Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fresh Strawberry and Orange-Flower Water Marshmallows

First of all, I know I haven't updated this blog in a while. I spent a week in New Orleans earlier this month, and I've been busy with work and with Paris preparations (I leave in less than a week!). New Orleans is a fantastic food city, with so much warmth and vibrancy and culture. Coming back to the chilly Northwest - figurative and literally speaking - took some getting used to. I'll have to write a full post on it later, but here's a few pictures.

Back to the subject of this post, I figured it was due time for another post from Paris Sweets. I had some aromatic strawberries from the farm market on hand, and I finally found some orange flower water from DeLaurenti near Pike Place Market. The combination of strawberries with orange flower water seems straight out of Arabian Nights, a fitting flavor for whimsical pink puffs of candy.

I'm no stranger to homemade marshmallows, thanks to a good friend back in Scotland who used to make homemade marshmallows all the time. Passion fruit and green tea were some of my favorite flavors. Last year, when a coworker had overabundant plum trees, I cooked down some plums with sugar and made plum marshmallows. People are always surprised when I tell them about homemade marshmallows. It's not hard to make, but you do need to be organized. As with candy-making in general, timing is critical. You want to be ready to add hot syrup to the beaten egg whites as soon as the syrup reaches the right temperature.

Homemade marshmallows can also be a messy business. Pouring hot sugar syrup into beaten egg whites - with the mixer on - always poses the risk of splattering, and then there's the potato starch factor. Any time I have to work with large quantities of starch or confectioner sugar, it's pretty much guaranteed that my counters (and me) will be covered with tiny specks of white. The results are worth it though. Instead of the sugary, tasteless stuff from the grocery store, you get tender, fluffy chunks of candy with real flavor.

These marshmallows are tangy with fresh strawberry flavor and delicately perfumed, thanks to the orange flower water. Speaking of which, before I actually acquired a bottle of orange flower water, I always thought it'd smell like oranges. Instead, the smell is intensely floral - it reminds me of jasmine blossom tea.

Fresh Strawberry and Orange-Flower Water Marshmallows
Adopted from Paris Sweets, which is adopted from Ladurée.

Makes 1 pound, fills a 9x12 pan for 1/2" tall marshmallows, use a 9x9 pan if you like them taller.
(I cut down the original recipe by half because 2 pounds of marshmallows is a lot, and it'd be hard to work with)

Approximately 1/2 cup potato starch
6-7 ripe strawberries, puréed (approximately 70 g)
2/3 cup (150 g) cold water
1 1/4 cup (250 g) sugar
1/8 cup (40 g) corn syrup
2 packets (14 g) powdered gelatin
3 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon orange flower water

Line your baking pan of choice with parchment paper or silpat, then dust heavily with potato starch. Don't be shy, or you'll get stuck marshmallows later.

Next, you'll want to do three things in close succession:
1) Make the sugar syrup. This will take ~10 minutes.
2) Whisk the egg whites. You'll want to do this before the sugar syrup is ready, but not too much before. 
3) Dissolve and heat the gelatin so it's in a nice liquid state after the syrup has been added to the egg whites. You should dissolve the gelatin ahead of time, and then put it in the microwave right when the syrup is about ready.

1) Sugar syrup: combine 1/3 cup water, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring just until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar dissolves, stop stirring and cook until it reaches 265 F.

2) Egg whites: whisk until it forms firm, glossy peaks. I find it helpful to add a few teaspoons of sugar to help the egg whites stabilize.
3) Gelatin: Sprinkle the gelatin over the remaining 1/3 cup of water. Let it sit for 5 minutes, and then heat for 40 seconds in the microwave.

As soon as the sugar syrup reaches the right temperature, drizzle it into the egg white foam with the mixer running on medium, taking care to not drizzle directly onto the spinning whisk (unless you want flying bits of hot sugar flung everywhere). The meringue will turn shiny and glossy once the syrup has been added. Next, drizzle in the melted gelatin with the same technique. Beat for another minute or so to fully incorporate the syrup and gelatin.

Fold in the strawberry purée and orange-flower water into the hot batter, then turn it out onto the dusted baking pan. Smooth the top and dust with more potato starch. Let it set in a cool, dry place for 3 hours or overnight.

To serve, cut the marshmallows into squares and cover the freshly exposed sides with more potato starch. I find that a pizza cutter is great for the job. Shake off any excess starch before serving.

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