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Did you know that marshmallows are just gelatin, sugar, and egg white (well, plus a bit of salt and vanilla and then cornstarch and powdered sugar for that characteristic powdery coating)? Like so many things, homemade marshmallows blow store-bought versions out of the water. Plus, you don't need to add any drying agents or icky preservatives when you make them yourself. While well worth the effort, homemade marshmallows do require several steps, so be sure to read through all the steps and check the ingredient and equipment lists below before you start.
First, gather your ingredients:
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 2 egg whites
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 cup gelatin
- 2 1/4 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
Second, make sure you have the necessary equipment:Continue to 2 of 14 below.
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Prepare the Pan
In a medium bowl, combine the cornstarch (1/2 cup) and powdered sugar (3/4 cup). Oil a large baking and dust it generously with about 1/4 of the cornstarch-powdered sugar mixture. Set the pan and the mixture aside.Continue to 3 of 14 below.
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Bloom the Gelatin
In a large bowl, dissolve the gelatin (1/4 cup) in a 3/4 cup of cold water. Let it sit for 15 minutes (let it "bloom") while you do steps 4 and 5.Continue to 4 of 14 below.
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Start a Sugar Syrup
Bring the sugar (2 1/4 cups) and 3/4 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Keep boiling the resulting sugar syrup until it reaches 240 F—this will take at least 10 minutes, if not longer.
Don't stir or swirl the syrup as it cooks, doing so will increase the chances of the syrup crystallizing. If sugar crystals form along the sides of the pan, use a pastry brush dipped in cold water to brush them down back into the syrup.Continue to 5 of 14 below.
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Whip the Egg Whites
Once the sugar syrup has reached 240 F, take it off the heat and start whipping the egg whites. In a very large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, whip the egg whites until foamy. Add the salt (1/4 teaspoon). Continue whipping the egg whites until stiff peaks form—the egg whites will greatly increase in volume, turn opaque white, get shiny, and when you lift the whisk or beaters out of the egg whites you will be able to turn them upside-down and the peak of egg whites that clings to the whisk or beaters will hold its shape. Set the beaten egg whites aside while you do steps 6 and 7.Continue to 6 of 14 below.
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Pour the Sugar Syrup Into Gelatin
Pour the hot sugar syrup into the bloomed gelatin. Stir well to re-dissolve the gelatin.Continue to 7 of 14 below.
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Beat Sugar Syrup and Gelatin
After you've combined the sugar syrup and gelatin, beat it in a standing mixer, with electric beaters, or a balloon whisk until it turns opaque and a bit foamy.Continue to 8 of 14 below.
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Add Vanilla and Egg Whites
Stir the vanilla (2 teaspoons) into the sugar and gelatin, then add the egg whites.Continue to 9 of 14 below.
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Beat Until Billowy
Beat the marshmallow mixture until billowy and glossy—the mixture will also expand significantly. This part is very fun to watch. It's also why you need to be beating everything in a very large bowl.Continue to 10 of 14 below.
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Pour Into the Pan
Pour the beautifully billowy marshmallow into the prepared pan made in Step 2. Use a spatula to spread the mixture evenly in the pan, making swirls on the top as you like. Let sit—uncovered—until fully cooled and set, at least 6 hours or overnight.Continue to 11 of 14 below.
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Prepare a Cutting Surface
When the marshmallows are set and you're ready to cut them into squares (or other shapes—your choice!), prepare the cutting surface with a generous sprinkling, really a coating, of the cornstarch-powdered sugar mixture. Homemade marshmallows are wonderfully tender, but they are also fabulous sticky. A well-coated cutting surface is the first step towards minimizing the overall stickiness of your kitchen when all is said and done!Continue to 12 of 14 below.
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Cut the Marshmallows
Flip the marshmallow out of the pan onto the prepared cutting surface. Use a sharp knife to cut marshmallows into squares or rectangles or whatever you like, or use cookie cutters dipped into the cornstarch-powdered sugar to cut fun shapes.
Note that you can cut the marshmallows as large or as small as you like!Continue to 13 of 14 below.
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Toss or Coat Marshmallows
Toss or coat the cut marshmallows with the remaining cornstarch-powdered sugar mixture. This step is one that even little kids can help with—it's fun although a bit messy!Continue to 14 of 14 below.
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Serve or Store
Serve your marshmallows—as part of a candy plate, in a recipe, alongside some cake or ice cream, atop a s'mores pie, in hot chocolate (best made with real chocolate!), or all by their tender, fluffy, delicious selves. Or, store them in an airtight container. They are transcendent the day they are made, delicious for a week, and still better-than-store-bought for about a month depending on the humidity where you are.