well-honed technique. vast experience. a combination possessed by the finest master craftsmen. i was one of these craftsmen. an award-winning fire builder by the age of 10 (according to a panel of expert girl scout counselors), i specialized in the log-cabin style. in the heat of competition, i’d scour the woods for the kindling i knew would ignite the fastest. locating the right-size branches, i’d construct a design that would make my counselors beam with pride. arms piled high with the highest-quality materials and with the clock ticking, i’d sort my stash and become immersed in my creative process.
meticulously building the log cabin came naturally (the persistent perfectionist). and i had refined my technique sufficiently to streamline the process. surely and swiftly, i lit my match, then touched it to the kindling. blowing steadily, but softly, i encouraged the flame to engulf the smaller pieces of wood. soon ablaze, the dry wood began to crackle, flames leaping high (don’t worry; there was a water bucket within reach). i heard a whistle blow, and one of the counselors announced the victor: me. blush. not bad for a nerdy bookworm.
to the victor go the spoils. in this case, the counselors came and sat around my fire. i added a few logs, so we could settle in for our evening program of eating too much sugar and singing. there was just enough daylight remaining to prepare for the most important portion of the event: roasting marshmallows, and making s’mores. it was my reward to find some green, yet sturdy, willow branches to use for roasting. with my trusty girl scout emblem-embossed jackknife, i expertly carved sharp points on each of five branches, then handed four of them to my beloved counselors. with the last branch, i pierced a marshmallow, and held it over the coals of my fire, until the ooey-gooey substance became golden brown. then i popped it in my mouth. heaven. i passed on the graham crackers and Hershey bars, content to revel in soft and puffy confection.
thanks to Ashley Rodriguez, whose not without salt blog inspires and illuminates. and from whom i borrowed this wonderful marshmallow recipe. it’s really fun to make and took me back to a very sweet time in my life.
a recipe from Alton Brown, adapted by Ashley Rodriguez
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
1 cup light corn syrup (or glucose)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 vanilla bean, seeds removed
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
- place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer, along with 1/2 cup water.
- in a small saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt.
- cover the pan, and cook over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes.
- uncover the pan, clip a candy thermometer on the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240F (approximately 7 to 8 minutes). immediately remove from heat.
- with the whisk attached, turn your stand mixer on low speed and slowly pour the syrup mixture from the pan down the side of the bowl and into the gelatin mixture.
- when all the syrup has been added, increase the mixer speed to high (be careful that the hot mixture doesn’t splat on you).
- add the vanilla seeds, and continue to whisk until the mixture becomes very thick and lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes.
- while the mixture is whipping, combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl; set aside.
- line a 13 x 9-inch metal baking pan with aluminum foil (i used nonstick foil), then coat with nonstick cooking spray.
- completely cover the sides and bottom of the pan with the sugar and cornstarch mixture, and return the remaining quantity to the bowl to use later in the process.
- pour the whipped mixture into the prepared pan, using a spatula sprayed with the cooking oil to spread the mixture evenly in the pan.
- dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar/cornstarch mixture to lightly cover, and reserve the rest for later.
- let the marshmallows sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
- turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board, and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel or sharp knife dusted with the sugar/cornstarch mixture.
- once the marshmallows have been cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture.
- store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks (really? i can’t imagine these marshmallows being around that long).
try the marshmallows in a mug of rich hot chocolate or as part of a decadent s’more.