Saturday, April 23, 2011


Homemade lavender marshmallows

I love making things that make people say, "you MADE those? I didn't know you could MAKE those!" There are so many things that we just buy, thinking that nobody really makes them, it must be impossible. But people do, and it isn't, and marshmallows made at home are way softer and fluffier and yummier than those rubbery things they sell in a bag.

And yet, I must say, I had a fear of candy-making. Still do, a bit, I must admit. But I was involved in a swap project (sorta like Secret Santa, except not at Christmas), and the person I was sending to had lavender marshmallows on their list, but I wasn't going to be able to fit them in under the spending limit. So I figured I'd take a stab at it myself, once I bought a candy thermometer, of course (which I didn't count toward that spending limit, as I kept it and will use it again).

These came out pretty good (well, it's Alton Brown, of course it would), though I honestly don't like the taste of lavender. But the texture was lovely, and I can see some all-vanilla ones in my future. The trickiest things about making these, I think, were that you must have an electric mixer of some kind, if you don't want your arm to fall off from whisking (and yay, I got to use the whisk attachment on my mixer, which I hadn't tried out yet), and you must not scrape the bowl. Don't do it. I know there's still going to be some left stuck to the bowl once you pour it into the pan, but just let it go, or you're gonna end up covered in marshmallow (and it still won't end up in the pan).

From Alton Brown

3 envelopes of unflavored gelatin (Knox is the most common brand, if you've never bought this stuff before)
1 c cold water
1 1/2 c sugar
1 c light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp extract -- vanilla or another flavor (I used half vanilla, half lavender for mine)
1/4 c confectioners' sugar
1/4 c cornstarch
Nonstick spray

1. Place 1/2 cup of cold water in a large bowl, pour the gelatin over it and let stand.
2. Combine the rest of the water and the sugar, corn syrup and salt in a saucepan. Cook, covered, over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes, then uncover and clip on the candy thermometer (make sure the bulb doesn't touch the bottom of the pan). Cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees, then remove from the heat.
3. Turn on your mixer with the whisk attachment (or use a stand mixer if you've got on) and slowly pour the sugar mixture down the side of the bowl into the gelatin. Turn the mixer up to high and whip, whip, whip, until it's thick and lukewarm -- basically, until it's marshmallow, until it looks like Fluff.
4. Add in the extract(s), and if you want to use food coloring, drip that in, too. Beat in.
5. Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.
6. Spray a 9-by-13 pan with cooking spray. Dust the pan with some of the sugar/cornstarch mix, pouring the excess back into the bowl.
7. Pour the marshmallow into the pan. A greased spatula may help with this. (Or it may not -- it didn't really help me much.)
8. Once the marshmallow has settled into the pan, dust with the sugar/cornstarch mix.
9. Let sit at least 4 hours (overnight is better).
10. Dump the marshmallow out and cut into pieces using an oiled knife. Roll the sides in the sugar/cornstarch mix.

Easter bunny cake pops

Bunny pops!

Alright, I admit it. I cheated on these. But I can explain. See, while I haven't used a boxed mix for anything in, well, more than a year, at least, sometimes, they have their place. I usually make everything from scratch, but boxed cakes still taste alright, and besides, I make it a policy to listen to the experts -- if the experts say to use a mix, or to use something pre-packaged, 'cause the results from homemade aren't any better and can actually be worse, well, I listen to those experts. So I made these with a cake mix, a strawberry one, so I'd have cute, spring-y pink bunny innards. I used a can of frosting, too (oh, the horror!), plain white vanilla. Sure, I could've made both from scratch, but the prevailing Internet sentiment was that the results would be way more work and produce less consistent results.

That is not to say that these were easy, though. Not at all. In fact, these took almost three afternoons of work. And decorating is not my strong suit, not at all. Still, I got a lot of compliments on them, and my boyfriend ate two when I'd only asked him to take a taste, so I guess they were worth the work. (Kudos to my boyfriend, btw, for helping me as I went along -- "I'm out of sticks, what do I do?" "How am I gonna dry these so they stay level?" "YOU wanna make some ears? My hands are cramping, and so's my back.")

My boyfriend even played photographer, leading to my debut in a photo on my own blog.  Yes, I know my piping sucks, and in fact, I'm doing it wrong-handed, but my hand always cramps too much when I do it the proper way. A basket of bunnies, all ready to go

Cake Pops
Inspired by Bakerella, the cake pop queen

1 boxed cake mix of your choice, plus whatever you need to make it (usually a few eggs and some oil)
1 can of frosting
2 bags of candy coating (to make sure you have enough)
Decorations, if using (for the bunnies, I used a bottle of pink cookie icing and a black edible-ink marker -- you could use candies or other edible things, too, just look at Bakerella's site for inspiration)
A foam block, or something else you can use to hold the pops while they dry.

1. Make the cake as directed in a 9-by-13 pan, then cool completely.
2. Dump the cake out into the biggest bowl you have and crumble it up. Dump in the frosting and mix it all together (a spoon is fine, but your hands are probably better for this task).
3. Form the mixture into balls and place them on a waxed-paper-lined cookie sheet.
4. Chill (in the fridge if you have time, in the freezer if you don't).
5. Assemble your decorations, if you need to. This is when I piped the bunny ears onto waxed paper.
6. Melt some of the candy coating, dip the sticks in it and shove them into the balls (only about halfway in, mind you). Put the pops back in the fridge/freezer for a bit.
7. Dip the pops into the candy coating, then tap gently to remove excess. (This is the point at which I shoved the ears into the tops of the pops, just after coating them.) Shove the pops into the foam block and let dry.
8. Decorate. I dropped little dollops of icing for the noses, then used a toothpick to make the mouths and put pink on the ears. Then, I drew on the eyes with an edible-ink marker. (And I just now, days later, realized that I forgot to draw on whiskers. Oh well. The marker wasn't working all that great on the candy coating, anyway -- that idea probably wouldn't have panned out. *shrug*)