Bouncy. Fluffy. Chewy. These are some words that describe the deliciousness that is marshmallows.
Marshmallows were originally made from the sap of the marsh mallow plant and can be traced to ancient Egypt. Until the mid-1800s people still made them that way, then they started using gelatin, but the original name stuck.
I've loved marshmallows my whole life -- from small ones in my hot chocolate, to big ones on s'mores to the colorful Peeps that my grandma puts in my Easter basket. For a couple of years I had braces and could not enjoy the succulent treat of marshmallows. I once ate a whole bag in two afternoons (without my mom knowing, but she knows now).
You might expect it to be impossible to make marshmallows at home, but I saw that it was easier than I thought when I visited The French Pastry School in Chicago the other week. Chef Patrice Caillot, a world pastry champion and instructor at the school who was born in France, showed a group of about 30 people how to make passion fruit marshmallows. His were poofy and sweet but not too sweet. All he needed was a stand mixer, a stovetop and ingredients you can get at any grocery store.
He made it look easy enough so I decided to try it for myself and decided to make mine lemon flavored. It takes about 30 to 40 minutes to squeeze and zest the lemons, mix the gelatin and wait for the sugar syrup to reach 240 degrees. The hardest part is cutting them into squares because the marshmallow stretches and is sticky.
Was it worth it?
Yes. Definitely, yes!
A word from Mom: I think being mad about marshmallows must be hereditary. I love them. Especially Peeps. Leave those speckled malted milk eggs and goo-filled chocolate eggs out of my basket and fill it with Peeps instead. (Try Peeps on s'mores!)
This year we're filling baskets with these homemade lemony marshmallows. If you use a larger pan you get a thinner marshmallow and you can use cookie cutters to make shapes like flowers, bunnies and, yes, even chicks.
• Jerome Gabriel, an eighth-grader, has been helping in the kitchen since he could hold a spoon. His mom is Daily Herald Food Editor Deborah Pankey.