Weather: while the the Lower 48 has been unseasonably cold, our snow has been melting into a mess of ice and slush What I’m listening to: Let It Go, from the Frozen motion picture soundtrack
For the past few Christmases, we have put up our tree the day after Thanksgiving. Our children rotate each year on which of the three get to select the tree. This year, it was our 5th grader.
The tree comes home, the lights go up, followed by the red beaded garland, then the ornaments, and finally, the star. Everyone participates while Christmas music plays. Then, once the tree is done and dinner has been eaten (a pot of soup, typically), we turn on Polar Express and eat popcorn and have hot chocolate with homemade peppermint marshmallows.
Pastor Alaska insists upon homemade marshmallows for tree trimming. He loves them and looks forward to them every year. “You’re making marshmallows, right?” he asks. Yes, yes. The marshmallows will be made. They’re a tradition.
Quick note: last time I made these, I added peppermint extract to the marshmallows but didn’t use crushed candy canes. They were winter white and fluffy and you didn’t know they were minty until your bit into one and got a little candy cane surprise. I love that. This year, I was out of extract, so I used crushed candy canes. They are very pretty this way and you know that you’re getting peppermint flavor on sight, but the drawback is that, over a matter of days, the candy canes will start to lose their crunch and the red color will bleed a bit from the moisture in the marshmallows. So, if using crushed candy canes, these are best enjoyed the same day or soon after. Without candy canes, a batch of marshmallows will last weeks in an airtight container.
Yield: 4 dozen large square marshmallows, 6-8 dozen smaller marshmallows
Fluffy homemade marshmallows with peppermint, perfect for holiday hot chocolate. Makes a beautiful food gift. Adapted from my Orange Cream Marshmallows, originally adapted from Alton Brown.
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup ice cold water, divided
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon peppermint extract
½ cup crushed candy canes (optional, see note)
¼ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.
In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, (clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan if you have one) and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 more minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.
Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the powdered sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.
Add the vanilla and peppermint during the last minute of whipping.
When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Sprinkle the top of the marshmallow with the crushed candy canes, if using, and lightly press down to ensure that they stick. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered in a cool place for 2 hours.
Lift the marshmallows out onto a dusted cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel or bench scraper dusted with the cornstarch mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining cornstarch mixture, using additional if sticky. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks* (see note below).
If using crushed candy canes, these are best enjoyed the same day or soon after, as the candy canes will begin to soften and the red color will bleed over time from the moisture in the marshmallows. Without candy canes, a batch of marshmallows will last weeks in an airtight container.