There’s nothing worse than a sugar burn because it sticks to your skin, so it’s always important to be careful when working with sugar syrup and to avoid any distractions (leave your phone in the other room).
It doesn’t help that I have an elevated fear of getting burnt. This fear comes from a childhood Christmas cookie baking incident…
I was at my best friend’s house baking gingerbread cookies and went to pull the cookies out of the oven. What I didn’t realize was that the ratty old oven mitt I found had a hole in the thumb. Ouch.
I refused to take anything out of the oven for YEARS after that burn. Actually, when I first told my mom I was considering attending culinary school later in life she laughed and recounted that incident.
So working with hot syrup over the stove still makes me a teensy bit nervous. I will say it’s much easier when your working in your own somewhat calm and quiet kitchen. If working with sugar intimidates you at all, making marshmallows it a great more intermediate recipe to master.
If you follow the recipe and steps below, you’ll have gorgeous puffy, springy, and cloud-like marshmallows that will impress the socks off everyone.
How to Make Marshmallows – Tips!
Homemade marshmallows are basically just a mixture of gelatin and cooked syrup. While the steps aren’t necessarily difficult, it’s important to use the right equipment and follow the recipe exactly. Also, the marshmallows themselves need at least 4 hours to set, so make sure to plan for that!
The Gelatin and Corn Syrup
Yes, you need both of these ingredients for this recipe. I’ve never made non-gelatin (or vegan-friendly) marshmallows before so I can’t give you any advice there. The corn syrup is kind of a “fool proof” ingredient, ensuring your marshmallows come out smooth and free of any crystallized clumps of sugar. If you can’t use either of these ingredients I would suggest Googling for a different recipe.
Yes, you need a candy thermometer!
This is not a recipe you can “eyeball.” This needs to be precise. Use a clean candy thermometer to cook the syrup to exactly 240°F. In fact, I usually like to remove the pan from the heat just before it’s about to hit the number because I know it’ll continue cooking quickly. That’s also why it’s important to have your mixer ready to go as soon as the syrup is done cooking.
Candy Cleaning Tip!
Anytime you’re making syrup (or caramel) in a saucepan, whatever is left behind in the pan will likely be hard, sticky, and difficult to clean. I like the fill the pot back up with water and bring it to a boil. This will dissolve the sugar and make it much easier to clean.
Use a stand mixer!
Unfortunately a hand mixer just doesn’t cut it when it comes to making marshmallows. There are two reasons why.
Firstly, you’ll be pouring molten hot syrup into your bowl as the mixer is mixing on low speed. Using a hand mixer greatly increases the chances of you burning yourself or getting sticky syrup on your counter. Secondly, the mixer will need to run on high for 10 minutes. Not only would that be a long time to be mixing with your hand mixer, but the motor of a hand mixer likely isn’t powerful enough.
The recipe as written makes classic vanilla marshmallows. I love to use vanilla paste here because it’s easy and you get tons of vanilla flavor and those beautiful specks of vanilla bean. You can of course use the seeds of a fresh vanilla bean as well. I’ve included the amount of vanilla extract to use if you have neither, but that should definitely be the last choice unless you’re adding in other flavorings!
Peppermint, Almond, Lemon, or other extracts:
use 1 1/2 teaspoons of flavored extract in place of the vanilla extract. Add food coloring to showcase the flavor, if desired.
Toss the marshmallows in toasted coconut instead of the powdered sugar mixture.
Melt together 6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate + 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable shortening or coconut oil. Brush excess powdered sugar off the marshmallows before dipping the smooth side into the chocolate. Let set, chocolate side up. Keep at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Add in 1 1/2 teaspoons butter flavored extract along with the vanilla. After coating pan with powdered sugar mixture, scatter 3/4 cup rainbow sprinkles all over pan.
Dissolve 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder into the water in the recipe before adding to the gelatin. Omit all or part of the vanilla, if desired.
Add in 1 cup mini chocolate chips to the marshmallow mixture along with the vanilla.
I used a 9 by 13-inch pan to make my marshmallows, which yielded the thinner shape you see in these photos. I find this size is perfect for s’mores, which is how I planned on using these. However, if you want thick more square-size marshmallows then use an 8 by 8-inch pan.
Cutting the Marshmallows
Once the marshmallows are set, it’s time to cut them! However, this can be a challenge since they’ll be quite sticky. That’s why we save a little bit of the powdered sugar and cornstarch mixture from making the marshmallows to coat your knife or pizza wheel to prevent too much sticking. I actually find a pizza wheel is the easiest for cutting beautiful slices.
For fun or festive shapes, use cookie cutters to cut the marshmallows. For mini marshmallows, use a pair of sharp scissors coated in the sugar mixture.
Like most candy, these marshmallows will keep very well. Stored in an airtight container at room temperature, they should keep for up to 3 weeks.