Yes, you can make marshmallows at home!
Last year, I found the book Marshmallow Madness by Shauna Sever in the library. I was surprised to learn that one can make homemade marshmallows. Of course, I had to try. I have discovered that homemade marshmallows require several attempts to learn to make well.
For the first several batches, I used Sever’s “Classic Vanilla” recipe. For the most recent 2 batches, I used the recipe from the Cooking for Engineers blog. In all cases, the coating I used is a 3:2 mixture of powdered sugar and cornstarch.
For both recipes, the overall procedure is the same and seemingly simple:
- Mix gelatin and water and let sit (“bloom”) for a few minutes.
- Boil a mixture of water, corn syrup, and sugar until it reaches the proper temperature.
- Quickly mix the syrup mixture into the gelatin, then whip at high speed for several minutes.
- Pour the resulting mixture into a pan and let cure for several hours.
- Cut up the resulting giant marshmallow into smaller marshmallows and coat with powdered sugar and possibly cornstarch. A sufficiently durable pizza cutter works well.
The most important variables are the temperature of the syrup mixture, the speed and timing of the whipping step, and the procedure for pouring the syrup mixture into the gelatin. If I am counting correctly, I have made (or attempted to make) 8 batches so far.
Batch 1 (date uncertain): The first time I tried, I let the syrup get too hot. The Marshmallow Madness recipe calls for a temperature of 240℉, but I was not careful and let it soar way past that. It was brown by the time I poured it in the mixer and turned into hard candy rather than marshmallow fluff.
Batch 2 (date uncertain): As far as I can remember, I followed the recipe directions, which meant heating the syrup to 240℉ and whipping for 5 minutes on medium speed, 5 minutes on medium-high, and 2 minutes on high. Some of the candy liquid hardened on to the side of mixing bowl, onto the whisk, and at bottom of bowl. My wife didn’t like the texture, but otherwise these turned out well.
Batch 3 (Mar 7-8): In each batch, I used a candy thermometer to measure the syrup temperature. For this batch, I read the section in Marshmallow Madness on calibrating the thermometer. According to Server, one can calibrate a candy thermometer by boiling water. At sea level, water boils at 212℉; if the thermometer registers a lower temperature for boiling water, for example at higher altitude, then I should subtract the difference from the recommended temperature for the marshmallows. In our case, water boiled at 200℉, so I heated to syrup to 228℉ rather than 240℉. I whisked for the full 12 minutes as in Batch 2.
This batch had some problems. As you can see in the picture above, when I poured the marshmallow mixture into the pan, it was so thick that it did not spread well. I also had the syrup hardening problem described in Batch 2.
Despite these problems, the marshmallows tasted delicious, and I was encouraged enough to continue experimenting.
For Batches 4-8 and a summary table, watch for Parts 2 and 3.