I used to have this borderline manic tick in my early twenties, once I left my flat, I would pat my pocket at regular intervals to make sure I had my keys. Don’t get me wrong, I could step on the cracks on the street and wouldn’t bring my own disposable cutlery when eating out, but it was a worrying trend.
Until I realized that a new obsession has taken over and it’s much much worse: incessantly checking to see if I have received emails at either of my two addresses, have any comments on my blog, or what’s going down over on Twitter.
I mean who am I?
How lucrative could an email or tweet be to a stay at home mom of one?
So I have decided to take some measures. I will limit my online checks to three a day, morning, afternoon and evening. And I am going to use my mobile phone as it was originally intended (in 1973 when it weighed 2kg), to make phone calls! Let’s see how I fare (I did manage to quit smoking in 2000 and have never looked back).
In the meantime, here is a recipe I made for marshmallows, it’s fidley enough that it engrossed me completely for half an hour and made me forget about my iPhone and the niggling urge to check for messages.
Let me take you aside and whisper a few words in your ear about making your own marshmallows. It’s fraught with potential disasters, meringue, sugar syrup and gelatine! Then it’s a sticky mess to cut up afterwards. But it’s one of those magical kitchen transformations that I love to watch, like seeing a new seedling push its way up through the soil (another little project I am working on) that just invokes a “Wow! Look at that?!”
- Separate one white at a time, into a glass, then upend into your mixing bowl and start on the next egg. This way, if you break a yolk, you don’t have to throw everything away.
- Bowl and whisk must be clean and grease free, preferably having been washed in the dishwasher (and not from your husband moonlighting as pot wash). If you want, put a few drops of vinegar in the bowl and wipe out with a paper towel.
- Pay attention if the recipe calls for soft peaks or firm peaks. Soft, they will flop over like a rag doll, firm, they will stand up on the whisk.
- Most common pitfall is overwhipping, once you get to stiff peaks, STOP. Otherwise liquid will begin to seep out and your beautiful meringue will turn into a smeary, foamy mess. It will weep and so will you.
- At Leiths we were taught to check the sugar syrup stage by dropping little bits into a glass of water and seeing what shape it made (Soft Crack, Hard Crack). My advice is, if you are working with sugar syrups, get a sugar thermometer. Life is too short.
- I prefer to use sheet gelatine, which is also what the original recipe calls for, it is much easier to use.
- Gelatine is typically made from pork but also beef. Be aware that will rule out certain groups of people and of course vegetarians.
Sour Cherry Marshmallows adapted from ‘How To Eat In’ by Adam Byatt
(original recipe calls for 10g of poppy seeds but I prefer them without)
90ml of sour cherry juice
12g of leaf gelatine
2 egg whites
450g caster sugar
60g of cold water
1 tsp of glucose syrup*
For the Dust
10g icing sugar
10g powdered sugar
1. Brush a 20cm x 20cm baking pan with oil.
2. Separate egg whites into a bowl, whisk with an electric mixer on medium speed until the mix holds a ribbon trail when the mixer is lifted. At the same time, put the sugar, water and glucose into a saucepan over medium and heat to 127°C on a sugar thermometer and put the gelatine sheets (cut in half if necessary so all of it is submerged).
3. When your sugar is 127ºC, add the cherry juice and gelatine to the pan and stir carefully until the gelatine has dissolved (about 1 minute).
4. Slowly pour the hot sugar mixture on to the egg whites (avoiding the beaters / whisk as much as possible) and continue whisking until all the sugar has been absorbed. Continue whisking for a further 5 or so minutes until it looks like a tight, sticky meringue.
5. Pour the meringue into the greased tray. Leave to set in the fridge for 3 hours or until firm.
6. Sprinkle the marshmallow dust over a board. Turn the marshmallow out on to the dust and turn to coat, then cut into 2 cm cubes.
Find a thick, concentrated syrup or cordial (there are plenty of choices here in Germany). Because the syrup is thicker, it will be harder to soften the gelatine, instead, measure out 90 ml of the syrup and soften the gelatine leaves in some cold water. When the sugar syrup has reached 127 C, gently squeeze the water out of the gelatine, add to the syrup and then add the lot to the meringue.
I wanted a striking cover for the outside of the marshmallows so I picked out some of the freeze-dried strawberries out of Special K cereal and pulverized those with the sugar and cornflour. And then rolled the marshmallows in that mixture as before.
*Glucose is stickier than honey. To avoid a mess, wet your spoon and your finger, dip the spoon in and use your wet finger to push out into the pan.