Yesterday I was helping my best friend Hilda to bake a birthday cake for her son. Her recipe included marshmallows. Hmmmm... What a temptation, I love these sugary puffed little cubes! I know, I know... Sugar, sugar, sugar... But what if I'll eat just 3 of them? Ok, ok, let's say 7? They are so tiny!
I was enjoying a third marshmallow when I started to read the information on the package. It's automatic, I'm from that sort of people who read labels on a jar of liquid soap or a tube of toothpaste spending some moments of nothing else to do in a bathroom.
Jet-puffed miniature marshmallows ...
Corn syrup, sugar, modified cornstarch, dextrose, water, less than 2% of gelatin, bla-bla-bla ... I shouldn't eat that stuff!
Kraft Heinz foods company ...
Produced with genetic engineering ...
Stop. What? Produced with genetic engineering? Really?
What could be genetically modified? Corn that was used for corn syrup production? Hmmmm...
Ok. I see. One more food giant is thrown from it's pedestal. A couple of weeks ago I had the same deception with Nestle, I bought Nestle sweetened condensed milk. A sweet taste of childhood... I made the same mistake - took a look at the tin can and read a similar phrase: "partially produced with genetic engineering".
I'm not s fanatic of healthy living and I love marshmallows, I won't throw them to the garbage. There are many opinions about GMO. Wikipedia has a good brief introduction about this matter: "Genetically modified organism". As for me, I prefer no GMO.
I believe in ancient wisdom of Vedas that say food can be good for the body and bad for the soul, like meat. Meat is definitely nutritious, but charges us with aggression, misunderstanding and inability to grow spiritually because of violence we used against animals to kill them.
Of course, GMO is not an aggression or killing. Yes, some alarming researches are appearing, as well as the other ones, proving GMO is good. I don't have enough knowledge to say who is right or wrong, but from my experience, we are always underestimating our discoveries. First, we see only advantage and later with time things change.
Who could imagine that cocaine in the beginning was promoted as a wonder cure-all medicine and was praised by some of the greatest minds in medical history, including Sigmund Freud? CNN has a good report on the matter: "The evolution of the once 'wonder' drug".
Our how about plastic? Could the inventors of this miracle material imagine the whole planet will be polluted because of it? And it's so massive, we need to do something outstanding to save ourselves. May be to find a crazy bacteria who can eat plastic and make it biodegradable?
Hmmm... Sorry, got distracted. Going back to marshmallows.
What I really want to do is to find a better alternative to buy in store marshmallows. I'm not afraid of do-it-yourself or better to say cook-it-yourself ))) Here is what I found and will soon try to make myself.
Marshmallow recipe #1
This recipe is published in blog "Table 7" on the page "Delicious Clouds of Pure Sugar"
Source: blog "Table 7"
This is very close to traditional recipe and includes:
- plenty of powdered sugar (for dusting)
- 3 envelopes 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 tablespoon vanilla extract or flavoring of your choosing
But I want something better with no corn syrup and gelatin...
Marshmallow recipe #2
Just what I wanted: homemade marshmallows that look yummy. No corn syrup. Agar-ager instead of gelatin.
- 2 tablespoons of powdered agar-agar or gelatin (2 envelopes Knox)
- 1 cup cold water, divided
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
All instructions and necessary advice on page Homemade marshmallows recipe: corn syrup free (bold baking basics).
Why marshmallow is called "marshmallow"?
Looking for recipes of marshmallows I started to wonder about similar desserts I know, especially comparing images of homemade marshmallows and factory made. Homemade marshmallows reminded me a lot of nougat and turron. I was right, these sweets are from the same family of sugar confectionery that also includes zefir, my favorite Russian dessert:
One more interesting article in Russian for my records: "Whipped confectionery: problems and control".
At some point I was trying google picture search and suddenly a photo of a flower field popped up:
Wikipedia revealed the story immediately:
The word marshmallow stems from the mallow plant (Althaea officinalis) that is a genus of an herb native to parts of Europe, North Africa, and Asia. The word "marsh" is used because the mallow plant grows in marshes and other damp areas. The plant itself has a fleshy stem, leaves, and a flower that has five white petals. There is no exact date as to when marshmallows were invented, but their history goes back as early as 2000 B.C. Ancient Egyptians were said to be the first to make marshmallows, and it was considered a privilege to be able to partake in its consumption. It was strictly reserved for gods and royalty, who took the root of the plant and used it as a medicinal to soothe coughs and sore throats, and heal wounds. The first marshmallows were prepared by boiling pieces of root pulp with sugar until it thickened. Once thickened, the mixture was strained, cooled, and then used as intended.
Confectioners in early 19th century France pioneered the innovation of whipping up the marshmallow sap and sweetening it, to make a confection similar to modern marshmallow. The confection was made locally, however, by the owners of small sweet shops. They would extract the sap from the mallow plant's root, and whip it themselves. The candy was very popular, but its manufacture was labour-intensive. In the late 19th century, French manufacturers thought of using egg whites or gelatin, combined with modified corn starch, to create the chewy base. This avoided the labour-intensive extraction process, but it did require industrial methods to combine the gelatin and corn starch in the right way.
I think I'm done with marshmallows for today. But I'm not done with zefir. Sorry, but it's much tastier that any homemade marshmallow, I swear ))). I found 3 good videos, the first one is in English and 2 next videos are in Russian:
How to make raspberry marshmallow - russian zefir: tutorial
How to make apple marshmallow - russian zefir: tutorial
So why is this sugary item is my "Good food for body and soul" category? Because I don't believe in diets. I tried many of them myself and the result was always temporary. For the last couple years I'm perfecting the other strategy: you can eat everything, just keep the balance. A bit of sugary stuff is also allowed, why not? Just don't forget to drink a glass of water after you eat sweets. Water is important in processing sugar. It won't help to flush sugar from the body, but it will be used in other chemical sugar related processes in your body.