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Posts Tagged ‘marshmallows’

Ice cream, Lycee Agricole, Moorea

Three glorious scoops, rapidly melting in the South Seas shade.

I’ve turned a lot of corners and had my eyes pop at what I saw, I’ve felt meh about going somewhere only to get knocked out, never saw that coming, I’ll always remember this. These are some of my most exciting food discoveries. A brief chronicle, presented in the hopes that 2016 has plenty more…for the both of us.

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Mo’orea, a tiny island off the coast of Tahiti, was one such corner and one such pop. We’d read about the Lycee Agricole, the farm school, on the island. The students there make homemade ice cream and sorbet from local produce. One day we turned off the main road to a low little cluster of buildings and pulled over. The soursop and the citron sorbets were gorgeous. But the above picture…I wish it could do justice to the quality of the ice cream. Three scoops: banana, vanilla…and gardenia. Locally grown. Or wild, for all I know. It was one of the most exquisite experiences of my life. At the end of a narrow, dusty road on a sandy rock in the middle of the Pacific, I ate flowers.

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Farther north, on Kauai and Maui, I ate lots of mahi and ice cream* and enjoyed every bite. But it’s practically a given, stamped on your plane ticket and all, that you’ll come across great mahi and ice cream (along with sea turtles and a luau every Tuesday night at your hotel). What you don’t expect to come across are pastures filled with cows. We learned Maui of all places has a thriving cattle ranch industry: All of that juicy green grass gets transformed into, I’m told, absolutely righteous steaks and hamburgers. I was in shock; if you blinked, you’d think you were in Wyoming.

Turtle, Kauai

I can’t find my cow pictures and we didn’t do a luau, so here’s a sea turtle.

I grew up slurping nectar from honeysuckle blossoms every spring at the ball field with my sister and our neighbors. A couple of years ago I wondered if I could make something edible with the nectar, as the Lycee students on Mo’orea did with gardenias. Found a recipe for honeysuckle simple syrup, and it was like what Tim Leary said acid was like. Not the flipping-out part, but the opening-your-brain-to-an-entirely-new-universe part. I mixed the syrup into vodka, I sold some to a local bartender, I drenched warm homemade pound cake in it. And soon I’m going to try it out in homemade marshmallows. Why not? And while I’m at it, why not flavor them with the other things I pick: quince, beach plum (they’ll be lavender!), wild mint, persimmons? Tim would be so proud.

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Honeysuckle and its progeny.

I have a cookbook, nearly 50 years old, of English recipes. It’s commonplace to roll one’s eyes at British Isle food, but I’ve never been able to because it tastes as good as it does. Traditional English Christmas cake, Irish fruitcake, Toad-in-the-Hole, and many more recipes later, I found Scotch Woodcock. It sounded pretty good. I was wrong. Anchovies and paste, very softly scrambled eggs, and buttered toast—so simple yet so out-of-the-bloody-park luxurious that I actually started laughing at the first bite. Recommended when you’re a little deprived and disheartened. Winter can do that to you.

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Open face and open mouth.

For my birthday in 2012 my brother and sister-in-law took me to Ben’s Best in Queens, NY, for real Jewish delicatessen. I ordered chicken noodle soup. The big surprise here was the nonchalant way they brought me a bowl that was clearly intended for a full-grown bull mastiff. I brought home leftovers and ate them for lunch for four days.

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For last: this is something I dream of eating all year. They’re so good I almost dream of eating them while I’m in fact eating them. I don’t even have a proper picture of them because I eat them too quickly to grab my camera first. Fried squash blossoms. I made them on a whim in 2013 and was almost overcome by how lovely and delicate they were. Never expected quite that level of good. Stuffed or unstuffed, half burned or delicately browned, that’s enough, I have to stop thinking about them because it’s only January.

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*Lappert’s. Holy cow, go. It’s only sold on the islands, and believe me, I tried to get them to ship it here to the states. Coconut cream. That’s the one!

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Raisins, Dots, chocolate buttons, mini marshmallows, M&Ms, shredded coconut, Junior Mints…and my brother-in-law’s fantastic concoction (supervising): apple cider, white rum, dry curacao, and orgeat syrup.

Yesterday was spent with my family, making and decorating Christmas cookies, opening presents, and generally chilling. Here are the takeaways, in no particular order.

  1. A small child will never tire of putting her hands in bowls of candy.
  2. And she will extract as much as she can in the manner of the claw machines at the boardwalk.
  3. You may have to tell her that the M&Ms are edible, and not, say, beads. Once you do, you’re on your own.
  4. If you give her two ornaments off the tree as gifts for her and her brother, she will continue removing the rest of the ornaments.
  5. After opening a handful of art supplies, she will want to play with them all. Simultaneously.
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This is Santa, created by my 2-year-old niece. He is either waving a Merry Christmas to everyone or imploring help for a severe Junior Mint injury to his right shoulder. I think we’ve all been there.

6) When offered two different kinds of homemade cookies, grownups will eat one after the other quite mindlessly, as if the room is a zero-calorie-emission zone.

7) Even after going through two pizzas.

8) The floor is a totally acceptable place to sit.

9) After a bottle and a tummy rub, a five-month-old will demonstrate the best way to enjoy life: by falling asleep in the corner of a sofa.

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Mommy at left; tiny artist at right.

10) Whether decorated perfectly or somewhat less so, a cookie made with good ingredients will always taste good.

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Snowflake with red royal icing and mini marshmallows, skillfully applied.

 

 

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Like an army, if the army was attacking with cuddles and butterfly kisses.

I know a guy who is not a sweet eater, yet recently rhapsodized about these as he chatted with friends and relatives all night at a party. It was pretty entertaining watching him nurse one as if it was 100-year-old brandy instead of a s’more.

This recipe has been in my repertoire since 1998, which I can tell you for sure because I still have the Martha Stewart Living Magazine from whence it came.

I do not make it because it is easy (it is in fact a bear to make. A bear, a leopard, and a three-toed sloth on an off day, to be precise). I don’t make it because it’s quick (nope again; it takes several hours). I make it because even people who aren’t sweet eaters dig it, even people who swear by Walgreen’s marshmallows stacked on Hershey’s chocolate dig it, and everyone else as well. S’mores, like foot rubs and Maltese puppies in teacups, are one of the human race’s common denominators of happiness.

And these are especially special because the ingredients are a few boosts up from the campfire classics. Broken down:

The marshmallows: Homemade. They take a long time to cool and set, but making them isn’t hard. And the result is not even in the same hemisphere as the Walgreen’s variety—pillowy, squooshy, pully, and far lighter than store-bought.

The chocolate: It’s mixed with butter and melted, making an already rich thing richer. Go high-quality. Ghirardelli is a good jumping-off point. Gritty, off-tasting basic supermarket brands are not going to cut it.

The graham-cracker base: That’s Honey Maids (or whatever you like best), ground and mixed with butter and sugar.

A big also: Once assembled, Martha suggests putting the lot under the broiler to caramelize the marshmallow tops. But really, this recipe is a good excuse to treat yourself to a small but powerful butane torch.

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Me with my weapon of destruction.

Some tips I’ve learned along the way, lifted from my pencil scribbles in the margins:

-Spread out the process over a couple of days, or give yourself the day with an early start (and if you can snag a little nap before the event, take it).

-Grind up the graham cracker mixture in a food processor.

-Brush the marshmallow pan very well with vegetable oil, add parchment, and brush that well with oil, too. Marshmallow is like a two-year-old: sweet, soft, sticky, and stubborn. It is wonderful, but it will fight you. Placate the beast ahead of time and things will go far more smoothly. Oil everything very well.

-I really like to taste the vanilla, so I use quite a bit more extract than the recipe calls for—up to twice as much. If you’re the same, I encourage you to do the same.

-Spread the powdered sugar into a rimmed cookie sheet, and use plenty of it. Then put the whole marshmallow on top. Decide whether you want large or small s’mores (I’ve done both) and cut accordingly. When you cut them, turn them on all sides into the sugar to coat and de-stickify.

-You may have marshmallows left over. This will not be a problem for any children in your household, nor for most adults. They’re delicious plain, on a sandwich with really good-quality peanut butter (yes, it certainly exists), dipped in chocolate, or—this is the best—floating on top of your hot chocolate.

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My cooking class (one of many), circa 2003, hopped up on sugar. I made classic s’mores with them under a strict agreement that when I turned on the torch, they had to sit on their hands (little kids will reach for anything). They did it.

Despite the extensive list above, do make these. Then eat them slowly. They are not to be rushed.

And do spring for a butane torch. Tell the kids to sit on their hands and have at it. You will be the rave of the schoolyard (not a bad position to be in).

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It’s blurry, but still conveys all the love, wonder, and tragic beauty of a dish that’s about to be devoured. This was our inaugural s’more effort, made for Thanksgiving dessert.

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oh, look, it’s time already for another kitchen disaster story, when I only started this blog a month ago. I sure don’t let the grass grow under my feet, do I?

this one took place during a deadline, during which I had to get double-fudge brownies, tripled three times, plus homemade marshmallows, plus some chocolate-dipped marshmallows, to the theatre by 11 in the morning. it was now 9. (going it entirely alone and getting to my car on this feshlughana street is another issue, but we’ll let that go for now.)

a little background: I’ve only tried tempering chocolate once, and consequently my skills still bite. tempering is the process by which you heat chocolate to a certain temperature and keep it there while you dip your candy. this way the chocolate cools to a smooth finish. but if you’re me, the chocolate ‘blooms’; it gets sort of splotchy looking as it cools. the taste isn’t affected, but it doesn’t look so hot.

An example of bloomed chocolate. Looks cool in the bowl. Not so much on candy.

so I figured I’d dip the day I was going to serve these cute little morsels, giving them no time to bloom. I just forgot one really crucial detail. like the fact that I had bought basic supermarket chocolate chips.

a little more background: I am not a clothes-horse. I have eighteen pairs of shoes in my closet, and that’s counting winter boots and aquasocks. my only vices are used-book stores and really pure, organic, fair-trade chocolate. I get mine in bulk from a place in california called sweet earth. but when you’re asked to cater dessert for 75 and you have to stay within a certain budget, you go for nestle.

let’s get down to the fun.

I opened up those cheerful yellow bags that for generations have promised nothing but smiles. poured the contents into a heatproof bowl I had set over a pan of simmering water. and I stirred. and I waited for the chocolate to do what I was used to chocolate doing: to get shiny, thin, and glossy. I squinted at the increasingly thick, not shiny, not thin, and not glossy lump in the pan. hm. I’ll add cream, I thought—thin it, make a ganache out of it.

curses! thicker! gloppier! how is this possible?

in vain I tried dipping a marshmallow into it, but it wouldn’t adhere. it was supposed to cling and run off in a stream. no, this was alpo. I looked at the clock and learned I had a single hour to get myself together and get to the theatre.

hilarity ensued.

I flung the steaming gunk into the garbage, which melted a portion of the liner; grabbed the 5-pound bag of luscious, expensive, worth-it, 54% cacao semisweet buttons from the top shelf of my cabinet, melted three handfuls of them, and continued dipping with the smile on my face that the nestle bag, o false friend!, had promised me half an hour earlier.

I’m not saying there isn’t a time and a place for supermarket chips. usually they do a serviceable job. but not here.

guess every disaster story has a moral to it. this one’s is: try the dipped marshmallows. they’ll taste better than any other chocolate dessert I put on the table.

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so I make marshmallows. at home. martha’s recipe. I know, nobody makes them. you either buy them or someone buys them for you. otherwise your whole life goes by and you never eat a marshmallow.

people blue-screen when I say I make them. here’s what I get: where do you get the whaddaya-call-it, mallow root? can you buy that? do you cook them in the oven? why don’t you just buy them? (that last one irks me at first, then makes me giggle. tell you why later.)

here’s the thing: a lot of the stuff we buy is actually pretty easy to make, marshmallows among them. it’s a pile of sugar, vanilla, gelatin, a pinch of salt. no yeast to freak you out. no mallow root. (the kind in the store doesn’t have that either, so don’t think I’m cheating.) I get the feeling that sneaky little agribusiness capitalists or whoever stroked their sneaky little chins about sixty years ago and cultivated the notion that ordinary people can’t cook for themselves.

but…but…our great-grandmothers cooked, and their great-grandmothers before them. and they did it with a crappy pan and a spoon. (williams-sonoma’s blushing right now.)  somehow they figured it out without a cuisinart dlc-2014n processor. all of the stuff we buy every week–pasta, sauces, rotisserie chickens (and nana killed and plucked those, too, hello)–they made. candy. I hear you…but they didn’t have jobs! true, most didn’t. but they raised half-a-dozen or more kids and kept house with none of the time-savers we take for granted. that maytag in your basement was a washboard and a steel bucket with a wonky handle. that’s a job.

I’m not saying cooking from scratch is for everyone. I sure don’t cook everything that way. there’s a time and a place for grab-and-go treats. but don’t get it into your head that you can’t do this just because nobody does it anymore.

and let’s be real, more than anything else, it comes down to taste:  if you don’t ever make a batch of marshmallows, or know someone kind and generous who does, you’re missing out on one of the sublime experiences of life. yes, if you don’t use a deep enough pan it boils over and makes your stovetop a sticky landscape (the kids’ll dig that). but microwave disasters are legend, too. and marshmallows do take a couple of hours to set.

but cut and rolled in powdered sugar? when you float that poofy little dude on top of your hot chocolate? it tastes like a pillow that melts away in your mouth. that’s why I giggled at the end of paragraph two. store-bought marshmallows taste like a bag of 6 pairs for $6 tube socks at target to me now. I’m kind of ruined.

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