Hiya Crumblers! I know it’s been a very long time since I posted. So long, that this post is now way out of season. I guess the bright side of this debilitating world crisis is that I now have time to write a few posts (if I can crawl out of my sad quarantine blanket cave long enough to bake something). But enough excuses, let’s talk about why the fuck I’m posting Christmas treats in April. To be totally honest, I started writing this when I was on the top of the winter hill – right before Christmas – when I’m too busy with the pending holidays and extra workload to slide into my usual, barely manageable, seasonal depression.
But before I had a chance to finish it, the holidays were over and I was very firmly at the bottom of that hill, and honestly, I totally forgot about it. So I figured I’ll post it anyway! Maybe people could use a little Christmas spirit right now. Also, hot chocolate and peppermint marshmallows are great any time of year. Here is the original post:
It is December and the holidays have taken over. There’s no escaping, whether you like it or not. Everywhere you go your vision is filled with Santas, and Christmas trees, and lights, and snowmen. Facebook and Instagram are plastered with photos of your friends’ office holiday parties and kids sitting on Santa’s lap. And every time you try to eat your salad in peace, someone is shoving a cookie at you.
It is December and your nose is filled with cinnamon. Your periphery is clouded with pine needles. Your ears overwhelmed with goddamn Mariah Carrey.
It is December and Christmas is King, and The Holiday Cookie is the Lord of the Dessert. Gingerbread men and Snickerdoodles, Linzers and Crinkle cookies, Snowballs and Shortbread, and the occasional Rugelach. And oh so much chocolate!
It is a very confusing time for me every year because I have a gastric intolerance for cheer. Happiness is fine, I can digest Joy in small quantities. I prefer subtler moods like contentment, and general satisfaction. But Cheer gives me the bubble guts. If it goes as far as Jubilation I’m going to have to take a sick day. However, I love, Love, LOVE Christmas baking. I know. It is in direct opposition to my cheer allergy but there’s just something in gingerbread that makes it digestible. Like people that hate tomatoes but love spaghetti sauce.
So I have embraced my love of Holiday flavors as an attempt to cure my Christmas allergy, a way to bridge the gap between my humbug leanings and the holiday spirit festering in those around me. After all, it is difficult to be a humbug when you work in a bakery. It’s not good for business. I knew I needed to have a holiday post of some sort, and I wanted it to embrace the kind of holiday spirit that I have come to enjoy.
With that in mind, I give you home made hot chocolate and peppermint marshmallows. The idea of thick and rich hot chocolate, steaming fresh, poured straight from the pot, topped with aromatic, fluffy marshmallow, melting into foamy delight warms my grinch-y heart. Having a cup of this cozy combination while snuggled up on the couch with The Hubs next to the Christmas tree watching a classic Christmas movie like Die Hard or Harry Potter… Yeah, that’s the kind of Christmas I can get behind.
Also, there’s gonna be a thousand gingerbread and crinkle cookies at that cookie exchange, why not impress people and bring something different? Bonus: they’re super easy and cheap to make, and you can add any flavor you want! So lets get cooking:
Lets start with the marshmallows. These need to set up over night, so you’ll want to start them well in advance. The good news is, they last FOREVER. Like seriously, I was munching on these 6 weeks later with very little change in texture. I used this recipe from good old Betty Crocker. If it ain’t broke, right? You don’t really need a fancy recipe, all marshmallows are basically the same four ingredients: sugar, water, gelatin, and corn starch. Everything else is just for flavor.
I gave it 4 instead of five stars only because the flavor is based almost completely on the peppermint extract. Now I get very good, fancy, expensive extracts, so mine tasted pretty darn good. But if you use cheap extract, it will taste like cheap peppermint (imagine that). So they won’t taste the same for everyone. Just make sure you are using peppermint, not mint, or spearmint. There is a difference and you will taste it.
These turned out super cute after some practice. The batch I made last year I made the mistake of trying to flatten out the top after I had swirled the color, yielding pink marshmallows instead of the candy cane pattern. So once you do the swirl, you’re done, no more touching! The only other problem I had with the appearance is that the pan size that was recommended in the recipe yielded somewhat flatter marshmallows than I would have liked. I really wanted really big, fat, square mallows. Alas, I got rectangles. Next time I will use a smaller pan, or give in and cut smaller squares.
The recipe itself is fairly easy to follow, but I gave it a slightly higher difficulty rating because pouring boiling hot sugar syrup into an active mixer is, obviously, dangerous, and I didn’t want there to be any indication that this is kid-friendly or whatever. Also, you must make sure that the sugar mixture is at the right temperature before you add it to the gelatin or it won’t set up. A few tips:
– Don’t be stingy with that butter.
– My syrup did not take anywhere near 30 minutes to come to temp. I guess it all depends on your stove, but if you’re using a candy thermometer (that is properly calibrated) and it reaches 240 well before 30 minutes have passed, it’s fine, always go with the temp.
– DO NOT attempt this without a thermometer. You’ll just be making it harder on yourself trying to test for soft-ball stage every couple of minutes, and the more you handle the syrup, the more likely it is you will burn yourself. Candy thermometers are cheap, useful, and available on amazon and at Target.
– To avoid splatter when adding the syrup to the gelatin, pour it in a little stream down the side of the bowl. Like, actually touching the side of the bowl. You’ll end up with some syrup stuck on the side of the bowl and that’s fine.
– That tip about wet hands, don’t skip it or you will have a real mess!
Hands on cooking time: 30 minutes
And now for the Hot Chocolate. REAL Hot Chocolate that is thick and creamy and delicious, not the powdered crap that tastes like vaguely chocolaty water. Stovetop hot chocolate is infinitely better and it’s quick and easy to make, and very customizable. This is the recipe that I use:
- 1 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
- 1 Tbsp Good Quality Cocoa Powder I use dutch process
- 1 Pinch Espresso Powder
- 1 Pinch Salt
- 1 Tbsp Water
- 3/4 Cup Whole Milk
- 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
- 2 Oz Semi Sweet Chocolate
- 1 Pinch Cayenne Optional
- 1 Pinch Cinnamon Optional
- Mix sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, salt, and water in small pot over medium heat, stir until they come together.
- Whisk in milk and cream and heat until steaming, stirring frequently to avoid scalding the milk.
- Add chocolate and whisk until smooth. Add more sugar and milk to taste.
- Add optional spices and top with marshmallows!
Well, that’s about all the writing I can manage. I hope this helps make your Christmas (or quarantine) a little bit brighter! I will end with some links to some other marshmallow flavors that I like:
Maple Bourbon Marshmallows from The Spiced Life
Eggnog Marshmallows from The Kitchn
Lemon and Rosemary Marshmallows from A Beautiful Mess
Lavender Marshmallows from Olive and Mango