It’s here again: the Thanksgiving potluck signup chart.
Some of us relish the opportunity to dazzle our friends and family with traditional delicacies and complicated recipes, but for others the expectation is dreadful. Yet again you must scramble to put your name next to the beverages or crudité in the hopes of avoiding the embarrassment of presenting store bought or sub-par dishes that will inevitably be placed directly beside the edible masterpiece your aunt expertly prepared.
You could plan and practice a recipe until its perfect, or, if you happen to have a life, you could find a recipe that’s both easy and spectacular … and I have just the one for you: marshmallows.
This recipe has just five ingredients but is sure to impress. The only specialty equipment you’ll need is a candy thermometer, but those can be found in the grocery store and are useful all year long, so they are a worthy investment. A stand mixer is also very helpful, but a hand-held mixer will work if you have an extra pair of hands to help.
1 cup light corn syrup
1 ½ cups sugar
3 envelopes (or 2 ½ tablespoons) unflavored gelatin powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
~ ½ cup powdered sugar (for dusting)
In the bowl of your mixer (or a very large mixing bowl) dissolve your gelatin in about ¼ cup of water.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, mix your corn syrup and sugar with just enough water to dissolve the sugar. The exact amount doesn’t matter because it will all boil off, but the more water you add the longer it will take, so less is more.
Attach your candy thermometer to the side of the pan and set over medium-high heat.
Cook until the sugar reaches soft ball stage (240 degrees).
Turn your mixer on low with the whisk attachment and very slowly and carefully pour the sugar in. If you’re using a hand mixer you will need another person to hold the bowl and the mixer while you pour for safety. The molten sugar is quite dangerous so consider wearing oven mitts and long sleeves to protect your hands and forearms and keep kids and pets out of the kitchen for this part.
When all the sugar is in, kick the speed up to high and let it run until the bottom of the bowl is almost completely cool to the touch.
While your marshmallows are whipping, thoroughly grease a rubber spatula and an 8-by-8 baking dish. You want to use a lightly flavored oil like vegetable oil or coconut oil. I used cooking spray.
Add your vanilla extract right before you pour your marshmallow into the dish and use the greased spatula to spread into an even layer.
Allow to set at room temperature for a few hours or pop in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
Dust your cutting board with powdered sugar and unmold the marshmallow. Use a greased knife to cut into cubes, then toss in powdered sugar to coat all sides. This will keep them from sticking together.
Store at room temperature for up to a week, but trust me, they won’t last that long.
You could use a piping bag to pipe out long cylinders onto a greased baking sheet, then use scissors to cut them into bite sized pieces to give you the store-bough marshmallow shape. You could also use any flavor extract or even spirits to flavor the marshmallows. (Bourbon marshmallows in your hot cocoa? Yes, please). You could also swirl in a few drops of food coloring with a toothpick right after pouring to make them visually dramatic.
However you make them, I guarantee you won’t need to worry about taking leftovers home from the party.
Tressa Dale is a U.S. Navy veteran and culinary and pastry school graduate from Anchorage. She currently lives in Nikiski with her husband, 1-year-old son and two black cats.