Softly softly: Marshmallows are being reinvented by a new generation of confectioners

 

Sweet foods, all comforting, soft and pappy, have proved popular in this recession. Over the past few years we've seen revivals or rediscoveries of cupcakes, whoopie pies, syrups and bacon jams, of posh ice creams and doughnuts, the American-style pairings of pig and sugar. Mouth-coating sweetnesses that help people stave off fears of the debtors' yard. Now it seems to be marshmallows' turn. Those lurid, chemical, factory extrusions are suddenly all-natural, imbued with fresh fruit, natural flavourings, authentic fillings and sweet gourmet prejudice.

How to account for this? Marshmallows represent a Proustian jolt back to childhood: to campfires, sweetie jars, the Ghostbusters films, fairgrounds and the Sunday cinema pick 'n' mix. Their tongue-coating squidginess is deeply reassuring. So it was perhaps inevitable that marshmallows would make a comeback. What is surprising is the speed with which they've done so.

The 'gourmet' marshmallow trend seems to have started in Vancouver, where an outfit called Butter Baked Goods began to produce high-end examples as early as 2009 – they now flog them across North America. All of a sudden marshmallow shops, or sweet shops or bakeries specialising in marshmallows, have been opening across the US. The New York Times says marshmallows are "having a moment in retro-land". They "are the new cupcakes," claims a co-owner of the Three Tarts Bakery in Manhattan, where fancy marshmallows go for roughly $1 apiece, in flavours such as mango, passion fruit and strawberry-basil.

Rural Americans are also catered for, with mail-order marshmallow companies experiencing a surge in sales. One such is called Sugar Poofs – not a name that translates particularly well – but the flavours are bold and inspired: lavender and vanilla, banana curry, and a white Russian, including coffee liqueur and Irish cream.

The trend has at last reached the UK. "Marshmallows have definitely come on the scene recently," says Bea Vo, who runs the boutique bakery Bea's of Bloomsbury. Vo sells marshmallows including vanilla-caramel swirl, strawberry-mango and "Lamingtons", cocoa-flavoured marshmallows dipped in coconut. "They're fun and nostalgic," she says, "but have a modern twist. You really get to play with flavours." What makes a good marshmallow? "No artificial ingredients, a nice soft pillowy texture and good stickiness. Ours taste intensely of fruit or liqueur or chocolate because they're made with the real thing: fruit puree, good alcohol, Valrhona cocoa powder."

A few UK companies, such as Bags of Delight and Sweet Treats, sell gourmet marshmallows nationwide. I hear good reports of the Edinburgh-based Burgh Bakes, who make marshmallows flavoured with the superb local Innis & Gunn beer.

Jamie Raines is the senior sous chef in pastry at the recently opened Delaunay in London. "We've had marshmallows on the menu from the start," he says. "They're getting more popular every day. The takeaway ones have been especially successful." Raines currently makes lemon, raspberry, apple and passionfruit marshmallows: "The passionfruit is my favourite: it's a beautiful yellow, and the fruit's natural tang brings a lovely balance to the sugar." Like most people, Raines found a taste for marshmallows in childhood: "I grew up in Woking, where there was a sweet shop across the road selling everything in jars. They used to have lengths of raspberry marshmallow: good-quality stuff, too, none of the cheap tat you get now."

British chefs are increasingly using marshmallows in specific dishes – the Latymer in Surrey has a starter of marshmallow with foie gras cannelloni, jabugo ham, cantaloupe melon and camomile film. Rather more enticingly, Trinity restaurant in Clapham, London, serves a frozen-yoghurt dessert with blueberries and marshmallow flavoured with toasted pecans.

At the Michelin-starred Galvin at Windows on Park Lane, chef André Garrett serves jars of exquisitely squidgy marshmallows to guests as petits fours. "It's a lovely thing for them to nibble on when they've finished their meal," he says. "One of the nicest bits of tableside theatre I've seen was at Jean Georges restaurant in New York. The marshmallows were coiled high on dessert trolleys and the waiters snipped them off for you. It was fantastic, and it's nice that people are enjoying them again in that kind of way. But I'd love to see people cooking them at home, too. They're easy if you follow a recipe: all you need is a mixer and a sugar thermometer. It's a proper taste of childhood."

André Garrett's raspberry marshmallows

100g fresh raspberries
Approx 200g of icing sugar and cornflour, mixed
200g sugar
20g liquid glucose
30g water
45g fresh egg white
12g leaf gelatine (or powdered equivalent)
A few drops of raspberry colour (optional)
Approx 200g icing sugar and cornflour to dust

Preheat oven to 80C/gas mark ¼ and line a baking tray with non-stick paper. Take 50g of the raspberries, dust with a little icing sugar and dry in oven for 2 hours. Remove and leave to cool.

Add the water, sugar and glucose to a large pan. Heat until the mix reaches 121C/250F on a sugar thermometer. Soak the gelatine sheets in cold water. Slowly whisk the egg whites in an electric mixer on a medium setting. When the sugar has come to temperature, take off the heat and add the strained gelatine sheets, mixing gently. Turn the electric mixer to the lowest setting, gently pour the hot sugar down the side of the bowl and into the egg whites while mixing, then turn up the speed to medium and continue to mix until cool.

Put the remaining raspberries in a bowl and mash with a fork. Pass through a fine sieve to obtain a thick purée. When the egg white is cool, add the raspberry purée and a little more colour if desired. Finally, add the dried raspberry pieces and pour the mix into a pre-greased non-stick tray approx 30x20cm. Cover lightly with greaseproof paper and leave in a cool place overnight to set.

When ready to cut, dust a large chopping board with a 50:50 mix of icing sugar and cornflour, tip out the marshmallow and dust the top liberally. With a large, clean knife cut into large squares and dust all together in a large bowl. Eat straight away or store in an airtight container, dusted well with the sugar mix, and eat within 1-2 days.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?