Ahhh, the visions of sugar plums danced through their heads. I totally get this. I sometimes find myself daydreaming about that very thing. During the holidays, I feel so justified when I bump up my baking a degree or two to a psychotic frenzy! Maybe it's because it's the one time of year when people allow themselves to indulge. Or maybe it's the thought of giving all those gifts of "food". Whatever the reason, I find myself entranced in the "spirit" of all things sweet and delicious. I have some stand-bys that are my "expected traditions" - baklava, truffles, salted caramels, and candied citrus peel. This year, I will have another one to add to that list.
Last year, I played around with making marshmallows. Before you get that wrinkled furrow on your forehead and that feeling of "Martha failure", just hear me out. This really is easy if you have two things. You need to have a good candy thermometer - without it, candy making is totally hit or miss. You will also need patience, this being of the utmost importance. If you're covered in these two areas then you're ready to begin. I cannot stress enough that when it comes to candy making, you need to read over the recipe several times before you start. Sometimes, it's not the ingredient that you discover you don't have on hand, but rather the utensil for the job.
I got this recipe from marthastewart.com and I plan on making several different flavors of these marshmallows this year for gift giving. Some of the flavors are Meyer Lemon (I have a tree in my backyard), Vanilla (the traditional flavor) and of course, these lovely peppermint swirls shown in the link. Give a bag of these with some homemade cocoa mix and I swear, you will be the hostess with the mostess! And when your recipients are sipping a steaming cup of cocoa with those marshmallows slowly melting and frothing up, I bet they, too, will be having visions of sugar plums! I'm jus' sayin'...
Peppermint Swirl Marshmallows
Makes sixteen 2-inch squares
* Vegetable-oil cooking spray
* 2 cups sugar
* 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
* 4 packages (1/4 ounce each) unflavored gelatin
* 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
* 2 large egg whites
* 2 teaspoons red food coloring
1. Coat an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray; line bottom with parchment paper. Coat the parchment with cooking spray, and set pan aside. Put sugar, corn syrup, and 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring; let mixture come to a boil. Raise heat to medium-high; cook until mixture registers 260 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over 3/4 cup water in a heatproof bowl; let stand 5 minutes to soften. Set the bowl with the gelatin mixture over a pan of simmering water; whisk constantly until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat, and stir in extract; set aside.
3. Beat egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Whisk gelatin mixture into sugar mixture; with mixer running, gradually add to egg whites. Mix on high speed until very thick, 12 to 15 minutes.
4. Pour mixture into lined pan. Working quickly, drop dots of red food coloring across surface of marshmallow. Using a toothpick, swirl food coloring into marshmallow to create a marbled effect. Let marshmallow stand, uncovered, at room temperature until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight. Cut into squares.