Lavender-Vanilla Bean Marshmallows ~ #FirstOnTheFirst

by FoodBabbles on January 1, 2012

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Happy New Year!!! 2012 is going to be a great year of “firsts.” Carrie and I have already been churning out ideas of things we’d like to make for the coming year and we were so excited to get started. This month we decided to try our hand at making homemade marshmallows. What’s even better is that this time, we aren’t doing this with just the two of us. For the coming year, we’re inviting anyone and everyone to join Carrie and I for our “First on the First” projects and the response has been wonderful so far. We certainly hope that trend continues. The more the merrier!

Not too long ago, when I thought about marshmallows I really never considered how they were made or what I was even eating. All I knew was that marshmallows were little pillows of sweet goodness and that’s all that mattered.  Then I had the thought that what is good in prepackaged, mass-produced form is almost always lightyears better when it’s homemade. Marshmallows are no exception. After having the experience of making my own marshmallows from scratch I honestly don’t think I’ll ever find myself buying a bag of marshmallows off a shelf again.

First of all, it’s so ridiculously easy to make marshmallows! I mean, really easy. It may be a little messy but that mess is water-soluble and cleans up in a flash. Making marshmallows does require a candy thermometer and that’s usually the first thing to scare a person off from a recipe but do not flee! The thermometer is your friend, your ally and nothing to shy away from. It takes all the guesswork out of making this candy and makes it a nearly foolproof.

Secondly, they are SO darn good! They are soft and pillowy, coated with a little powdered sugar, and wonderfully sticky inside. When I started to brainstorm about what I wanted my marshmallows to taste like I came up with a TON of ideas. In fact, it was hard to choose a direction. At first I thought I would just make straight up vanilla. Then I decided I would add a chocolate swirl for cocoa-laced marshmallows. What about using almond extract and a little cinnamon? Then I found myself thinking about the number of candy canes I had leftover from our Christmas tree. I thought I could make vanilla marshmallows and coat the outside edges in crushed candy canes. These are all great ideas and you should definitely give them a try. I know that the next time I make marshmallows I’m definitely going for one of those combos so you may see the results sometime in the future.

However, I decided to go a totally different direction. I had purchased a package of dried lavender buds at the end of the summer for a project that unfortunately never came to fruition (although it will at some point!) For my marshmallows, I infused the water with dried lavender and a vanilla bean. Then I stirred the seeds into my marshmallow mix. I absolutely love this grown up version of these treats. Sweet and fragrant with the warmth of vanilla, these were unlike any marshmallows I ever bought off a shelf.

One thing to consider is that in my opinion, lavender is an acquired taste. I think it’s one of those things, you either love it or you hate it. There really isn’t any in between. For that reason, these marshmallows were met with mixed reviews by my taste testers (AKA: The Fam) I personally loved them. I had to hide the bowl of marshmallows from Maddy otherwise she would have continued to repeatedly ask for more. My father-in-law liked them also. However, Mike and his mother both felt like the lavender made the marshmallows taste like soap or perfume. So judge for yourself!

Now, onto next month! For February’s “First on the First” we’re going to try making macarons. I’m so very excited for this!! I’ve wanted to make them for such a very long time but quite frankly, they intimidate me. So I cannot wait to finally face this challenge! I hope you’ll join us. If you’re interested, just click here for more info and join us in trying something new or revisiting this challenge next month for “First on the First.”

Enjoy!

~K

Lavender Vanilla-Bean Marshmallows   Adapted from Gourmet, December 1998

1 1/4 cup water

2 Tablespoons dried culinary lavender

1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped and reserved

about 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 Tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons (about 3 1/2 envelopes) unflavored gelatin

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large egg whites

– In a small saucepan combine water, lavender buds and vanilla bean pod. Bring just to a boil.

– Cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit for 30 minutes.

– Strain infused water and refrigerate until cold.

– Oil bottom and sides of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners’ sugar.

– In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold infused water and let stand to soften.

– In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, 1/2 cup infused water (discard any remaining water), and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved.

– Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F., about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.

– With standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about 6 minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer.

– In a large bowl with cleaned beaters beat whites (or reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks.

– Beat whites and scraped vanilla seeds into sugar mixture until just combined.

– Pour mixture into baking pan and sift 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least 3 hours, and up to 1 day.

– Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up 1 corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and let drop onto cutting board.

– Oil a large knife and trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into roughly 1-inch cubes. Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar into a large bowl and add marshmallows in batches, tossing to evenly coat. Shake off excess confectioners’ sugar. Marshmallows keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature 1 week.

– Enjoy!

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Deanna Segrave-Daly (@tspbasil) January 1, 2012 at 8:14 am

So perfect looking and I love the lavender touch! I, too, was amazed at how simple marshmallows where to make and my mind also wandered in 10 directions on what flavor to do. We could do a whole month of marshmallow flavors (I want to try Kahlua or Honey Rosemary next.) Loving this First on The First bloghop and excited to participate throughout 2012!

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FoodBabbles January 1, 2012 at 8:55 am

Oh yes!! I love your flavor suggestions. Wonderful! I want to definitely make them again and the flavor combinations are endless.

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Carrie @ poet in the pantry January 1, 2012 at 8:44 am

Lovely! You’re right about lavender; former coworkers once fed me lavender ice cream and I just couldn’t get over how perfumey it tasted. I love the creative combination though!

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FoodBabbles January 1, 2012 at 8:53 am

I think lavender also has to be used very sparingly since it’s a strong flavor. But I really enjoyed it. I think you either love it or you hate it :)

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Jersey Girl Cooks January 1, 2012 at 9:37 am

Happy new year Kate! I love the idea of making homemade marshmallows. It is on my to try list but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Just catching up on my blog reading and I love your egg nog muffins. I have leftover eggnog and might give them a try.

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FoodBabbles January 1, 2012 at 10:05 am

Happy New Year, Lisa! You should join us for #FirstOnThe First next month! We’re making macarons :) And thanks, those eggnog muffins were SO very good!

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Barbara | Creative Culinary January 1, 2012 at 11:19 am

I’ve grown lavender in my garden for years and for most of those years, it was so that I could gather the buds and make sachets or leave stems hanging to scent my space. Only in the past two years have I come to see it’s culinary use and Kate sure hit this one out of the park. But she is SO right on…it has to be used sparingly. Sparingly makes it herbaceous and too much is, well, like eating perfume!

I tried marshmallows once and they were an abject failure. Maybe, just maybe, after 15 years I should give them another go huh?

Sounds like a fun course for you this year Kate; I look forward to following the event and hope I can jump in occasionally. Happy New Year!

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FoodBabbles January 1, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Thank you so much, Barb! As always, you leave me the nicest comments. You really should give marshmallows another try. These were so easy to make. And I do hope you have the opportunity to join us at some point. Next month is macarons which I’m very excited about. I’ve always wanted to make them!

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Anna @ hiddenponies January 1, 2012 at 11:24 am

Oooh, these look so good, and I LOVE how crisp white they are! I don’t think I’ll be buying marshmallows again either, this was much easier than I anticipated and so worth it!

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FoodBabbles January 1, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I’m so glad your experience was an easy one as well, Anna. I was so surprised at the simplicity of it all. I don’t really enjoy candy making but this was a breeze!

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Terra January 1, 2012 at 1:44 pm

I actually get nervous thinking about making marshmallows, will I mess them up, etc… Thank you for sharing this post, because now I think I just need to go for it! I still need to get my macarons right, maybe I need to join in the February “First on the First” fun:-) Happy New Year!!! Hugs, Terra

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FoodBabbles January 1, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Yes!! Go for it!! They were really ridiculously easy. You can do it! And please, join us in February. We would love that!

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Donna @ What the Dog Ate January 1, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Interesting addition of egg whites. I’ll have to try that next time.

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FoodBabbles January 1, 2012 at 5:15 pm

They were very light and airy, not dense at all

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Regan @ The Professional Palate January 1, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Oh I LOVE the idea of lavender in these!

So glad to be joining you all in FOTF… never thought I’d give homemade marshmallows a try. Now I’d never want to go back!

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FoodBabbles January 1, 2012 at 5:20 pm

I’m so glad you enjoyed making marshmallows, Regan! I was surprised by how easy it all was. Now I want to try all sorts of combinations!

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