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.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £32,000 Uncapped

    £22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

    £7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

    Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones