2nd November 2010
Babysitting With Marshmallows
Well I selfishly volunteered for babysitting duties with the Eldorado girlies so that I still get to see them occasionally. It's not their fault after all.

I've been wanting to try making some marshmallows after buying James Martin's Great British Winter Cookbook last winter and I figured it would be perfect for the girlies too, so I geared up all the ingredients and trucked on round after work.
It seemed surprisingly difficult to find liguid glucose when I first had the idea of trying this recipe, and I finally found some in Boots, heavily guarded behind the pharmacy counter. Then amusingly, when I was checking out the gleaming new giant Tesco which has just opened up near my office in Musselburgh any-fucking-town-in-the country I found little jars of liquid glucose by the dozen. Sitting right next to the leaf gelatin.
Which begs the question - what's the big deal with leaf gelatine anyway?
Apparently some cooks feel that leaf gelatin has no odour and makes a smoother clearer jelly. I can see how the powder might end up being more grainy, but I disagree with them about the odour! - Ed

Of course as usual I managed to forget something.
It's not real Karl Cookery if you don't forget something.
That's my trademark. That and orange flavours. According to Jenny that's my trademark too. Though she kindly hasn't mentioned the forgetting something bit.
Usually I find the something just after I've served out the meal, but this time I forgot to bring the sugar thermometer before I even started.
And since Rachel doesn't have one (yet!) I had to guess the sugar temperature and I was probably a little on the low side.
Since it all worked out fine (though with rather more final whisking than advertised) maybe it isn't all that critical?

I was also a bit short of gelatin sheets, since they came only 12 to a pack, so I made up the difference with powder. According to the packets 12 gelatin leaves (20g) is sufficient for 3 pints of water, and one sachet (10g/4tsp) sufficient for 1 pint. So I added half a sachet of the powder too, and soaked the lot.

Obviously if you're making up a batch of marshmallows you need to have white ones and pink ones - all the best commercial bags do. So I thought I'd try some strawberry Nesquik as the flavouring agent.
Hugh Fearnley-Whatthehell uses beetroot in his, but I didn't think that was going to fly with my audience.
Also he doesn't use any glucose - so what does he know? (Does he know that you don't need glucose in your marshmallows?)
We made half white and half pink mallows, which worked out pretty well since we didn't have a large enough tray to set all of the mixture anyway.
We added (slightly more than) the advertised vanilla essence to the entire batch, poured half into one tray, then added the Nesquik and food colouring to the remaing mixture.

Usually my attempts to enlist the girlies enthusiasm for one of my cooking marathons meets with something approaching bitter disappointment (mine not theirs), but I think the girlies really enjoyed making up those pink and white fluffy pillows.
They did a fine job double-teaming the whisking (even dressing the part), there were lots of sticky sweet things to lick out and most importantly, it didn't actually take that long.
I think that's worth repeating. So I'll repeat it.
It didn't actually take that long.

You would think I would have learned that simple lesson after all my Eldorado Cookery - young girls having the attention span of the length of a pop song, but I still find it just about impossible to cook quickly, despite buying books with unconvincing titles like Fast Food in a desperate and usually futile attempt to get dinner on the table before midnight.
I'd be the worst MasterChef. Ever.

Waiting for the mallows to set is quite a challenge for girlies looking for a sugar high, but fortunately I brought along my awesome 10th Kingdom DVDs to keep them entertained.
They did a much better job than Sophie's homework.

All in all we must have done something right - the mallows were quite lovely, and I particularly liked the strawberry ones. Rachel must have thought so too, because she'd already eaten five before I'd even asked if she'd enjoyed her evening of freedom.

Team Eldorado Girlies Team Eldorado Girlies Team Eldorado Girlies
Go Team Eldorado Girlies!


Makes 1½lb

Put the sugar, glucose and 200ml (7fl oz) water in a heavy-based saucepan. Add a sugar thermometer. Bring to the boil and cook until it reaches 127°C/260°F.

Meanwhile, soak the gelatine in 150ml (5fl oz) cold water and beat the egg whites until stiff. Lightly oil a shallow baking tray, about 30 x 20cm (12 x 8in). Dust it with sieved icing sugar and cornflour. I used a mixture of 60/40 icing sugar/cornflour.

When the syrup is up to temperature, carefully slide in the softened gelatine sheets and their soaking water. Hot gelatin doesn't smell all that appetising - a bit like boiling cow's feet really. The syrup will bubble up, so take care not to burn yourself. Pour the syrup into a metal jug.

Marshmallow Mixture

Continue to beat the egg whites - preferably with an electric whisk - while pouring in the hot syrup from the jug. Do this very slowly, or the heat will cook the egg whites too much. The mixture will become shiny and start to thicken. Add the vanilla extract and continue whisking for about 5-10 minutes, Yeah? And the rest until the mixture is stiff and thick enough to to hold its shape on the whisk.
You can add the Nesquik and colouring too now if you like. I used half the quantities of these above, pouring half the white mallow mixture off into a baking tray first, then mixing up the rest.

Spoon the mixture into a prepared baking tray, and smooth it with a wet palette knife if necessary. I didn't need to - the mixture was still pretty pourable. Possibly because I had to guess the sugar temperature since I didn't have a sugar thermometer. Leave for at least an hour to set.

Dust the work surface with more icing sugar and cornflour. Loosen the marshmallow around the sides of the tray with a palette knife, then turn it out on to the dusted surface. Cut into squares and roll in the sugar and cornflour. Leave to dry a little on a wire rack, then pack into an airtight box or jar.


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