KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: Have you never been mallow?
Bay Area Bites: culinary rants & raves from bay area foodies and professionals
Previous Posts
Sippin' Ain't Easy: Bourbon & Branch
Michael Pollan & John Mackey
Late February at the Farmers' Market
Culinary School Advice
Memories of Philippine Kitchens
Dorie Greenspan ~ Live and Online in Paris, Part I...
Mojito Coast
Fix-it and Forget-it?
Apples for Jam, Tessa Kiros
Goose Dinner, A (Sumptuous) Belated Holiday Affair...
BAB Guidelines

'Bay Area Bites' is part of KQED's Blog Authors Collaborative. Blog contributors and commentators are solely responsible for their content. If you're interested in writing or contributing to a blog on kqed.org, email us with your idea.
Friday, March 02, 2007
Have you never been mallow?

Twice in the past month, I have come face to face with the marshmallow.

The first instance was about three weeks ago. Rained out of what I had hoped to be a glorious weekend camping out at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur, my camping mates and I decided to have a campfire dinner at home. Any excuse to drink wine, light a fire and prevent a gallon of vegetarian chili from going to waste. I was asked to bring ingredients for s'mores. I did as I was told. The marshmallows were of the Campfire brand, which seemed appropriate enough. Upon tasting them-- and I do not consider myself a grand connoisseur of sticky, gooey sweets-- I was disappointed. More silky than Marshmallow Peeps certainly, but not what I would call satisfying. Can a marshmallow truly be satisfying?

The second time was earlier this week. I dipped into a hot bath on Tuesday in response to the heavens dumping their dishwater all over the Bay Area. Cold rain makes me run for hot water-- I find it's an excellent antedote. Depending on my bathtime mood, my drink of choice is either a) a dry martini (because it's all about balance for me) or b) a cup of hot tea. Either tend to work brilliantly at soothing the mind. Or dulling it. This particular Tuesday, I wanted neither. I craved instead hot cocoa. Hot cocoa with marshmallows. I didn't have any marshmallows in the house, so I thought, "Why not just make some?"

Why not just make some? I didn't know the first thing about marshmallow making, but that has never stopped me before. I admitted my ignorance as to what was even in a marshmallow except air and goo. I looked it up.

I was mildly fascinated by what I learned. These factory-produced confections have been with us, in one form or another, for thousands of years. We can thank or blame the Egyptians for their creation. Marshmallows (althea officinalis) grew wild in the marshy wetlands of Egypt. Though I had indeed heard of the marshmallow plant, it is difficult to connect this machine-made treat to anything even approaching organic, but there you go. I had this image in my head of little kohl-eyed children frolicking in the marshes, picking the candies like berries and placing them in their little reed baskets. There was more to it than that, as I'm sure you might have guessed. It is the mucilaginous root of the plant the Egyptians were after. Once extracted, the sap was mixed with honey to make the candy.

In the 19th century, doctors created what we might actually recognize as a marshmallow to use as a medicinal candy. The sap was cooked with egg whites and sugar to make a meringue that was used to soothe children's sore throats. Medicinal properties? Apparently, the (real) marshmallow is useful as a cough suppressant, immune system booster and wound healer. The thought of rubbing marshmallows on one's self if something I had imagined only existed on adult websites. I learned something new.

The marshmallow as we know it has no known healing properties, since the actual eponymous ingredient has been replaced, like everything else it seems, by modified corn products. Marshmallows are now, in fact, known to kill on occasion. Every played Chubby Bunny? No? Neither have I. I would not recommend you that you play, unless I really don't like you.

I would like to actually get my hands on some real marshmallow sap and try making them the old fashioned way. Until my Southeastern contacts locate a reliable source (the plant grows wild in the American Coastal South), I will have to satisfy my infrequent cravings with this. It's a good and easy-to-do recipe.

I can't wait to see if they explode in my microwave.


This recipe calls for a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. I dropped a cast iron skillet on mine, so I ended up using what was available-- an 8 x 8 inch pan. Yes, there was waste involved.


about 1 cup confectioners' sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup hot water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Oil bottom and sides of pan and dust bottom and sides with powdered sugar.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or, lacking a stand mixer, a plain old large bowl. [or, lacking and old bowl, a new one will do just as well]), sprinkle gelatin over cold water and let stand to soften. It will form a semi-solid gelatinous mass but don't worry, that's supposed to happen.

In a 3-quart heavy saucepan, cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, hot water and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil the mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240 degrees F (about ten minutes). Remove pan from heat and pour the syrup over gelatin mixture, stirring until the gelatin is dissolved. At this stage, I found the whole mixture to smell of an unclean cow's ass. I suppose it was the gelatin.

In a stand mixer, beat the sugar/gelatin mixture at high speed until white, thick and tripled in volume, about 6 minutes. If using a hand-held mixer, this should take about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, using clean beaters, beat egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and sift 1/4 of powdered sugar evenly over the top. Place pan in refrigerator and chill, uncovered, until firm-- at least three hours and up to one day.

Run a knife around edges of pan and invert onto a large cutting board. With fingers, loosen marshmallow and cut into desired shapes and sizes. Sift remaining powdered sugar into large bowl and add marshmallows in batches, tossing evenly to coat.

Will keep for one week in an airtight container.

Makes about 96 marshmallows. I didn't get that many out of it. I like them big.

Labels: , ,



Blogger Catherine said...

LOL! Your writing is very entertaining! I think I'll stick to store-bought myself. You put me off with the stinky phase!

3/03/2007 9:03 AM

Blogger Catherine said...

LOL! Your writing is very entertaining! I think I'll stick to store-bought myself. You put me off with the stinky phase!

3/03/2007 9:04 AM

Blogger Michael Procopio said...

Thank you very much, Catherine. If you like marshmallows, give the recipe a try. Vanilla hides most sins, so the smell goes away...

3/03/2007 11:39 AM

Blogger cucina testa rossa said...

oh, i LOVE homemade marshmallows! doesn't begin to compare to campfire brand. and bonus, they have medicinal properties? i feel a cough coming on....

3/05/2007 1:24 PM

Anonymous Sheri said...

my husband fell into the marshmallow-making trap once too. or shall i say, marthamallow. she can convince people to do odd things.

his came out yummy but they sure weren't as perty as yours.

3/05/2007 4:11 PM


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Locate CP Restaurants:
Check, Please! Google Map
KQED Food Sites
Check, Please! Bay Area
Jacques Pépin Celebrates!
Jacques Pépin:
Fast Food My Way
Jacques Pépin:
The Apprentice
Jacques Pépin:
The Complete Pépin
KQED Wine Club
KQED.org Cooking
Weir Cooking in the City
Tasty Food Sites
Chowhound SF
Eat Local Challenge
Edible San Francisco
Food Network
Food Talk
Group Recipes
Hungry Magazine
Leite's Culinaria
Mighty Foods
NPR: Food
Om Organics
Serious Eats
SFGate: Food
SFGate: Wine
SF Station: Restaurants
Slow Food SF
Top Chef
Wikimedia Commons: Food & Drink
Yahoo! Food
Yelp: Reviews
Tangy Food Blogs
101 Cookbooks
A Full Belly
Accidental Hedonist
An Obsession with Food
Anna's Cool Finds
Becks & Posh
Between Meals
Bunny Foot
Butter Pig
Cellar Rat
Chez Pim
Chocolate & Zucchini
Confessions of a
Restaurant Whore
Cooking For Engineers
Cooking with Amy
Cucina Testa Rossa
Culinary Muse
Denise's Kitchen
Eater SF
Feed & Supply
Food Blog S'cool
Food Musings
Food Porn Watch
I'm Mad and I Eat
In Praise of Sardines
Knife's Edge
Life Begins at 30
Love and Cooking
Mental Masala
Moveable Feast
Organic Day
Passionate Eater
San Francisco Gourmet
SF City Eats
Simply Recipes
The Amateur Gourmet
The Ethicurean
The Food Section
The Grub Report
The Petite Pig
The Wine Makers Wife
Vin Divine
Wandering Spoon
Well Fed Network
Word Eater
World on a Plate
Yummy Chow
Search BAB

Eye Candy: Food Photos
BAB on flickr.com
Join Flickr for free and share your photos with the Bay Area Bites and Beyond group pool.
Food Books
The Moosewood Cookbook
by Mollie Katzen
Baking: From My Home to Yours
by Dorie Greenspan
Grand Livre de Cuisine: Alain Ducasse's Desserts and Pastries
by Alain Ducasse, Frederic Robertmison
The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking and Entertaining
by Cheryl Alters Jamison, Bill Jamison
Tasty: Get Great Food on the Table Every Day
by Roy Finamore
Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way
by Lorna Sass
The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa
by Marcus Samuelsson
Michael Mina: The Cookbook
by Michael Mina, Photographer: Karl Petzktle
What to Eat
by Marion Nestle
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
by Michael Pollan
Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate
by John Scharffenberger, Robert Steinberg
Romancing the Vine: Life, Love, and Transformation in the Vineyards of Barolo
by Alan Tardi
What to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea -- Even Water -- Based on Expert Advice from America's Best Sommeliers
by Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page, Michael Sofronski
The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-be Southerners
by Matt Lee, Ted Lee
Bread Matters: The State of Modern Bread and a Definitive Guide to Baking Your Own
by Andrew Whitley
Coloring the Seasons: A Cook's Guide
by Allegra McEvedy
All-new Complete Cooking Light Cookbook
by Anne C. Cain
Modern Garde Manger
by Robert B. Garlough
The Spice and Herb Bible
by Ian Hemphill, Kate Hemphill
The Improvisational Cook
by Sally Schneider
Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children
by Ann Cooper, Lisa M. Holmes
Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia
by James Oseland
My Life in France
by Julia Child, Alex Prud'Homme
A Passion for Ice Cream: 95 Recipes for Fabulous Desserts
by Emily Luchett, Sheri Giblin (photographer)
Au Pied De Cochon -- The Album
by Martin Picard
Memories of Philippine Kitchens
by Amy Besa, Romy Dorotan
Simple Chinese Cooking
by Kylie Kwong
An Invitation to Indian Cooking
by Madhur Jaffrey
Hungry Planet
by Peter Menzel, Faith D'Aluisio
Sunday Suppers at Lucques : Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table
by Suzanne Goin, Teri Gelber
Simple Soirees: Seasonal Menus for Sensational Dinner Parties
by Peggy Knickerbocker, Christopher Hirsheimer (Photographer)
The Cook's Book
by Jill Norman
Molto Italiano : 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home
by Mario Batali
Nobu Now
by Nobuyuki Matsuhisa
Cheese : A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Best
by Max Mccalman, David Gibbons
Bones : Recipes, History, and Lore
by Jennifer McLagan
Whiskey : The Definitive World Guide
by Michael Jackson
The New American Cooking
by Joan Nathan
by Lisa Yockelson
Easy Entertaining: Everything You Need to Know About Having Parties at Home
by Darina Allen
Cooking at De Gustibus: Celebrating 25 Years of Culinary Innovation
by Arlene Feltman Sailhac
Dough: Simple Contemporary Breads
by Richard Bertinet
Chocolate Obsession: Confections and Treats to Create and Savor
by Michael Recchiuti, Fran Gage, Maren Caruso
The Food Substitutions Bible: More Than 5,000 Substitutions for Ingredients, Equipment And Techniques
by David Joachim
Recipes: A Collection for the Modern Cook
by Susan Spungen
Spices of Life: Simple and Delicious Recipes for Great Health
by Nina Simonds
Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent
by Jeffrey Alford, Naomi Duguid
Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light
by Mort Rosenblum
Vegetable Love: A Book for Cooks
by Barbara Kafka, Christopher Styler
A History of Wine in America: From Prohibition to the Present
by Thomas Pinney
Fonda San Miguel: Thirty Years Of Food And Art
by Tom Gilliland, Miguel Ravago, Virginia B. Wood
Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South
by Marcie Cohen Ferris
Washoku: Recipes From The Japanese Home Kitchen
by Elizabeth Andoh, Leigh Beisch
Weir Cooking in the City: More than 125 Recipes and Inspiring Ideas for Relaxed Entertaining
by Joanne Weir
Rick Stein's Complete Seafood
by Rick Stein
The Great Scandinavian Baking Book
by Beatrice A. Ojakangas
Serena, Food & Stories: Feeding Friends Every Hour of the Day
by Serena Bass
John Ash: Cooking One on One: Private Lessons in Simple, Contemporary Food from a Master Teacher
by John Ash
The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook: Eating Well for Better Health
by Donald Hensrud, M.D., Jennifer Nelson, R.D. & Mayo Clinic Staff
Foods of the Americas: Native Recipes and Traditions
by Fernando and Marlene Divina
The Provence Cookbook
by Patricia Wells
Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World
by Gil Marks
Last Chance to Eat: The Fate of Taste in a Fast Food World
by Gina Mallet
by Thomas Keller
A Blessing of Bread: The Many Rich Traditions of Jewish Bread Baking Around the World
by Maggie Glezer
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
by Molly Stevens
On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen
by Harold McGee
Entertaining: Inspired Menus For Cooking with Family and Friends
by George Dolese
The Breath of a Wok: Unlocking the Spirit of Chinese Wok Cooking Through Recipes and Lore
by Grace Young, Alan Richardson
Cooking New American: How to Cook the Food You Love to Eat
by Fine Cooking Magazine
The Japanese Kitchen: A Book of Essential Ingredients with 200 Authentic Recipes
by Kimiko Barber
Arthur Schwartz's New York City Food: An Opinionated History and More Than 100 Legendary Recipes
by Arthur Schwartz
Poet of the Appetites: The Lives and Loves of M.F.K. Fisher
by Joan Reardon
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes
by Jeffrey Hamelman
Everyday Dining with Wine
by Andrea Immer
Copyright © 2005-2008 KQED. All rights reserved.