Homemade marshmallows without corn syrup, easier than expected
We picked up a container of handmade marshmallows from Whole Foods to make “gourmet” rice krispy treats to share with friends at a dinner playdate, and I noticed that the ingredients did not contain high fructose corn syrup unlike conventional packaged marshmallows. These vanilla marshmallows were absolutely divine, fluffier and tastier than any that I have had, and I’m not really a marshmallow fan unless roasted for s’mores. My kids and their friends gobbled up the leftover marshmallows for dessert. Because the handmade ones are more expensive (at least twice more) than a plastic bag of marshmallows, the wheels in my head were turning. I should learn to make my own, without corn syrup.
The search for recipes online began, and it is ridiculous how few recipes are out there for corn syrup free marshmallows. The Whole Foods purchased marshmallows had glucose and dextrose as sweeteners, and I was unable to find a recipe with similar ingredients. Instead, I found a recipe that uses agave nectar which has a lower glycemic index than many other sweeteners. Interesting…
I gave it a whirl with the kids, test trying this recipe from Eco Child’s Play with a few tweaks, based on what I had in the kitchen. Because making these confections requires making a syrup, my paranoid former science teacher self banished the kids out for a short walk around the neighborhood with their daddy during that step so there would not be any chance of the kids getting burned.
Gadgets: kitchen mixer, candy thermometer, mixing bowl, spatula, 11×13 baking pan, cookie sheet, sharp knife
- 3 T of unflavored gelatin (1 box of 4 package Knox = 3T)
- 1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar (I’m sure regular sugar works just fine.)
- 1 cup chilled filtered water
- 1 cup agave nectar (I found a bottle of agave nectar on the sugar-free aisle at HEB, Central Market brand. You may also substitute with maple syrup, or just use 2 cups of total sugar in the recipe instead of the agave syrup.) — Updated: I quit using the agave nectar just because I prefer the taste of the marshmallows made just with sugar.
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt (I substituted with sea salt.)
- 1 tsp real vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup powder sugar
- 1/4 cup corn starch – For kids with corn allergies, you may substitute with tapioca starch.
- non-stick spray
1. Chill whisk and mixing bowl. (I stuck ours in the freezer because I didn’t know how cold everything needed to be.)
2. Dissolve 3 T of gelatin (all 4 packets if using Knox) into 1/2 cup of chilled water. (I had the kids measure this straight from the fridge water.) Mix lightly, and set aside. The gelatin will congeal into something that smells like a microbiology lab’s Petri dish, but don’t worry about it.
3. In a medium saucepan, combine 1/2 cup chilled water, agave nectar, sugar, and salt. This is an easy step for kids to help. Cover and boil for 3 minutes. (The sugar didn’t come to a full rolling boil, but the edges started to boil after 3 minutes.)
4. Uncover, put in thermometer (making sure not to touch pan bottom), and allow sugar mixture to boil until it reaches 235-240 degrees F (soft ball stage). – For a non-candy maker, I had no idea what a soft ball stage was so I kept expecting the solution to thicken and ball up which it never did. The soft ball stage refers to dropping a small amount of the sugar solution into a cup of water, and the sugar hardens into a pliable sugar ball. Who knew! I also do not have a candy thermometer so I took a chance and used a forked meat thermometer, testing it every other minute. I would not recommend this.
5. Remove sugar syrup from heat as soon it reaches the soft ball stage temperature.
6. Remove whisk and mixing bowl from the freezer, and add the congealed gelatin.
7. Slowly pour in the hot sugar mixture to the mixing bowl, while whisking on low speed. Increase to high speed once all of the sugar has been added to the gelatin. – This step can be dangerous so be careful and keep the kids away. Seriously if I could still find a pair of my safety goggles, I probably would have put it on, as doofy as it would have looked. I’m kind of klutzy. I transferred the hot solution to a large glass measuring cup with a spout to make it safer to pour into the mixing bowl.
8. Mix the syrup until it cools down, turns whitish, and thickens. Add vanilla extract while whisking. It’ll look almost like meringue or jarred marshmallow cream (about 10-15 minutes).
9. While the marshmallow is whipping, spray a 11×13 pan with non-stick spray. Mix together the corn starch and powdered sugar. Dust the pan lightly with it.
10. When the sugar has whipped into creamy marshmallow, pour it into the spray pan. I found that spraying a spatula with nonstick spray helped to scrape all the marshamllow out of the mixing bowl and into the pan. Use the spatula to spread the marshmallow evenly, though I found that the spatula wasn’t all too necessary since I let my daughter pour out the marshmallow cream while I rotated the pan at the same time.
11. Dust the marshmallow top lightly with the cornstarch and powdered sugar mixture.
12. Cover, and leave overnight. (The original recipe calls for overnight, but I noticed about 2 hours in, the marshmallow had solidified already.)
The whole cooking process took about 30-45 minutes to complete. The marshmallows were absolutely fluffy and delicious. We turned over the marshmallow sheet onto a lightly dusted cookie sheet, and I sprayed a heart cookie cutter with nonstick spray for my daughter to cut the marshmallow. It was not at all a sticky mess to my surprise. I cut the rest of the marshmallow into cubes and dusted the sides with powdered sugar-cornstarch mix. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
My kids had so much fun making these things, especially cutting the marshmallows into cute shapes. They called the powdered sugar and cornstarch “snow.” I plan to try this recipe, substituting Kahlua instead of vanilla and dipping the marshmallow cubes into chocolate to make gourmet marshmallows for my adult friends. Hey, fancy marshmallows can be for mommies and daddies!