Fresh homemade marshmallows are so much better. If you haven’t made some in a while, I recommend you try this vintage recipe. Marshmallows are easy to make but there are few things to be aware of when looking for a certain sense of texture. This wonderful vintage marshmallows recipe is over 100 years old from The Candy Cook Book by Alice Bradley. It has simple tricks that take you to closer to those perfect fluffy and soft bites. To sweeten our summer BBQ gatherings, I made these strawberry marshmallows few days ago.
Looking for the fluffy and soft marshmallow texture
Let’s think marshmallows in three stages of being. First, the marshmallow batter is super sticky lava. It’s okay and necessary to taste it and check that you have the flavor balance right. Second, coated marshmallows are fresh, fluffy and soft heavenly pillows. And finally, fire-toasted marshmallows are melted gooey deliciousness. So when it comes to texture, sogginess and chewiness are the two extremes to be avoided when making homemade marshmallows. This vintage recipe has simple fundamentals within it why the baking process works.
The perfect fluffy and soft mouth-feel of a marshmallow comes down to two major things: temperature of the sugar syrup and amount of air whipped into the batter. In this recipe, we are set in the lower scale of hot marshmallow syrup at 240°F (approx. 115-116°C). If you boil the syrup too hot, you’ll end up with chewy bubble gum.
It’s always a good idea to calibrate your candy thermometer but once you make the syrup correctly, memorize the bubbles! When you remember how the bubbles are supposed to behave, you can confidently manage a marshmallow situation where the thermometer is nowhere to be found (check).
For the second, to get enough air into the marshmallow batter you need speed & patience. Once the gelatin is combined with the sugar syrup in whipping, the mass should double in volume while cooling off. It’s paramount to whip the gelatin to its highest volume and not the half way. This is also a classic recipe giving a nod to the French origins of marshmallow making by using whipped egg whites for even more softer texture.
It’s almost impossible to imagine the process and tools of making marshmallows back in the day. However, a convenient new product for the first Candy Cook Book readers arrived only a year later after the 1918 publication: KitchenAid hit the consumer market with their very first “H-5” stand mixer. The notorious K model by Egmont Arens’ was launched later in 1937. I’m afraid that we still have a good decade and so more to wait for that shiny centennial model haha.
Okay back to the perfect marshmallow texture. From an experience I can safely that if you scale the recipe below by 50 percent, you’ll do just fine with a standard electric hand mixer. If you want to make a full batch of marshmallows, a stand mixer with fitted whisk attachment is a safe choice. In the end, it’s a matter of equipment you have available and whether you want to make 20 or 40 marshmallows.
Vintage Marshmallows | Recipe
I’ve converted the original cubic measures to more exact measures when necessary for us candy bakers who prefer to work with a kitchen scale. To check the original vintage marshmallow recipe, click here. However, the instructions are verbatim from the Candy Cook Book. A more wordy breakdown of the strawberry and coconut flavored marshmallows by yours truly are found after the recipe details. With 32cm x 20cm oven pan the recipe yields approx. 36-40 big BBQ marshmallows.
400g caster sugar A good handful of 50/50 mix of confectioners sugar and cornstarch for coating Put sugar, corn syrup, and hot water in saucepan, and stir until sugar is dissolved, bring to boiling point and boil without stirring to 240°F., or until it forms a soft ball when tried in cold water. Remove from fire, add gelatine which has soaked in the cold water, and beat mixture until it is white. Add whites of eggs beaten until stiff, and beat candy vigorously until it gets thick and stringy. Add vanilla and cornstarch, pour into a pan 9 inches square that has been dusted over with sifted confectioners' sugar, and sift confectioners' sugar over the top of the candy in the pan. Cut into squares with a silver knife that is kept moist by being dipped into water. Let candy stand overnight to dry off, then pack between layers of wax paper. Other flavors, and nuts or candied fruits cut into small pieces, may be added if desired.
120g corn syrup (or glucose syrup)
236ml hot water
60ml cold water
2 small egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cornstarch
400g caster sugar
A good handful of 50/50 mix of confectioners sugar and cornstarch for coating
Put sugar, corn syrup, and hot water in saucepan, and stir until sugar is dissolved, bring to boiling point and boil without stirring to 240°F., or until it forms a soft ball when tried in cold water. Remove from fire, add gelatine which has soaked in the cold water, and beat mixture until it is white. Add whites of eggs beaten until stiff, and beat candy vigorously until it gets thick and stringy. Add vanilla and cornstarch, pour into a pan 9 inches square that has been dusted over with sifted confectioners' sugar, and sift confectioners' sugar over the top of the candy in the pan. Cut into squares with a silver knife that is kept moist by being dipped into water. Let candy stand overnight to dry off, then pack between layers of wax paper. Other flavors, and nuts or candied fruits cut into small pieces, may be added if desired.
Flavored Homemade Marshmallows
This summer has been fantastic and our small strawberry field is thriving. I’ve been binging on strawberries every day, adding them in my breakfast porridge and snacking them on every possible meal. I also made strawberry juice and thought, why not use some of that also to flavor marshmallow.
Since only one kind of marshmallows are boring, I actually flavored two marshmallow versions for our BBQs by blooming the gelatine with juices. I used cold homemade strawberry extract for one batch and cold organic coconut juice for the other batch.
I kept the vanilla extract constant for both but added a tablespoon of small coconut flakes into the final batter for the latter (would have wanted to use coconut flour but had run out of it). Since the pink color of the strawberry juice was too fair in the end, I added a hint of red color paste into the strawberry marshmallow batter.
About the choice of syrup
The original recipe mentions corn syrup but here in the Nordics it’s not that popular. I’ve baked these marshmallows with both wheat based glucose syrup and normal light colored baking syrup which has been mixed with starch a bit. Starch in the syrup is the key.
Also, by adjusting the amount of cornstarch you can play with the gooey factor. For example, in these strawberry versions I cut down the added cornstarch with 50 percent. In the future, I think I’ll stick to 75% added cornstarch of the original amount given in the recipe because that’s the way I like them best.
Oil or cover the pan before dusting
When making full recipe for strawberry marshmallows, I used a rectangular 32cm x 20cm oven pan lined with cling film. Please don’t judge me for plastic. I rarely see a point of wasting cling film but I do keep a lonely roll in the kitchen for urgent situations.
When I made the coconut marshmallows, I brushed the sides of the pan with organic coconut oil which gave the marshmallows last layer of flavor. Here in the country home I only had olive oil to use hence the cling film (updated my shopping list).
Whatever method you’re using to keep the coating mix on the sides of the pan in place, be sure to prepare the pan(s) before making the recipe since the batter sets really quickly.
Patience is the key
For BBQs I wanted to make big marshmallow cubes. This also meant longer waiting time. I left the pan in room temperature overnight and then flipped the marshmallow onto a sugar cornstarch mix coated baking sheet. I left it stand for 5 more hours or so and then cut the marshmallow into stripes and cubes with a wet knife. Few cubes at the time, I coated the marshmallows in the sugar mix and then strained extra coating off. I left the cubes to set few more extra hours and then stored the marshmallows in an airtight container.
A common pitfall mentioned in many marshmallow recipes is the fear of sugar crystallization. I warmly recommend the Candy Cook Book process. Do not stir the mix at all and add the ingredients into the saucepan in the right order: sugar first, syrup second & hot water third. This way the sugar and syrup start to dissolve into the hot water already before moving the pan over the stove. How clever!
Hope this recipe brings your summer extra sweetness!