Marshmallows, by Eileen Talanian Marshmallow treats have evolved way beyond s’mores at the campfire.


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BROOKE HERMAN is a food writer  in metropolitan New York.



May 2008

Product Reviews / Best Reads / Cooking

Marshmallows: Homemade Gourmet Treats

By Eileen Talanian


I could hardly control my delight a few reviews back, when while turning through the pages of Elizabeth Falkner’s Demolition Desserts, I stumbled upon a simple recipe for marshmallows. I was scared (hot sugar! gelatin!), but so excited. So much so, in fact, that I devoted a whole night to the gooey confections, banning everyone from the kitchen and determinedly, precisely setting up my mis en place. I don’t know who was more pumped up about it—me or my candy thermometer, that had not seen the light of day since my pralines-for-everyone stint during Christmas 2005.

Back during Demolition, I read that you can add anything you can think of, like rose water or ground cinnamon, to the marshmallows. I had visions of fiery cayenne pepper lending a gentle heat to the sometimes too-sweet candy. Boy, was I dreaming small.

When I found Marshmallows, I was beside myself, but still thinking on the tiny scale. I opened the book expecting a few mallow recipes, a couple of flavor variations and a handful of s’more take-offs. Thank goodness that Eileen Talanian, the author of this sticky encyclopedia, thinks bigger than I do.

One might argue that to base a whole book on one candy—a candy that you can purchase pretty cheaply in the grocery store—you have to have enough ideas to make the book worth the customer’s while. Sure, there are recipes for vanilla marshmallows (with chocolate chip and dulce de leche variations), rocky road brownies and homemade s’mores, but that’s the end to the expected.

The New World Of Flavored Marshmallows

There are creative choices, like chocolate, amaretto and coconut. My bet, though, is that you’ll more likely have trouble deciding between the Sauvignon Blanc-Long Pepper, Mint Julep and Apple Spice recipes. (They use wine and Bourbon and apple brandy, not to mention peppercorns and fresh herbs, for goodness sake!)

The first recipe I made was Honey Pear. Six cups of pear nectar reduced down to a flavor-packed two cups were incorporated into the mixture with honey. My favorite part (everybody’s favorite part, I should clarify) was that when the marshmallows were made, they actually tasted like pear and honey. And while they were really soft and fabulous for an as-is nibble, when heated with a flame, the honey helped the cloud-like pieces caramelize for unbeatable voluptuousness.

Marshmallows are not hard to make: impressive, for sure, but not difficult. The only caveat is that you have to have all of your work done ahead of time—ingredients measured, pots ready, mixing bowl fastened and the aforementioned candy thermometer at attention. Talanian spends 22 pages teaching you everything you need to know. As always, it may be tempting to gloss past these introductory guides. But the first batch in, you’ll have a lot of “what do I?—how do I?” questions. Read the tips. They’re the closest thing to a guarantee that you won’t be 20 minutes in with a pot of bubbling sugar asking, I wonder if it’s ready...

Talanian, who self-admittedly makes pan after pan of marshmallows, makes perhaps one false assumption in the book: that you’ll follow suit. Passing on the traditional corn syrup behind many marshmallow methods, she provides you with a four-ingredient Marshmallow Syrup that serves as the base for all recipes.

The syrup yields one quart (more than enough for three recipes, but it can be stored for up to two months). While the mixture is not demanding or especially time consuming to boil together, it’s hot sugar and it’s sticky—two reasons for me to recommend whipping it up a day before you plan to make the marshmallows. I didn’t. After making the syrup the first time, I gave it the requisite 15 minutes to cool before using and jarring (to prevent crystallization). I then scrubbed my one suitable pot and thermometer clean to start all over again with a still very hot syrup. It was exhausting before it even started.

Toasted MarshmallowToasted Coconut and Chocolate Chip are two popular marshmallow flavors.

My next two batches, however, made when the syrup was already prepared, jarred and ready to be measured, were a complete, surprisingly fast, breeze.

And that’s how it was easy to make the Sweet Potato Spice Marshmallows in less than an hour. If it sounds weird to add a potato (or Asian chili sauce) to these creamy confections, don’t let your instincts deter you. The sweet orange tuber lends the final product a beautiful shade of pale peach. The effects on flavor are even better: subtly earthy, warm and, thanks to the addition of ground ginger and cinnamon, reminiscent of Thanksgiving. When you think about all the families who celebrate the holiday with a mini-marshmallow topped casserole, the whole idea makes complete sense.

Grape, Green Tea & Cilantro Lime

If you think homemade marshmallows give the store-bought options a run for their money, you should give these heaven-on-a-spoon blends a try. Ultra-satiny and a lovely lilac color, the Concord Grape tastes just like grape jelly. So much, in fact, it may just behoove you to whip up the two-minute peanut butter mousse on page 129 for a parfait or to spread over graham crackers for the dessert take on PB & J. You’ll love the combination—but don’t think it will stop you from scooping up impromptu “tastes” of just the fluff from time to time.

In Marshmallows, you’ll also get plenty of coating options, from a plain cornstarch confectioner’s sugar to a green tea blend. In its simplest form, the coating provides a protective barrier for the otherwise sticky pieces. When you add extra elements like cinnamon or cocoa powder, though, they can transform a marshmallow’s entire flavor profile.

Gelatin-phobic? Flip to the middle of the book. Here you’ll find endless recipes for fluff, from Vanilla to a Cilantro-Lime, that use a similar boil-and-beat method. Another bonus to preparing these sans gelatin recipes: They require no setting up time, so you can dig in for instant gratification, as soon as the mixer’s turned off.


The third section of this book provides you with ways to use your confections, from homemade Peepers, to Orange Crepes with Honey-Star Anise Fluff, to Chocolate Cupcake Snowballs. They’re fun and adorable, but it’s hard to imagine having enough marshmallows or fluff left over to create anything else.

Talanian has an obvious passion for her sweet subject and the creativity to carry out such a narrow niche over the course of 176 pages. It’s contagious. Once you make a few batches, you’ll be so inspired by her ideas that you’ll be torn between developing your own flavor systems and trying out all the ones provided for you. (Do you really want to miss out on Orange Flower Water Fluff?) Simple and sweet, Marshmallows is fuss-free, fun and full of flavor. What better reason do you need to give your candy thermometer another go?

  • Hardcover: Gibbs Smith; 2008
  • 176 pages
  • Recipe Index: Back
  • Number of Recipes: 111

  • Not to miss recipe: Honey Pear

  • Extras: Ingredient guide,
    equipment breakdown and
    recipe variations
  • Price: $18.95
  • Click here to purchase

Price and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change.

Marshmallows, by Eileen Talanian


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