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Pink hearts! Blue diamonds! Hard crap!
As a kid you may have been able to stomach the alleged marshmallows that hide at the bottom of a box of Lucky Charms, or the freeze-dried mini-cube marshmallows that die ignominiously within each sealed packet of instant Swiss Miss Cocoa, but adults should know better than to play with yucky kids’ stuff. Perhaps we should just draw the line at chuckling at the Stay Puft marshmallow man (left) of Ghostbusters fame.
Even the Jet-Puffed-brand bagged marshmallows, though serviceable at, say, a drunken Ozarks campout s’mores experience, are not much to celebrate.
But what are? Why, real marshmallows, like for instance, Brian Pelletier of Kakao’s pink-champagne or pomegranate marshmallows, not only demonstrate what a marshmallow is supposed to taste like texturally, but improve upon the traditional with funky flavors.
Author Shauna Sever, a San Francisco-area food blogger and dessert caterer, has emerged as the go-to gal for gettin’ ’mallow.
Making homemade marshmallows, it turns out, is both simple and complex. While many will be scared off by the need to involve a candy thermometer, the actual process, maintains Sever, is elementary once one does it a few times.
(Real marshmallows actually have to be coated in a mixture of confectioner’s sugar and cornstarch as a final step to prevent the super-sticky exterior from adhering to surfaces and fingers, by the way.)
Once it’s clicking for ya, making marshmallows under the author’s guidance may result in magic. We’re talking delicately fluffy marshmallows in flavors like chocolate, chocolate-chip, grape, blackberry, key lime, lemonade, Dreamsicle, pumpkin, root-beer float, honeyed apricot, peanut butter / banana, pineapple / rosemary, mango / chile / lime, and the requisite maple / bacon. Boozy ‘mallows may come in margarita, fuzzy navel, and crème de menthe, if you like. Filled marshmallows are bitten into to reveal secret cargo like ganache, Kahlua creme, and jam.
The photographs in the book really make your jaw drop, though, when Sever shows off the shapes she can make: rounded hemispheres, triangles with sharp edges, curly dollops, twisted ropes, spirals, and more test our notions of what a marshmallow is supposed to look like. The belles of the ball, though, are the multi-layer ones. A “Neapolitan” marshmallow with layers in three different colors and flavors is wondrous, no?
Sever puffs up her book with ancillary recipes for items like lemon-filled whoopee pies and s’more cupcakes; recommended “pairings” for ‘mallows with various from-scratch hot chocolates; and a recipe for homemade graham crackers to punch up your s’mores in that respect as well. Her recommendation for using some of her unusual flavors in Rice Krispie treats is like the dawn of a new sun. Imagine a Krispie treat made with marshmallows flavored like Dreamsicle or honeyed-apricot. Where do we sign up?
If all this manages to sound too cute for mere mortals, you’d better not pick up the cookbook itself, which is packaged via an awfully clever design: the front and back covers of “Marshmallow Madness!” are actually puffed-out, and when you push your finger into the book, it dimples and then pops out again. Seriously.