"I hate people who are not serious about their meals."

Oscar Wilde,
The Importance of Being Earnest

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Marshmallows and Tablespoons

Here's something I didn't know - a tablespoon is not always a tablespoon.  Or at least, not if you're using an Australian recipe in the US, or vice versa.  You see, Australia apparently decided to be different to the rest of the world, and make their tablespoons slightly larger.  According to Wikipedia, an Australian tablespoon is equal to 4 teaspoons, but for most of the rest of the world, it's only 3.  It seems like a small difference, but over 2 or 3 tablespoons this can add up quite quickly.  I had originally suspected something like this must be the case when experimenting with ANZAC biscuit recipes - which I have yet to master in my new country of residence - they always turned out a little too soft for my liking, and I suspect that the discrepancy in the tablespoon measure may have something to do with it. (At least, that's my excuse for now.) So, just thought I would give you all a heads up - in this age where a lot of people are just as likely to get their recipes online as from a cookbook, just keep an eye on where your recipe is coming from!

Alright, that's business aside. Let's get down to pleasure.  Down to marshmallows. Those balls of springy, fluffy, melt in your mouth sweetness.  They were always a favourite for me growing up; my mother and I would inevitably fight over who would get the last pink marshmallow in the bag. (The white/vanilla ones were always inferior to the raspberry as far as we were concerned).  Yet until today I had never attempted to make them.  I was inspired along the way by one of my favourite food blogs, Technicolor Kitchen, who has posted a flurry of different marshmallow recipes over the past year or so.  The recipe I used originally called for raspberries, but I had a punnet of blackberries so I decided to use those instead.  They turned out brilliantly. (Needless to say, better than any store-bought kind.. sorry Pascall's!). I was expecting all kinds of sticky mess, but really these really were a cinch to make.  I'm already imagining how tasty they'd be in Rocky Road, and if it weren't so hot here, I'd be dropping a couple into a hot chocolate right this minute.

Blackberry Marshmallows
adapted from Masterchef

440g/15.5 oz caster (superfine) sugar
1 tablespoon (+ 1 teaspoon if you're using US tablespoons!) lemon juice
125g/4.4oz blackberries
5 teaspoons powdered gelatine
3 egg whites
1 tablespoon (+ 1 teaspoon, as above) cornflour (cornstarch)
1 tablespoon (+ 1 teaspoon, as above) icing (confectioner's) sugar
Oil, for greasing

Stir 400g/14oz of the sugar, lemon juice and 2/3 cup water in a small saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and boil rapidly for 10 minutes or until at the 'hard ball' stage.  This should take around 10 minutes. Now, if you don't have a candy thermometer, don't panic!  You can check by dropping a spoonful of syrup into a glass of iced water. If it forms a hard ball, you're good to go.

Meanwhile, place the blackberries and 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat for 5 minutes, crushing blackberries with the back of a spoon.  Remove from heat and press the blackberries through a fine sieve to get rid of the seeds. I just did this back into the same saucepan they were cooked in.  Sprinkle gelatine over the blackberry mixture and stir until dissolved.

Using an electric hand or stand mixer, whisk egg whites to soft peaks. Now gradually add the remaining sugar and whisk until smooth and glossy stiff peaks form. With the beaters running, pour the hot syrup in a thin, steady stream into the bowl, then add the blackberry mixture. Whisk for a further 5-7 minutes, or until mixture thickens enough to hold its shape.
Combine cornflour and icing sugar and use to dust a greased 20cm x 30cm slice pan (I actually used a 9-inch square pan). Spoon the marshmallow mixture into pan, smooth to level using a metal spatula, and refrigerate for 2 hours or until set.  Dust a little icing sugar over the top before removing from the pan.  To turn your marshmallows out of the pan, run a butter knife around the edges, and use it or the round tip of a metal spatula to gently lift one corner.  Turn upside down and peel the marshmallow away from the pan - it will be more solid and pliable than you think,  just be firm, but gentle, and it will come out quite easily.  Turn on to a cutting board dusted with icing sugar and cut into squares.  Roll the finished marshmallows in a little extra icing sugar so all the edges are covered.  These can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week. (If they last that long!)


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