarre!

      January 24, 2014
  16. You make me laugh.

    January 23, 2014
    • Right back at you, sister.

      January 24, 2014
  17. I’m weirdly attracted to that pink spider-goop. Kinda makes me want to give marshmallows a try…?

    January 23, 2014
    • You know, I was weirdly attracted to it, too. I left it out on the counter all day because it was just so sticky that I couldn’t bring myself to clean it up. I had had enough. But every time I walked through the kitchen it was just so visually stunning, even if it was a mess. I kept poking at it, pulling off a little piece and sucking on it, and then cursing when it inevitably got stuck in my teeth. Anyway, if you have or acquire a candy thermometer, I say go for it. I mean, lots of people say they’re awesome, so. . . I’m sure I just messed them up!

      January 24, 2014
  18. But, how did it *taste*? I’m sure Thunder would have heaved herself out of the bed-sinkhole for delicious spider poo.

    January 23, 2014
    • It tasted so weeeeeeeird. Like a cross between salt water taffy and marshmallow, maybe? At least it was bright and pretty. And given that it’s so dark and cold around here, maybe it had a salutary effect on me, like a bit of vitamin D or ten minutes under a light box or whatever.

      January 24, 2014
  19. okay, listen: it doesn’t have to be this way. this is EXACTLY what my first batch of marshmallows looked like when i made them two years ago. I went into it all excited, like “pffft, marshmallows…how hard is that? it’s basically just meringue…EASY PEASY” and it ended up being an impossibly sticky disaster i ended up cleaning for days. probably there’s still some in my hair somewhere, i don’t know.
    what i DO know is that i after being scarred for life (or for two years, i guess), i made them again this christmas. different recipe. TOTALLY WORKED. no mess, no weird strings of goo a la “War of the Worlds: Marshmallow Rising,” none of that. I never got around to posting it to the blog but i can give you the recipe if you’d like. It’ll restore your faith in marshmallowing.

    January 23, 2014
    • That’s awesome that it worked on your second try. I should give it a go *with* a thermometer, I suppose. I just got burned, I guess, and now I’m hesitant to try again. Kind of like the time my prom date ignored me and passed out within the first 5 minutes at the dance and I was so scarred that I didn’t date anyone for, like, 2 years after that. (Note: my lack of dating had nothing to do with me being a dork. Absolutely nothing, I’m certain. . . ) Anyway, I would happily have my faith in marshmallowing restored. Especially because you can turn them such beautiful colors! And you can add drops of different essences to make them even tastier! Sigh. Some day.

      January 24, 2014
  20. Haha – oh noes! I actually make marshmallows all the time (like, dozens of times a year… seriously), and they don’t have to be that hard. I took a peak at that recipe, and it seems to be pretty poorly written. Homemade marshmallows will be sticky, but with the right recipe (as Shannon said) and a bit of experience, it’s no big deal. I have a recipe for marshmallows up on my site, and the biggest mess I make is getting cornstarch/powdered sugar everywhere because I suck at sifting.

    Don’t be discouraged — a candy thermometer will definitely help, but I’m begging you to give the marshmallows another shot. I think they are definitely better than store bought, plus you can make them whatever flavor you want. They melt better than store-bought (as in, in hot cocoa), and they toast up nicely for smores, too. Did I mention I make them dozens of times each year? And I don’t even like store-bought marshmallows, so that’s saying something.

    January 23, 2014
    • Ok, so Willow–your marshmallow recipes make me think maybe I *didn’t* overbeat the marshmallow fluff. It looks like you typically beat yours for 8-10 minutes or so in a stand mixer, past the stage where it’s just fluffy. That’s more than I beat mine. So it’s more likely that I went wrong by not heating the corn syrup/sugar mixture to a high enough temperature since I didn’t have a candy thermometer. That’s helpful to know. Next time I make marshmallows, I’ll use your recipe for the orange zest ones (or the peppermint). They look gorgeous!

      January 25, 2014
  21. The thing is, I suspect you are now glued to your chair by the marshmallow that inevitably got all over your hands and clothes. Probably your laptop is also glued to you, so at least you have something to keep you entertained.

    Once Scott has unglued you with white spirit and liberal application of scissors, if you ever, ever, EVER want to look a marshmallow in the face again (which you probably don’t, even if they had faces), I recommend Smitten Kitchen’s recipe: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2009/06/springy-fluffy-marshmallows/

    I don’t have a candy thermometer, and I checked the sugar with cold water, and stop heating when it was at a soft ball stage. That’s ye olde sugare crafte talk, right there.

    Or they come in packets and you won’t end up glued to anything.

    January 23, 2014
    • Ok, the “soft ball stage”?? I never got to that. Like, not even close.

      Do you know the scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation where Clark and his wife are in bed the night after the cut the tree down and he has sap all over his hands and his magazine keeps sticking to him? I LOVE THAT PART. That’s what the stickiness of the marshmallow debacle reminded me of. (I tried to find it on youtube but it’s not there).

      January 25, 2014
  22. Hahaha, thank goodness you posted this, because now there’s definitely no way I’m making marshmallows! I don’t have a candy thermometer either, and here I was over here thinking I was missing out…. Good lookin’ out, friend. Hello, Jet-Puffed.

    January 23, 2014
  23. Oh noooo, I’m sorry you had such a disheartening kitchen experience, but I’m grateful you still shared it with us! And just so you know, I believe I’ve had worse cooking fails when just attempting to make cookies—at least yours happened with a complicated recipe like marshmallows… a recipe that even calls for a CANDY THERMOMETER! No shame in that!

    Your post has probably delayed any first attempt of mine to make marshmallows by at least a year if not forever, but seeing as I don’t have a candy thermometer OR a stand mixer, that’s probably for the best.

    January 23, 2014
  24. Every time I consider making marshmallows, I think I’ll come here and look at your pictures! They’re on my list of things to try, but I might have to wait on that one!

    January 23, 2014
  25. Hhaha this was so funny. I’m sure if you get a thermometer you’ll be sitting pretty

    January 23, 2014
  26. Pam #

    I have to say that I did try to make marshmallows once…sage marshmallows to be served over sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving. They came out as expected and freeze well…but there are still some in my freezer. How often do you need sage marshmallows?? Let me know if you want the recipe.

    January 23, 2014
  27. That looks like a lot of fun. Baking is a science. Measurements have to be exact. Cooking is a different story. You can substitute all you want and it will probably come out great. Better luck next time. You have some great modeling material to work with.

    January 23, 2014
  28. for some reason it never even occurred to me you could make marshmallows (but we don’t really get them much here in Belgium), they looks like hell, but a very pretty hell… I love your photos, and am impressed if you didn’t also stick to your camera!

    January 23, 2014
  29. that’s pretty much my first (and only) experience of marshmallow making…and I had a thermometer! (I also had three kids under 8 providing a running commentary, which helped the angst levels no end) Back to the chair I say.

    January 23, 2014
  30. it looks like fairy cobwebs. I was listening to She and Him (Zooey’s band) while reading your post and I almost thought it was going to magically turn into marshmallows. Ah anyways enjoy your rest. Looks like I have to go get a candy thermometer. I’ve been wanting to try this too.

    January 23, 2014
  31. This is hilarious. And also why I have never been brave enough to make homemade marshmallows. Kudos to you for effort. 😉

    January 23, 2014
  32. Haha this is sad and funny at the same time! Sad that you didn’t get to eat any, but gorgeous that you had the good humour to post about it anyway. Did they taste good at least?

    January 24, 2014
  33. Ha! And you know, they always make the marshmallow thing look so easy on TV, and then I read a recipe, and I’m like…. yeeeeeaaaaah, better not.

    January 24, 2014
  34. inutzza21 #

    Exactly what happened to me when I tried making croquembouche , a total mess. 🙂

    January 25, 2014
  35. I feel like I should buy you a candy thermometer.

    January 26, 2014
  36. P.Gardiner #

    First of all, Laurie Colwin is awesome, please go read all of her things. Second, buy a candy thermometer. Third, I actually figured out how to veganize marshmallows years ago when you couldn’t just buy them at Whole Foods, it’s not that hard-IF YOU POSSESS A CANDY THERMOMETER. Candy is science.
    The End.

    January 28, 2014
  37. Amy #

    Oh lord, I don’t envy your having to clean up that mess. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at making marshmallows….now I’m not so sure. I have learned in candy making that there is no substitue for a candy thermometer, however. Which is why I’m not a huge fan of candy making…

    January 29, 2014
  38. I had visions of cheese spiderwebs (courtesy of Asterix, the comic mag) before attempting homemade marshmallows for the first time. Sometimes the dreadful thermometer can’t be avoided. But you tried! You should feel your spot in the couch is taller!

    February 2, 2014

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