Donut marshmallows. I've so been looking forward to making these. Great shape for hot chocolate, great shape on their own. Homemade marshmallows are really worth the effort. They are light and airy. When you toast them over an open flame it only takes a few seconds for them to crackle and get all gooey. Fresh marshmallows melt almost immediately in a cup of hot chocolate. A bag of these would make a great holiday gift, I think!
They do take some doing. I followed this recipe by Deb from Smitten Kitchen which she adapted from this recipe by Gourmet Magazine. I'll break it down here for you, but the way Deb wrote it out at Smitten Kitchen is probably a more efficient way to read a recipe. I'm not into reinventing the wheel here, just making the wheel tastier! I do have a few donut-specific tips for you.
1. MOVE FAST! This recipe can potentially make a full two dozen donuts, so have all four of your donut pans prepared and ready to go. When your marshmallows are ready to be piped there is no time to spare. You have about 5-7 minutes before they set up enough to be too hard to pipe.
2. Double-sift your powdered sugar. Sift it into a bowl, and then when you are required (several times) to sift it into the pans or onto the marshmallows it will flow freely.
3. Clear out at least one shelf in your refrigerator. You'll only need it for a few hours, but you don't need to be rearranging things on top of the mess you're going to create.
You'll need 3 c. +/- powdered sugar, 3 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin, 1 c. cold water, 2 c. sugar, 1/2 c. light corn syrup, 1/4 tsp. salt, 2 large egg whites, 1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or other flavoring) and canola oil for greasing the pans.
You'll also need a bunch of equipment, including four donut pans, a stand mixer with a paddle or whisk attachment, a hand mixer (yes, you need two mixers!), a small mesh sifter, a candy thermometer, measuring cups and spoons, and of course a pastry bag with no tip on the end. But they are worth it!
This ain't the half of it.
Start by lightly oiling all surfaces of each cavity of each of your FOUR donut pans using a smooth cloth. Sift pre-sifted powdered sugar generously into each cavity, then invert the pans one at a time over a baking sheet and give a good whack to release extra sugar, which you will use again later on. Do all four pans now, I'm telling you!
Next, sprinkle the 3 1/2 envelopes of gelatin over 1/2 c. cold water in the bowl of your stand mixer. Let it sit to soften. Meanwhile, cook sugar, corn syrup, remaining 1/2 c. of cold water and salt over low heat, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Bring mixture to a boil, and maintain a low boil for 12 minutes, reaching and maintaining 240º F on your candy thermometer. Remove pan from heat and pour mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer, over the softened gelatin, stirring gently until gelatin is dissolved.
I've never worked with unflavored gelatin before. When it softens it looks like a Shar Pei!
This got to 240º F pretty quickly and I monitored it for the full 12 minutes to insure it never went higher.
Carefully combining hot sugar mixture with softened gelatin in the stand mixer bowl.
Here's where I got really nervous, but it all went so well! Turn on your stand mixer and get the gelatin/sugar mixture going, first at a medium speed but once things stop sloshing around you can bring it up closer to top speed. I let the mixer work about nine minutes, and by the end it had tripled in volume, as was suggested. It already looked so much like marshmallow! While the stand mixer is working, in a separate bowl using a hand mixer, beat two large egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. This took me about five minutes, give or take. Pour the beaten egg whites and the vanilla (or other flavoring, how about peppermint?) into the gelatin/sugar mixture until just combined, then immediately fill your pastry bag and get to work!
Holding your filled pastry bag firmly, squeeze marshmallow into the donut cavities. If you are squeezing as you go around the circle slowly, it takes one perfect time around to create a nice, plump donut marshmallow. Move quickly, and refill the bag as required. IMPORTANT: Fill all the pans at once. Don't stop to sift sugar until all your marshmallows have been set.
They won't be flat on the tops, but they are charming this way. This is the side you'll want to present when serving.
Sugar on AFTER they are all piped.
A serious but water-soluble mess.
With all my stopping to chat with Oliver and to take photos, and to get David to take photos, I made it to fourteen donuts before things set up too much to pipe. You can do better!
Set your donut pans in the refrigerator, using cooling racks to create more space on the shelf if needed. After two to three hours the donut marshmallows will have become quite firm. Using the tip of a sharp knife, loosen the top edges of the marshmallows and then with your fingers gently start to peel them out. I had NO casualties! We're not done yet, though. The backsides will be quite sticky and need a thorough sprinkling of powdered sugar so they can become completely dry. Sift powdered sugar on the backside of each one and set back down PIPED SIDE UP on a cooling rack to dry for another hour.
One of the smoothest releases in the whole donut pan series!
Extra, extra sugar on the backs.
Let 'em dry!
There is one more quick thing to do before presenting or serving these wonderful wheels of whipped whiteness. Wipe them! With a clean and dry hand, sweep as much excess powdered sugar off each one. They then resemble marshmallows you buy in the store (but so much better)! How about a cup of hot chocolate in a nice wide mug?
I don't think fresh marshmallows could handle the heat of a normal campfire or barbecue. They caramelize almost instantly, and they are tasty! As of this writing I've eaten at least four this way. These were great fun! I wanted to wait until most of the country had their cold weather to share these, but since it's always cold in San Francisco, no better time than the present!