Marshmallows- What Are They, Anyway?

After hundreds and hundreds of hours of fudge-making over the past couple of years, I decided maybe it was time to try my hand at another yummy, old-fashioned treat- marshmallows!

 Most of us have eaten plenty of boughten marshmallows, but  I never really gave much thought to how they are made, or what they really ARE.  I started seeing a few pictures online of a more upscale, handmade marshmallow and was intrigued.
So what exactly is marshmallow?  Basically, it is a combination of sugar, corn syrup, gelatin and water.  The water, sugar and corn syrup are heated to 240 degrees (using a candy thermometer), added to water and gelatin and whipped at high speed for 10- 15 minutes.
  The marshmallow, which reminds me of old-fashioned 7-minute frosting at this point, is placed in a 9×9 pan to dry.  After a few hours, the 9×9 pan is cut into about 25 pieces, and dipped in a cornstarch- powdered sugar mix and are ready to eat.
Where did marshmallows come from, anyway?  Of course, after starting to make my own, I was curious enough to do some research and found that the word marshmallow comes from the mallow plant, an herb native to parts of Europe, North Africa and Asia.  The word “marsh” is used since the mallow plant grows in marshes and other damp areas.  Who knew?
Marshmallow history goes WAY back to 2000 B.C. when Ancient Egyptians were said to have made the first marshmallows, which were a delicacy reserved for gods and royalty.  The first marshmallows were prepared by boiling pieces of root pulp with honey until it thickened.  It was then strained and cooled.
By the early 1900s, marshmallows were introduced to the United States for mass consumption.  They were sold in tins as penny candy, and soon found their way into recipes like banana fluff, lime mallow sponge and tutti fruity.  In about 1950, Alex Doumak patented the extrusion process, which allows for thousands of marshmallows to be made in a day.
So, now, rather than the above-mentioned automated marshmallow process, we find ourselves wanting to back up just a bit and produce big, fluffy, handcrafted marshmallows in small batches, one 9×9 pan (about 25 pieces) at a time.
After handcrafting my first few pans of marshmallows, I don’t think I can ever go back to the store-bought bags.  They are just SO delicious and pillowy soft!  We have packed our lovely new treats in clear cello bags- just the right size for sharing, and the perfect addition to your Easter Basket.