Food: Homemade marshmallow hearts

 
Homemade marshmallows
Homemade marshmallows

We don't do Valentine's day in our house. It's my mum's birthday so it always seems a bit wrong for everyone else to be getting presents. It also means that if we want to take her out for dinner we get stuck with some sucky, over-priced Valentine's menu in a restaurant full of couples trying to be romantic. So generally we pretend it's not happening.

Homemade marshmallows
Homemade marshmallows

However I needed an excuse to make marshmallows and it seemed somewhat viable that if you aren't bah humbug about Valentine's you might like to make some and send them to someone you might like a little bit.

Homemade marshmallows
Homemade marshmallows

My love for marshmallows was reignited at Christmas, when to keep Rufus happy in John Lewis we bought him a bag of the most amazing marshmallows ever. They were carefully rationed to him and his brother while we surreptitiously snaffled the rest. We may, or may not have replaced them at a later date with some cheaper ones from the supermarket.

I've never made them before - and while these didn't quite reach the light, fluffiness of the Christmas ones, they are gloriously gooey and actually quite easy to make.

To whisk some up for your Valentine you will need:

1/2 tbsp icing sugar 1/2 tbsp cornflour vegetable oil 8 leaves gelatine 2 egg whites 500g granulated sugar Food colouring (optional) A sugar thermometer

Homemade marshmallows
Homemade marshmallows

Method

Sift together the icing sugar and cornflour and set aside in a bowl - this is to dust your marshmallows with to stop them sticking. Then line a 20cm square cake tin. I was a tiny bit paranoid about mine sticking so I oiled my tin, then lined it with cling film, them oiled that and finally dusted it with the cornflour/icing sugar mix - better safe than sorry.

Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. It's much easier to do this in the bowl of the mixer because it makes adding the sugar syrup easier later. If you don't have a food mixer then find a willing volunteer to help you avoid burning yourself with boiling sugar.

Put your gelatine leaves in cold water to soak for 10 minutes until soft.

Homemade marshmallows
Homemade marshmallows

Put the sugar in a sauce pan (not a non stick one because they tend to make sugar syrup crystallise). Add 250ml water and stir over a low heat until dissolved. Raise the heat and boil the syrup until it reaches 122c the hard ball stage - this took about 10 minutes. Then turn off the heat.

Homemade marshmallows
Homemade marshmallows

Turn your mixer back on low speed so the egg whites keep whisking. Gently pour in your sugar syrup in a slow and steady stream, whisking all the time.

Squeeze out the gelatine and add it to the egg whites straight after the hot syrup, while the meringue mixture is still hot but not boiling.  Add your food colouring now - it took about 10 drops of red gel colour to get this merest hint of pink - so don't be afraid to add more - but do it in stages to avoid cerise marshmallows. Keep mixing until the meringue is creamy and thick, but still easier to pour.

Homemade marshmallows
Homemade marshmallows

Pour it out into your prepared tin - it stretches and sticks and this is by far the messiest bit of the recipe. Leave to cool and set for and hour or two - but don't put it in the fridge. I ran out of naptime so I had to leave mine over night. I let it cool to the touch and then sprinkled the top with a little of the icing sugar/cornflour mix and covered it with cling film. The extra cooling time didn't seem to do much harm.

Homemade marshmallows
Homemade marshmallows

Dust your work surface with the icing sugar and cornflour and tip out your marshmallow. If you're not fussed about hearts you can just cut it into chunks with an oiled knife.

Homemade marshmallows
Homemade marshmallows

To make hearts just rub a little oil around the cutter or dust it with the icing sugar and cornflour and punch out your shapes. The only problem with hearts is that you get a lot of off cuts, which are good to eat at first, but once I started to feel sick I switched to cutting chunks instead. If you're less gluttonous you could always save your off cuts to make rice crispie treats for your children.

Homemade marshmallows
Homemade marshmallows