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
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
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

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015