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Christmas is right around the corner and you know what that means!

Lots and lots of holiday baking.

Seriously, Christmas is, by far, my favorite holiday. I love the lights, the food, the decorations, the food, the goodwill towards men atmosphere, the food…

Yea, Christmas is pretty much just an excuse for me to bake all damn day.

Marshmallows

Though, to be honest, I haven’t been baking much this holiday season. Mostly because of my recent preoccupation with candy making. Lately, I have been making so much candy that it hasn’t left me much time for baking. Last week was my super simple Honeycomb Candy. This week’s creation is my own sweet and savory twist on the old campfire staple: French Four Spice Marshmallows!

Marshmallows hold a special place in my heart, especially around Christmas time.

I know what you’re thinking. Marshmallows? You mean those white, tasteless, balls of tacky fluff?

Well no, not those marshmallows. Not those bland, Jet-Puffed brand marshmallows that you remember from your childhood games of Chubby Bunny (anyone remember that disgusting game of “how many marshmallows can you shove in to your cheeks?). Those  banal pieces of fluff are fine for S’mores and rice crispy treats, but they really aren’t particularly flavorful on their own.

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I know. I’m probably coming off as a bit of a marshmallow snob (I’m one of a very small club there), but, really, if you haven’t tried a true, handmade marshmallow, you don’t know what you are missing.

My first experience with a “real” marshmallow came from my grandmother. Not that she made marshmallows. She makes some amazing sour cream walnuts but that is about the extent of her candy-making experience.

No, somewhere along the line, she found these amazing handmade (and vegan) marshmallows flavored with real vanilla or coconut (and peppermint, but as I hate peppermint, I opted to ignore those). I was skeptical. I wasn’t much of a marshmallow fan at the time. I preferred my marshmallows burnt to a crisp, it’s flavor heavy on the char and smoke to mask the cloying sweetness.

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I was in for a surprise. Those little square marshmallows packed a punch. Sure they were still a bit too sweet, but they had true flavor, something largely lacking in the Jet-Puffed variety of marshmallow. Smooth vanilla and toasty coconut melded perfectly and simply melted away in my mouth.

I first attempted to make marshmallows some time earlier in the year. I dyed them purple. They were weird. For some reason they turned out…wet. I’m not sure what happened, but, though the texture was slightly off, the flavor was on point.

So despite the setback, I was hooked. Even more so when I realized that marshmallows, like cupcakes, are a wonderful canvas for a diverse range of flavors. I envisioned hundreds of different varieties, many in cocktail flavors (Appletini anyone?).

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But then my man suggested “why not do a savory marshmallow?”. Brilliant! (Imagine a very sing-songy voice. You have to imagine it because it’s not something I do in real life)

Well, these French Four Spice Marshmallows aren’t truly savory but they definitely lean on the savory side of sweets. French four spice is a savory spice mix that is heavy on white pepper but also features warm spices such as cinnamon, clove, and allspice. While it’s typically used in dishes like stews and casseroles, I thought the sweet heat would make a wonderfully not-too-sweet treat.

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So enjoy these French Four Spice Marshmallows. They’re not your grandmother’s marshmallows but they will be a sweet (and savory!) addition to your holiday baking adventures!

French Four Spice Marshmallows (Adapted from Alton Brown’s Marshmallows)

Makes 1 9×13 pan full of marshmallows

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2-6 tsp French four spice *NOTE*
  1. Combine the powdered sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly grease 13×9 metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.
  2. Pour 1/2 cup cold water in to a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water and allow to bloom. Have a hand mixer with a mixer with a whisk attachment ready.
  3. In a small saucepan, whisk remaining 1/2 cup water, white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Heat over medium-high heat, covered, 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Remove cover and fix a candy thermometer to the side (make sure the tip doesn’t touch the side or bottom of the pan!). Continue to cook, without stirring, until mixture reaches 240F. Remove immediately from heat. *NOTE* 
  5. Set the mixer to low speed and beat the gelatin mixture. While mixer is running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl.
  6. Once all the syrup has been added to the gelatin mixture, increase speed to high. Continue to whip until mixture is very thick, 12 to 15 minutes.
  7. In the last minute, add French four spice, 1 tsp at a time, tasting as you go.
  8. Pour mixture in to prepared pan and spread evenly with an oiled spatula. Dust top with some of the cornstarch/powdered sugar mixture.
  9. Let marshmallows rest at least 4 hours
  10. Dust a knife with the cornstarch/powdered sugar mixture. Cut marshmallows in to 1-inch squares (this can also be done with kitchen scissors).
  11. Dust cut marshmallows with cornstarch/powdered sugar mixture on all sides.
  12. Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down
  13. Sore in airtight container, up to 3 weeks.

*NOTES*

French four spice is probably a bit of an acquired taste. Add it 1 tsp at a time and taste your marshmallow mix after each addition. If you can’t find French four spice you can always make your own. Simply mix together 2 Tb white pepper, 1 Tb cinnamon, 1 Tb nutmeg, and 1 Tb cloves an voila, you have yourself some French four spice ready to go.

The original recipe says that the sugar syrup mixture should reach 240F is 7-8 minutes. This simply isn’t true. It turned out to be closer to 25 minutes for me. Be patient. It will get there.

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