Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Marshmallows for Grown-ups...and the Little Ones, Too

I've had marshmallows on my mind lately. Not those bags of stale, rubbery bits that get dropped into hot chocolate or, regrettably, sprinkled over sweet potato casserole. I'm talking about freshly-made marshmallows in the flavors of my choice and devising.

Rather than try a test batch in some everyday kinda flavor, I went straight for the improvisational.
My first effort was a margarita marshmallow, flavored with lime and orange extracts and topped with a bit of orange zest and large sea salt crystals. There's no tequila in them--maybe I'll try that next time--but the familiar happy-hour blend of lime and salt is certainly there.

The large sea salt crystals worked better than small ones, because they melt partially after sitting on the sugary surface for a few hours--small salt crystals would melt completely. This gives you the crunch of the salt, along with the layer of moist salt that's so appealing on the rim of the margarita glass. The alpha batch is a bit on the limey side, but that's an easy fix. Since this version doesn't have tequila in it, it's technically okay for the kiddies. I may try a batch and sub some tequila for part of the water component.

Next I made what I call Green Fairies--absinthe marshmallows. Instead of cheating with anise flavoring, I used absinthe, but perhaps a bit too much--I think it was the alcohol that flattened out the fluff, so the treats are a little on compact side. They're intensely anisey/liquorishy, which is one of those flavors that you either like or don't. All my guinea pigs so far have really gone for them (myself included), so I think this recipe is a keeper.

Then I tried a batch of marshmallows with the flavors of an Amaretto Sour, using Amaretto and lemon juice. I'm not including a picture, because they're a stark white and difficult to shoot with any appeal. I wasn't inclined to try coloring them brown (I leave that to chocolate). I need to tweak the balance of Amaretto and lemon juice--this test batch didn't have enough pucker power to offset the heavy sweetness of the Amaretto and the marshmallow itself. And I might try adding a dash or two of lemon bitters to bring up the interest level a little more.

I finally relented and made one the kiddies would like--along with the kid in all of us who ever roasted marshmallows around a campfire, then smashed them into a sandwich with a Hershey bar and graham crackers: s'moreshmallows, I call them. These are chocolate marshmallows (okay, I can't resist the urge to tinker, so I added a tiny bit of orange extract) rolled in toasted, finely ground graham cracker crumbs. I think the fat content in the cocoa powder flattened some of the volume in the mallows but they tasted great, especially after I rolled them in the crumbs.
Not wanting to let anything go to waste, I made stars of the middle parts left over from cutting chocolate rounds for the s'moreshmallows and coated them in graham cracker crumbs, too.

So much for the desire to create grown-up marshmallows. While I was carrying on over how much I liked the s'more-like marshmallow, I decided to try bubblegum, bright pink and coated with sparkly blue sanding sugar, just for fun. This one appears to be the most popular of all the marshmallows I've tried so far. I'll definitely be making these again, probably around the holidays.

At this point I have to give the gelatin a little rest. But it's fun going into my mad scientist's lab, a.k.a. the kitchen, rolling up my sleeves and seeing what I can create. Marshmallows are fun. It's easy to eat too many, though. Next I'll have to devise a Pepto-Bismol marshmallow to handle the overindulgence.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Evan Flings the Gauntlet

Evan Kleiman, everyone's favorite radio food person--who's actually an honest-to-God chef--is hosting a pie-a-day challenge on her KCRW blog. Of course I want to help her out so she doesn't have to eat a pie a day all by herself. After all, Evan's a friend, a colleague and a nice person. Who wouldn't want to make a pie to aid the cause?

I devised a pie with my favorite combo: bacon and chocolate. In addition to the crumbled bacon, I included toasted walnuts and maple flavoring in the chocolate filling. The crust I made with a combination of butter (well chilled) and bacon fat (frozen!). Not a tremendous amount of flake to it, but when it tastes that good and has that great a mouth feel, who's going to quibble about a few flakes of crust? Not I!

You can find my pie included in her KCRW pie-a-day blog, right below the cat who apparently fell asleep in a pie plate. Little upstager...!

This pie is a keeper. I'll make it again and again, just not every day. As you can imagine, it's not the healthiest of desserts. But as Julia says, it's about enjoying it all in moderation and small helpings.