Another homemade holiday highlight for me this season was making marshmallows! They were time intensive, but relatively easy, and we were all quite impressed with the way they turned out! The peppermint flavor is really good in these and I think that is what makes them stand out. I am not typically a marshmallow fan- I do not like Peeps, the chocolate and the graham cracker (or better yet, the gingersnap) are my favorite pieces of the s'more, and I typically prefer whipped cream to marshmallows on top of hot chocolate. But these homemade marshmallows are a game changer. They are quite good and just different enough of a consistency to still completely resemble the jet puffed ones we are used to, yet have a more sophisticated flavor.
The great thing about this recipe is that instead of corn syrup, evaporated milk is used. They are by no means healthy, they are marshmallows after all, but at least they don't have liquid sugar. The corn syrup makes the marshmallow fluffy and helps to prevent the sugar from crystallizing, but I found that the evaporated milk got the job done just fine (although it did leave the marshmallows a bit wetter than I would have liked, so we just left them uncovered for longer on the counter to fully dry them out).
We tried them alone, roasted over the fire in the fireplace, and both in coffee and hot chocolate. They were delicious all ways...there is nothing quite like biting into a homemade marshmallow, almost like biting into a powdered sugared cloud. They were a bit of a challenge to roast as they have a low melting point from the use of the evaporated milk so they turn out melty but not charred like I prefer them to be. My favorite way to have these marshmallows is in a hot liquid, either in coffee to create sort of a creamy peppermint latte or right atop your hot chocolate.
Make a batch to share, they would make a cute and festive gift, or keep them for yourself. They could really elevate your holiday gatherings and hopefully inspire a fire or extra lingering over a warm sweet drink. (Keep them on your counter because they make a tasty nibble while you are cooking dinner, but that's just our little secret!)
Butter, for greasing the pan
Powdered sugar, for dusting
1/2 cup water, plus 1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons (3 packets) unflavored gelatin
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
Special equipment: a candy thermometer
Butter the bottom and sides of an 8 by 8-inch pan (I used a Le Crueset making dish, but I think it would have been nicer to have used a straight edged pan). Dust liberally with powdered sugar and set aside.
Pour 1/2 cup water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and allow to gel, about 10 minutes.
In a 3-quart saucepan, combine the sugar, evaporated milk and 1/4 cup water. Stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 240 degrees F, about 12 to 15 minutes. Pour the syrup over the gelatin mixture. Beat the mixture at a low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and then beat until thick, fluffy and tripled in volume, about 15 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and peppermint extracts until just combined.
Using a spatula, scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Allow the mixture to set, uncovered, in a cool place (not refrigerated) for at least 8 hours or overnight. Remove the marshmallows from the pan and place on a powdered sugar-dusted surface. Using a sharp knife, dusted with powdered sugar, cut the marshmallows into about 1-inch squares. Dip the cut sides into powdered sugar to prevent sticking. Store on the counter for up to 2 weeks. Makes about 4 dozen.
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis's recipe and one from Hither and Thither blog.