Top Hats! Or make more of your marshmallows!

Top down new

My childhood was punctuated by marshmallows. One of our aunts had a particular soft spot for them and visits to her house weren’t complete without dipping into the bag of pink and white numbers in the kitchen drawer by the table, even if it was before dinner. We often toasted them in front of my granny’s open fire on the end of a proper toasting fork and tried not to burn our tongues. Guide camps were never quite complete without trying to concoct one of those exotic sounding s’mores we’d read about in American books, even though we only had some Scotbloc and an own brand Rich Tea biscuit to hand. Every party had the Northern Irish classic of Fifteens which combined digestives, marshmallows and glace cherries to heartstopping goodness. And that’s before Mister North brought me a jar of Marshmallow Fluff when he moved to England…

I think we could safely say that I like a marshmallow. Yet as an adult I never eat them. In fact I haven’t seen a packet to buy for years. The humble marshmallow has fallen out of fashion it seems. Nothing would do but to make them. How hard could it be?

The good news is that the hardest thing about making marshmallows is finding a recipe that doesn’t use corn syrup. Beloved of Americans, it’s got the kind of reputation that makes me wish to avoid it and it’s hard to find here unless you like forking out Selfridges Food Hall prices. I also didn’t want to use egg whites as I’d used all my spares up doing meringues. The day was saved by Su-Lin at Tamarind and Thyme who provided this simple three ingredient recipe and got me going.

Set everything up before you start. I used a deep square baking tray, well dredged with a cornflour/icing sugar mix and prepped it well in advance. Soak your gelatine first. I used granules, but whichever way you do it, the gelatine needs heat to activate it. I don’t know if you can veganise these marshmallows and use agar-agar instead, but there’d be no harm in trying.

Dish new

Heat the sugar and water and get it to the magic heat of 115℃ if using a thermometer or the soft ball stage if you are going freehand. Take it off the heat and add to the gelatine. Add your flavorings at this stage. I used a teaspoon of vanilla for the white marshmallows I made for my aunt for Christmas and three tablespoons of rose water for the pink ones.

Then get whisking. Don’t even think about trying this by hand. It’ll just end in tears. Use an electric whisk or a stand mixer if you have one. I was just fine with my electric whisk as the fluffier the mix gets, the more cushioned the bowl becomes and the easier the whole thing feels. I even used golden caster sugar the second time as I’d run out of regular and although the syrup started out dark, it ended up as a fluffy white cloud of marshmallow after 12 minutes. This is when I decided they needed to be pink to go with the rose flavouring and added half a teaspoon of red food colouring powder. This was about twice as much as I needed and instead of chic pale pink, they ended up a shade of fuschia that Barbie would baulk at. Luckily dredging them in icing sugar calmed them a bit…

Pink plate new

I didn’t want the colour of the marshmallows to dominate their delicious destiny. The other Northern Irish party favourite is the Top Hat. Not the formal millinery some might think, but a heady combo of a solid chocolate base with a marshmallow embedded in it and garnished with a Smartie. These are the perfect morsel at kids’ parties back home and I wanted to introduce them to my London dwelling friends who just haven’t lived until now.

Luckily they are very simple to make. Just melt a bar of chocolate of your choice (you could use dark if you feel grown up). I used milk as I’m traditional. Then spoon a teaspoon’s worth into a petit four case, then place your marshmallow on top, pressing gently so that it sinks in but doesn’t explode everywhere. Then gently anoint the marshmallow with the leftover chocolate and pop a Smartie on top and this is the tricky bit, leave your Top Hats well alone for an hour or two to harden up again before enjoying the combo of chunky chocolate, squishy marshmallow and crispy Smartie shell in abundance. I loved them having the rose flavour and apparently my non Norn Iron friends took to the Turkish Delight inspired version equally well as I only had one left at the end of the day…

Hats off to homemade marshmallows now that I’ve discovered I can customise my favourite traybake to my heart’s content. I’ve made another batch already using some of the citrus syrup leftover from the candied peel already and plan some mocha ones for a total treat. I might even whip up another batch of graham crackers, buy a blowtorch and finally find out what a s’more really is…

4 replies
  1. thelittleloaf
    thelittleloaf says:

    Are these the marshmallows you were about to make when I came over for mince pie making? If so, I’m so sorry I didn’t stick around, I would LOVE to have tried one, they look fab 🙂

  2. Miss South
    Miss South says:

    They are the very ones! (Well, the white ones were. The pink ones were another batch.) They are delicious, so soft and fluffy and so easy to make. I didn’t have a thermometer and they worked both times. I’d love to see what kind of amazing dessert you come up with using them!

  3. Kathryn
    Kathryn says:

    They looks so light and fluffy and delicious. I’m guessing homemade marshmallows are one of those things that are infinitely better than the shop bought variety!

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