Thursday, December 11, 2008

coconut marshmallows

Full disclosure: marshmallows are awkward.
Think about it. When do you eat them? Oh, never. In hot chocolate, maybe. In Rice Krispie Treats, perhaps, if you're having a nostalgic snacking moment. It's just weird to sit around popping marshmallows, unlike, say, chocolate chip cookies.
That said, I think it is important to make another key point. Homemade marshmallows are absolutely delicious.
These are not the wimpy, half-stale marshmallows of your childhood. They are light, melt on the tongue, and full of flavor. This version calls to mind tropical paradise (or sunscreen, if you're a cynical 16-year-old sister).
And you might not believe me, but they're really easy. My favorite part is letting my Kitchenaid do its thing for 15 minutes.

This is just one of those recipes that must be made so you can say you did. Insert "I was making some marshmallows last night..." before any sentence, and I promise you will be stopped dead in your tracks.
Rightly so, since this marshmallow deserves to be savored in both its physical form and its role as a kitchen conquest.

toasted coconut marshmallows

2 cups dried coconut
3 (1/4-ounces) envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 cup water, divided
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

Preheat oven to 350.
Toast coconut in a shallow baking pan in oven, stirring occasionally, until golden, 7 to 10 minutes. Oil 9-inch baking pan, then sprinkle bottom with 1/2 cup toasted coconut.

Sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup water in bowl of mixer and let soften while making syrup.

Heat sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup water in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium heat, without stirring, washing any sugar crystals down side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Put a candy thermometer into syrup and continue boiling, without stirring, until it registers 240°F (soft-ball stage). Remove from heat and let stand until bubbles dissipate.

With mixer at low speed, pour hot syrup into gelatin in a thin stream down side of bowl. Increase speed to high and beat until very thick, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla and coconut extracts and beat 1 minute more.

Spoon marshmallow over toasted coconut in baking pan and press evenly with dampened fingertips to smooth top (it will be very sticky), then evenly sprinkle top with 1/2 cup toasted coconut.

Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature until firm, about 2 hours.

Run a sharp knife around edge of marshmallow and invert onto a cutting board. Cut into 3/4-inch-wide strips, then cut each strip into 3/4-inch squares.

Put remaining toasted coconut in a small bowl and dredge marshmallows in it to coat completely. *gourmet 2007

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

grape jelly

What they don't tell you in cookbooks about making jam and jelly may just be the one thing that actually gets you cooking it.
Drumroll, please: you only need all those sterilized glass jars if you are making a lot of jelly, with the intention and hope of enjoying it for over a month.
For me, knowing that I could whip up a small batch of fruit preserves without purchasing special equipment or hot sterilizing baths set me free. I was promptly off to the grocery to buy some Concord grapes (whose incredible flavor deserve their own ode-y blog post). What else did you buy, Marti? Oh, nothing. Because the only other things you need are some (okay, lots of) sugar and lemon juice.
I know, I know. Why doesn't everyone make their own jelly? I no longer have an answer.

Concord Grape Jelly*

1.5 lbs concord grapes
1.5 cups sugar
scant tbsp lemon juice

Chill 2 small plates (for testing jam).

Slip skins from grapes and purée skins with 1/3 cup sugar in a food processor, then transfer to a 4- to 6-quart wide heavy pot. Stir in lemon juice, peeled grapes, and remaining sugar and boil over moderate heat, stirring frequently and skimming foam, until pulp is broken down, about 20 minutes.

Force jam through food mill or sieve set over a large bowl. Discard remaining solids. Return jam to pot and cook at a slow boil, skimming foam occasionally and stirring frequently as mixture thickens to prevent scorching, about 25 minutes, then test for doneness.

To test jam, remove from heat, then drop a teaspoonful on a chilled plate and chill 1 minute. Tilt plate: Jam should remain in a mound and not run. If jam runs, continue cooking at a slow boil, testing every 5 minutes, until done, up to 15 minutes more.

*Gourmet 2005