Hot Chocolate and Marshmallows
Marshmallows adapted, so slightly, from David Lebovitz
David kindly offers instructions for using powdered unflavored gelatin, which is most commonly used in the United States, as well as gelatin sheets, which are what are used elsewhere, and I’ve included both. I found that if I wanted to make a “sheet” of marshmallows and cut them out, it was best to use a quarter-sheet, as opposed to a half-sheet. I also like to “spike” my marshmallows a bit. I find that as they dissolve into my cocoa, I like to get a little residual heat or spice, but by all means, if it’s a plain marshmallow you desire, leave it plain. No need to mess a good thing. While it might sound weird to create a mixture of powdered sugar and corn starch, it’s actually pure genius – the starch keeps the marshmallows from getting soggy and sticking to one another. I also like to keep a tiny batch of the sugar/starch mixture on hand so I can powder the marshmallows right before serving – much like powdering my own nose before a close-up!
If you find your hot chocolate to be a bit too austere, by all means sweeten it to your satisfaction.
Classic Hot Chocolate
1 cup (250 ml) whole or low-fat milk
55 to 60 grams (about 2 ounces) dark chocolate, finely grated (I prefer 70% dark chocolate for this)
Tiny pinch of salt
Pinch of cayenne (optional, if want your hot chocolate with a kick and your marshmallow is plain)
Heat the milk until tiny bubbles appear all around the perimeter of the pot. Stir in hot chocolate and salt, and whisk around to incorporate. Divide between 2 cups and top with a marshmallow. Serve immediately.
2 envelopes (17 grams) powdered gelatin or 17 grams sheet gelatin (8 to 10 sheets)
1/2 cup (125 ml) + 1/3 cup (80 ml) cold water
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
1/3 cup (100 grams) light corn syrup
4 large egg whites (1/2 cup, 110 grams), at room temperature
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon smoky chile, ground cardamom, cinnamon, or such (plus more to taste), optional
1 cup (about 140 grams) corn starch or potato starch
1 cup (about 140 grams) confectioners’ sugar
1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the 1/2 cup (125ml) of cold water to dissolve and soften. If using leaf gelatin, soak the leaves in about 2 cups (500ml) cold water.
2. In a small saucepan with tall sides fitted with a candy thermometer, mix the sugar and corn syrup with 1/3 cup (80ml) of water. Place over medium-to-high heat. The tall sides of the saucepan help with the candy thermometer staying put. (Keep in mind: you will use this saucepan twice, to make the syrup and to melt the gelatin, eliminating the need to wash it between uses).
3. In the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer, add the egg whites and beat on low speed until frothy. Add a pinch of salt.
4. When the syrup reaches about 210ºF (99ºC), increase the speed of the mixer to high and beat the whites until they are thick and fluffy.
5. When the syrup reaches 245ºF (118ºC), slowly pour the hot syrup into the whites, so the syrup reaches the whites in a thin stream down the side of the bowl (this also helps to cool the syrup down a bit and not “cook” the whites.
6. Scrape the gelatin and water into the pan that you used for the syrup, or put the gelatin sheets and 2 tablespoons of the water into the pan and swirl it to dissolve. (There should still be residual heat left in the pan from making the syrup in it to dissolve it). With the mixer still on high, slowly pour the liquefied gelatin into the whites. Add the vanilla extract or paste, and a spice of your choosing, and continue to whip for 5 minutes, or until the mixture is feels completely cool when you touch the outside of the bowl.
7. Dust a quarter-sheet baking pan evenly and completely with a very generous layer of the marshmallow mixture. (I use a small fine mesh strainer to do this and I do it by placing my baking pan into an empty kitchen sink, so the mess is easier to clean up.) Make sure there are absolutely no bare spots.
8. Use an offset spatula to spread the marshmallows in a layer on the pan. Allow to dry for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, uncovered.
9. Place about 1 cup (140 grams) of the Marshmallow Mix into a large bowl. Dust the top of the marshmallows with some of the remaining marshmallow mix (again, I like to do this in a kitchen sink to minimize cleanup). Using a pizza cutter or scissors (dusted as well with the marshmallow mixture), cut the marshmallows into any size or shape pieces you like, and toss the marshmallows in the marshmallow mix. Shake the marshmallows vigorously in a wire strainer to remove the excess powder and transfer to a container lined with wax paper.
Storage: The marshmallows can be made up to one week in advance, and stored in an airtight container.
Makes 25 to 50 marshmallows, depending on size.