Soft, fluffy and deliciously gooey, a fresh marshmallow is a mouthwatering treat, whether it’s floating in hot chocolate, squished into a s’more, or devoured on its own. But while most of us have probably only tasted the kind that come in a bag sold at the grocery store, marshmallows are surprisingly easy to whip up in your own kitchen, and in Mmm… Marshmallows, Carol Hilker’s first cookbook, she offers up 30 recipes to get you started on making your own version of this classic confection.
From her Basic Vanilla Marshmallows to her Chocolate Marshmallow Brownies, Hilker’s book is divided into six categories, starting with the basics of marshmallow making, moving into simple recipes and ones with swirls of flavour, and onto beverage-inspired and fruity treats. Hilker first became interested in making her own marshmallows when she was working as a pastry chef in Berkeley, California and tried a peppermint marshmallow made by one of her co-workers. “I had those and I thought, ‘god, I love marshmallows!’” Hilker enthuses. “I go through phases, like I’ve been having an apple pie phase, or I’ll have a cookie phase. So I started making different marshmallows and I was really into it, and I just started experimenting on my own with different flavours.”
Although marshmallows haven’t yet become as trendy as cupcakes, the growing popularity of making this treat at home is definitely along these same lines, according to Hilker. “It seems like people have really grasped onto food, grasped onto bringing something they didn’t think they could make into their own kitchen,” she explains. “I think the trend is being able to reinvent things we’ve grown up with, like the rice krispie treat or to make a whole different s’more.”
But while you might think to make your own cookies and squares as the holiday season approaches, Hilker makes a case for adding homemade marshmallows to your dessert tray this year (we recommend her Peppermint Marshmallows): “There’s just something about being able to use your own ingredients and not mass-produce it. They just come out so beautiful. I think when you make your own it has a different taste, where you can tell it’s something special. It may even make you think completely different about the marshmallow.”
And even though the stunning photography in Hilker’s book may make you think otherwise, she assures us that making marshmallows is actually quite easy, and will take you about an hour in the kitchen. “They’re not hard to make, and that’s the crazy thing about them: you look at them and you think they’re difficult, and you make them and you’re like, ‘oh that’s so easy!’” says Hilker. “People always think they’re so much harder to make than they are.”
According to Hilker, the hardest part of the marshmallow-making process is spreading them into the pan after you’ve beat them with your mixer, because you have to work quickly before they get too sticky. She also recommends purchasing a candy thermometer to help you hit the right temperature when boiling the mixture, but notes that “if you don’t hit the exact right temperature, you will still have a good marshmallow. It’s not super crucial.”
Before you start making your own marshmallows, be sure to heed Hilker’s top piece of advice: have fun! “There are so many combinations you can do – just have fun with it! If they’re not even, they’re not even. They’re supposed to look homemade, so make them your own.”
Our friends at Thomas Allen Publishers have generously offered us three copies of Mmm…Marshmallows to give away online. For your chance to win, email email@example.com, and be sure to include your full mailing address including a contact phone number. Please include “Mmm…Marshmallows” in the email subject line.