bourbon, baby!

When my cousin married his Kentucky bride, theirs were not the only lives changed. Traveling to Kentucky opened my eyes to the world of bourbon. On that trip, I learned that bourbon is bourbon when it’s produced in the United … Continue reading

more marshmallow madness again

This gallery contains 9 photos.

The marshmallow train moves forward as I finally brought a bit of my madness to the masses. A friend who directs a local culinary school had asked me on board to teach a class on boozy marshmallows and last Friday … Continue reading

jelly beans, peeps, rice krispy bars–oh my

This gallery contains 5 photos.

From the title alone, you know where I’m going with this, right? Mostly I’m hoping you’ll click over to read my latest Funny Names in Food post as it was heaps of fun to research and write as well as … Continue reading

the cake! the cake! and marshmallows, too

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Many many thanks to all of you who sent ideas (and encouragement) after last week’s puppy cake post. I promised follow-up on that cake and food for fun is here to deliver.Its deLizious facebook debut noted a resemblance to the … Continue reading

spring break special ed. or there really is such thing as too many marshmallows

Spring break means sunshine, beaches, and tropical beverages. Especially after Coldest Winter Ever, trips to warmer climes seem mandatory. But our family had other plans. We would visit my husband’s parents in a small town 200+ miles north of where we live.

While this vacation locale won’t bring us any beach days, it does offer opportunity for rest and relaxation. With grandparents on-site to mind the kids, I can sleep in, work out, and tackle projects that haven’t been moving forward back home. One project in particular–remember Marshmallow Madness?–kept me busy today.

Since that last January marshmallow post, I’ve been drawing up outlines, testing recipes, dreaming up marshmallow flavors and uses (popcorn balls, anyone?), and researching what’s already out there in hopes of advancing my own spin on DIY ‘mallows.

To that end, I bought bottles of sweet red wine and sherry, intending to try these wines in marshmallows. Weeks went by, the bottles collecting dust on the shelf (save the sherry, which I enjoy sipping come evening) and I wondered when my schedule would allow me a few hours in the kitchen to try these new marshmallow flavors.

Knowing I’d have plenty of time at my in-laws, I packed it all up and set out to turn my mother-in-law’s kitchen into a marshmallow test kitchen.

And how. After making three different kinds of marshmallows–sherry, sweet red wine, and root beer–I can say without reservation that there IS such a thing as marshmallow overload. Tasting along the way, many spoonfuls of sugary fluff were consumed. Add to that the many marshmallows “tested” after project completion, and I write this in the throes of a sugar coma. That said, here’s a review.

The sherry and red wine flavors were riffs on Alton Brown’s recipe, subbing alcohol for part of the water (1/2 cup for the sherry and 2/3 cup for the red wine). Red wine won for appearance as it started out deep purple, then faded to light pinkish lavender after whipping. Sherry won flavor, if only because I prefer sherry over red wine.

sherry marshmallows-to-be

sherry marshmallows-to-be

boiling the wine syrup

boiling the wine syrup

whipping the wine fluff

whipping the wine fluff

Wanting to make a ‘mallow for the kids, I turned to Marshmallow Madness (Shauna Sever beat me to this book title!) for its Root Beer Float marshmallow. Sever’s recipes had different proportions of corn syrup, sugar, and liquid compared to other recipes I’ve tried, though she knows what she’s doing as her marshmallows were fluffiest and the “batter” easiest to work with. I’ll be turning to Sever’s book again.

gelatin "blooming" in root beer

gelatin “blooming” in root beer

I wasn’t overly crazy about any of these flavors, though that’s more about my being sick of marshmallows than it is marshmallow quality. My best bet is to step back from marshmallow making, though I’ll need to hit it again soon as I’ve signed on to teach a marshmallow class at a local cooking school. The madness must continue. I’ll also be reporting back here, eventually offering up the root beer float marshmallow recipe as well*. Please stay tuned!

l to r: red wine, sherry, root beer float

l to r: red wine, sherry, root beer float

*Can’t wait for the recipe? Let me know in comments or on deLizious facebook and I’ll send it your way.

in-laws, outlaw marshmallows, plus a pan of bars

The blogosphere has been abuzz with end-of-year posts and kicking-off-the-new-year posts and year-end reports. And while I’d like to consider myself capable of looking within and learning from the past 365 days in hopes of improving my next round, I find that mostly I just move forward. I go and I do.

Balancing professional and personal ambitions with mommyhood leaves precious little time to just Be. And while that’s a bit disturbing, it’s where I–along with a lot of other mommies–am right now. Forward march with the task-driven mentality. (Though should you need a good look inward, I’ll send you over to meet Kaela. She’s fun!)

So to kick off 2014, food for fun offers you its most recent Adventures in Marshmallows. (If you were reading food for fun last winter, you know that I went through a bit of ‘mallow madness back then as well.)

Another blogging friend and I have been trading cocktail recipes and found we share a love for bourbon. Her use of cherry-flavored bourbon piqued my interest and I did a bit of “research” when visiting my in-laws over the holidays. Their small town boasts one liquor store and it’s little more than ten or so shelves on one wall, plus a few bottles behind the counter. I figured my chances of finding cherry bourbon were small, and it was indeed a wash.

Yet I knew from reading Drink More Whiskey (best. birthday. gift. ever. Thanks, dear husband!) that on some level whiskey is whiskey–whether bourbon, Scotch, Canadian, etc–and a bottle of black cherry Canadian had to share some common ground with cherry-flavored bourbon. I bought said bottle and returned to my in-law’s.

cherry whisky meet other marshmallow ingredients!

cherry whisky meet other marshmallow ingredients!

But I didn’t plan to drink it. Instead, I was subbing it in for bourbon in a cheeky recipe I’d found at The Tart Tart. The resulting marshmallows were amazing and lovely–the cherry sweetness came through as the spirited booze flavors flew just below the radar.

whitedogmallows

I bet Santa would have enjoyed a few of these!

Santa would have enjoyed a few of these!

My sister-in-law and mother-in-law helped me lick the beaters (and spatula and bowl) clean upon project completion. It was then that s-i-l made a game-changing comment:

“I need rice krispies with this. And butter.”

My universe shifted a bit at her words. Boozy rice krispy bars. Sheer brilliance! A few rice krispies were stirred into the fluff left in the bowl and we enjoyed  a taste.

Fast forward a few days and I was back in my own kitchen using TTT’s recipe again, this time replacing the bourbon with rum.

there's rum in these 'mallows

there’s rum in these ‘mallows

After the marshmallows had cooled and been cut, I measured up 10 ounces and made a batch of Hot Buttered Rum Rice Krispy Bars. Oh divine.

hot. buttered. rum.

hot. buttered. rum.

The possibilities seem endless–adult rk treats in flavors of margarita, mudslide, etc. I sense that 2014 has taken on a new purpose for me. My resolution seems clear: Make More Marshmallows. (Which oddly enough is not too far off from my 11-year-old’s “eat more gummy bears” resolve.)

So please stick around (marshmallow pun–get it? 😉 ) and help me meet my ‘mallow-y goal. A fellow blogger (you’ve met amb here before) and I have joked about Marshmallow Mondays and while I’m not sure yet exactly how this will play out, I see it as a good start for a new year of sweet and fluffy fun.

Introspection will always be welcome here and maybe even occasionally offered outright. But it’s mostly about the food and the fun that accompanies. Marshmallows, then, seem a good way to kick off the new year. Wishing you all a mountain of marshmallows in 2014!

a very long introduction, three recipes down, one to go

Needing a topic for this post, I thought back to starting food for fun. With so many great food blogs already out there, I knew I needed a niche. While I didn’t know what that niche would be (still not entirely sure, btw), I jumped in and started writing. Topics have been chosen solely because they inspire or excite me enough to want to share.

A backward glance, though, tells me that I often jump over inspired and even excited to arrive at obsessed. (About an hour after having this thought, I read a friend’s post which highlighted this very word–nice.)

You’ve read of obsession with all things marshmallow (here and here). You’ve read a post outlining obsessive stalking following of The Weary Chef’s Happy Hour. (A much earlier post had offered only four cocktail recipes.) You’ve seen batch after batch after batch of homemade ice cream, one even damaging my phone. Then there were the four batches of caramel sauce (in. a. row.) to achieve a dark enough color. And the most recent “project” using 24 overripe bananas in as many hours? Yes to obsessive. With the banana post in particular, more than one facebook comment suggested that I was possibly a bit bananas myself.

So here’s my question: Do folks blog because they are obsessed enough about a topic that they absolutely have to write it up and put it out there for others to read? Are all bloggers bananas?

Everyone writes for their own reason, so I wouldn’t presume that all come from a place of obsession. But I know absolutely that there’s oodles of passion behind a blogger’s reasons for writing, no matter the topic. And maybe your blog serves the purpose that mine does for me: to legitimately attend to my obsessions.

And with this thought, I return to my original question (feel free to head up to the top again as it’s likely been forgotten during this long-winded intro): What to write up next? I didn’t like the idea that came to me as it seemed repetitive. But. What’s an obsessed food writer to do? It seemed that food for fun was to go bananas AGAIN. (Sorry guys. I really fought this one.)

You’d think the smoothie, roasted puree, and cake made last week would have satisfied my banana fever, but the siren call of four bunches of browned bananas clearanced out at 99 cents was too much for me to resist. I snapped the bananas up and roasted them Perky Poppy-style, using brandy instead of last round’s rum. (I also skipped the butter and the resulting puree was as divine as the last batch.)

The puree went into Barefoot Contessa’s Banana Sour Cream Pancakes, which could pass for dessert as easily as they could breakfast. The bananas are added to the top of the ‘cakes before flipping, adding a flavor hit bar none. (“Bananas in a basket!” read one facebook comment.) Thanks, amb, for pointing me toward a killer recipe.

Barefoot Contessa's were prettier, but they couldn't have tasted any better than this stack

Barefoot Contessa’s were prettier, but they couldn’t have tasted any better than this stack

Though some would have stopped at one banana recipe, I had Trace in the Kitchen’s Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies to make. Only changes: upping the 3/4 cup chocolate chips to 1 cup as that last 1/4 cup was begging to be used and adding a dot of Marshmallow Fluff to each dough ball just because I could. These cookies were as tasty and soft and dreamy as Trace had promised.

little banana dough balls with a spot of fluff

little banana dough balls with a spot of fluff

Thanks, Trace in the Kitchen, for a fun recipe!

Thanks, Trace in the Kitchen, for a fun recipe!

Next up was Saucy gander’s Ultimate Banana Bread, which included the extra step of draining thawed frozen overripe bananas, then reducing that liquid by half and stirring it back into the puree. It calls for whole wheat flour–a plus–and its crowning touch is a layer of shingled banana slices sprinkled with caster sugar. The cupboard bare of caster sugar, I grabbed a bottle of coarse pink sugar (found in the cupboards of moms of young girls everywhere), though next time will use coarse sanding sugar as the pink didn’t do it for me. But the banana bread itself was a winner. Removing some of the water from the mashed bananas heightened their flavor, making the final bread richer and more darkly banana-y.

not sold on the pink, but Ultimate Banana Bread is indeed Ultimate

not sold on the pink, but Saucy gander’s Ultimate Banana Bread is indeed Ultimate

Also on my list were these delicious-looking peanut butter banana chocolate bars from Kelli’s Retro Kitchen Arts, though a closer look revealed banana cake mix, not fresh bananas. The photo looks so amazing, I’ll eventually find a way around the cake mix dilemma and come up with a version for my brandy-roasted bananas.

And that, I hope, is the end of my banana tale. I raise a (Weary Chef) cocktail to bloggers everywhere, celebrating our obsessions, passions, and willingness to share. Thank you for reading about mine.

marshmallows with spirit

Googling gets results. Seemingly any question can be brought to the keyboard and an answer can be found. Among the bazillions of ways google makes “research” easy is as recipe-finder.

My plan to make vodka marshmallows, then, was simple. Find recipe online (nothing on my bookshelf to guide me here) and make marshmallows. But to my great surprise, the google search turned up nearly empty. Though I very clearly typed in “vodka marshmallow recipes,” most of the hits returned were for Marshmallow Vodka. So not what I was looking for.

I might have just fiddled with a tried-and-true recipe for plain Jane marshmallows, but introducing alcohol into the mix intimidated me and I wanted at least general guidelines to follow the first time around. (True, I had had fair success with bourbon marshmallows, but they were more rough-textured that what I would have liked, so wanted to keep looking.)

bourbon marshmallows didn't cut too cleanly, but still yummy

bourbon marshmallows didn’t cut too cleanly, but still yummy

The lone recipe found in my “vodka marshmallow” hit list involved two mini bottles of spirits and though the marshmallows looked divine, it seemed more trouble than is was worth to translate quantities for the sample-size bottles. (Yes, I can be a very lazy homecook.)

A change of search terms was needed. Switching it up to “spirited marshmallows” brought an intriguing mention of homemade marshmallows surrounding a center of a spirit-infused jelly. Wow and certainly yum, but way more than I was in for that night.

Changing it up yet again, I searched “marshmallows with alcohol.” Here I found a contender in Homemade Baileys Marshmallows, but thought that flavorless vodka might not be the best sub for a cream-based and super-sweet liqueur. By now, I was tired of clicking and wanted to get cooking, so the next find of St. Germain Marshmallows was my winner.

A fan of St. Germain, I have a bottle of what is advertised as “the first liqueur in the world created in the artisanal French manner from freshly handpicked elderflower blossoms” in my pantry. While not sure that the stories of monks handpicking these blossoms in the French alps while under their vows of silence are true, I appreciate the lightly fruity and floral notes in this lovely spirit. (The pretty bottle and golden color don’t hurt, either.)

Originally intending to follow the recipe exactly, I switched it up last minute and replaced the St. G with whipped cream vodka (laugh if you must, but mixed with root beer it makes a tasty “root beer float”). Though the recipe noted that only cane sugar would do (apparently beet sugar would hinder the needed “chemical reaction”), I paid no mind, reasoning that my sugar source had made many a batch of marshmallows and would perform for me again. I was happy to see the whipped mixture go from opaque to white, but started sweating when it failed to whip up as fully and as stiffly as had previous batches. Maybe the sugar source was key? Not willing to cave, I kept on and let the marshmallow-like cream set overnight in its prepared pan.

Relief all around when the marshmallows held their shape when cut the next morning. Tossed with a mixture of powdered sugar and vanilla powder, they were dreamy indeed. The 2/3 cup vodka used to soften the gelatin rendered them heavier, denser, and more moist than others I’ve made, yet they were elegantly sweet and more than a little boozy. Including them on a tray with plain ‘mallows and the above-mentioned bourbon made for a well-balanced trio.

clockwise from left: bourbon (with caramel swirl), whipped cream vodka, plain but pretty

clockwise from left: bourbon (with caramel swirl), whipped cream vodka, plain but pretty

This last month has involved much marshmallow making and I was surprised to find the variations among recipes. The recipe for this last batch had nearly twice as much liquid as I’m used to seeing and the sugar ratio differed as well. I’ve also tried recipes that fold whipped egg whites into the gelatin mixture, though decided it’s more work than it’s worth. (My Sweet Addiction has a good post on trying different marshmallow recipes should you want to know more.) Perhaps my marshmallow phase has played itself out for a bit. Though I’m hoping for easier recipe googling when my next marshmallow-making urge hits.

whipped cream vodka 'mallows

whipped cream vodka ‘mallows

marshmallow throw-down

Anyone who has followed deLizious facebook posts will know that I enjoy marshmallows very much. They’re so simple, so pure. Sugar, all fluffed up. I made a batch 15 or so years ago and have always said I’d do it again. But it turned out to be one of those things I always thought about doing but never did. Until now. Backing up a bit…

the fluff!

the fluff!

When holiday baking season hit last November, I shopped the local Fleet Farm repeatedly to buy up their stock of Marshmallow Fluff. Living in the midwest, it’s hard to find fluff (I’m not talking creme here–it has to be fluff) on store shelves. I’ve purchased online before, but when it shows up at Fleet Farm November through December, I save myself shipping costs and buy enough to keep me going for the year.

buffet of holiday novelty marshmallows

buffet of holiday novelty marshmallows

After the Great Fluff Purchase, my mom started buying novelty marshmallows for me: French vanilla snowmen, gingerbread folk, peppermint minis, Christmas trees. I was tickled she thought of me when she saw them and loved the innovative flavors. (Thanks again, mom!)

Next on my ‘mallow trail was Attempt in Domesticity‘s (awesome blog if you’ve never been) gargantuan mug-topping marshmallow. Reading about her marshmallow-making experience reminded me that this was something I’d done before and could do again.

Then A/D turned me on to Plush Puffs. This maker of “gourmet” and “artisan” marshmallows was calling my name–I lost no time in following A/D’s example and ordering from their odds-and-ends selection. These marshmallow remnants are less expensive than their prettier cube cousins, but just as yum. My first order was for caramel swirl (!), vanilla bean, and cinnamon. When they had a 20% off sale, I collected pumpkin pie, mochaccino, and chocolate chipetta flavors. These marshmallows are worlds apart from the packaged jet-puff variety. Plushies are soft, fresh, fragrant, and full of Real Flavor. Am a huge fan.

plush puff purchases

plush puff purchases–see the caramel swirling upper left?

Finally, I threw a challenge out to A/D saying I would make mallows if she’d take a turn at the caramel sauce she’s been wanting to make. And I’m here to say that I made my mallows!

final product all stacked up

final product all stacked up

Just as A/D had said in her post, nothing to it. The part where the whipped mixture went into the greased pan to firm was a bit sticky, but outside of that it was an easy task. I did veer ever-so-slightly from the recipe just twice: Plush Puff’s chipettas inspired me toss half-a-bag of mini chips into my batch before letting them set. Also, I was shy of the 1/2 cup powdered sugar I needed for dusting at the end, so mixed in a handful or so of gold sanding sugar. (How could that not be a good addition?) It was indeed pretty and next time I’d replace even more of the final dusting sugar with a more brightly colored sugar. My recipe follows and I encourage you to take up the marshmallow challenge. Or better yet, challenge yourself to make whatever it is you’ve been meaning to make for a very long time.

gorgeous

gorgeous–anyone else think it looks like the entrance to a deep cave of snow?

chips stirred in, ready to set

chips stirred in, ready to set

a slice of mallow

a slice of mallow

all done!

all done!

Homemade Marshmallows

  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 3 (1/4-ounce) envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup potato starch (cornstarch would be fine–I was surprised to see potato starch on my shelf–leftover from a gluten-free recipe, I think)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Line 13×9-inch pan with foil; coat with cooking spray.

Pour 1/2 cup cold water into large bowl of heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand 15 minutes until gelatin softens and absorbs water.

In heavy medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, remaining 1/2 cup cold water, and the salt; stir over medium-low heat until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat; bring to a boil. Boil, without stirring, until mixture reaches 240°F.

With mixer at low speed, gradually pour hot syrup down side of bowl into gelatin mixture. Gradually increase speed to high. Beat 15 minutes or until mixture is thickened and stiff. Add vanilla; beat 30 seconds longer or until well blended.

Scrape marshmallow mixture into pan; smooth top with wet spatula. Let stand uncovered at room temperature 4 hours or until firm. (I so cheated here–didn’t wait much more than 20 minutes. Didn’t seem to be a problem as the mixture was just dry enough to work with.)

In large bowl, toss together potato starch and powdered sugar. Sprinkle onto work surface. Invert marshmallow pan onto starch mixture; remove foil from marshmallow. Sprinkle some of starch mixture over marshmallow; pat lightly. Coat sharp, large knife with cooking spray. Cut marshmallows into desired shapes. (Can use cookie cutters, too.) Return cut marshmallows and starch mixture to large bowl; toss to coat. Transfer marshmallows to wire rack, shaking off any excess starch mixture.