When I was a kid, I loved, and I mean loved, Kraft marshmallow creme (Marshmallow Fluff on the East Coast). I’d eat it by the spoonful and put it in my Swiss Miss hot chocolate — it was a very important part of my diet between the ages of 10 and 14. Somewhere along the way, I stopped drinking hot chocolate and my marshmallow consumption was relegated to an occasional s’more each summer and Rice Krispie treats when my kids were little.
Until a few months ago, when I decided to make marshmallows with the grass-fed beef gelatin that had been sitting on the shelf for about a year. I did a little marshmallow recognizance on the internet and the recipes seemed to fall into two camps — healthy marshmallows made with grass-fed gelatin and honey or maple syrup and not-so-healthy marshmallows made with Knox gelatin and sugar. I compromised — grass-fed gelation, Morena sugar, and corn syrup. And they didn't disappoint and frankly, blew the Kraft marshmallow creme out of the water. I’ve even resorted to ‘roasting’ them over the burner on my stove — the confectioners’ sugar caramelizes like the sugar on a crème brûlée and they make the best s’mores I’ve ever had. Seriously.
They are kind of a pain to make — incredibly sticky, you need a candy thermometer, pouring a 200-degree sugar syrup into your mixer isn’t exactly for the faint of heart, and cutting them with an oil-soaked knife requires relatively vigilant attention so your knife doesn’t slip and you’re suddenly down a digit. But it’s worth it. So very, very worth it. I always double the recipe and they keep very nicely in a covered container for about a month (so they say, the marshmallows don’t last long around here).
Vegetable oil for brushing pan
About 1 cup confectioners' sugar for coating pan and marshmallows, plus extra to dust the marshmallows after cutting
About 1/2 cup cornstarch for coating pan and marshmallows
3 tablespoons beef gelatin
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Brush the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan with vegetable oil. Mix the cornstarch and confectioners sugar together in a bowlUsing a small, fine-mesh sieve, dust the pan generously with confectioners' sugar, knocking out any excess.
Put 1/2 cup water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Sprinkle the gelatin into the bowl and stir briefly to make sure all the gelatin is in contact with water. Let soften while you make the sugar syrup.
In a heavy 3- to 4-quart saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water. Place over moderate heat and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Put a candy thermometer into the boiling sugar syrup and continue boiling (the mixture may foam up, so turn the heat down slightly if necessary), without stirring, until the thermometer registers 240°F (soft-ball stage). Remove the saucepan from the heat and let stand briefly until the bubbles dissipate slightly.
With the mixer on low speed, pour the hot sugar syrup into the softened gelatin in a thin stream down the side of the bowl. Gradually increase the mixer speed to high and beat until the marshmallow is very thick and forms a thick ribbon when the whisk is lifted, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.
Scrape the marshmallow into the prepared pan (it will be very sticky) and use wet fingertips to spread it evenly and smooth the top. Let stand, uncovered at room temperature, until the surface is no longer sticky and you can gently pull the marshmallow away from the sides of the pan with your fingertips, 8 hours or overnight.
Dust a cutting board with remaining confectioners' sugar/cornstarch mixture. Use a rubber spatula to pull the sides of the marshmallow from the edge of the pan (use the spatula to loosen the marshmallow from the bottom of the pan if necessary) and invert onto the cutting board. Dust the top with confectioners' sugar. Generously brush a chef's knife with vegetable oil and dust with confectioners' sugar to prevent sticking; continue dusting the knife as necessary.
Cut lengthwise into strips (make them as wide or narrow as you want), then crosswise (again, cut them into the size you want). Place the marshmallows in a bowl and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Marshmallows keep in a covered container for about a month.