I've learned quite a bit during our stay with my aunt and some of her kids. My aunt and her daughter bake desserts that they sell at the farmer's market most weekends, and one of the treats they make is marshmallows. From scratch.
I had never thought about making marshmallows from scratch. The whole idea sounds foreign. Marshmallows come in plastic bags. They come in large (normal) size or small. The small ones come in white or pastel colors. If you leave them in the cupboard too long, they turn into white (or pastel) cardboard. That's it. That's the sum total of the world's accumulated knowledge about marshmallows. Or so I believed.
But my aunt has a recipe (who knew?). And she made it, while we made crucial decisions--raspberry flavoring. And what a good choice that was, since they'd be chocolate-dipped! Here's how it works:
I didn't get a picture of the first part, which is melting something (corn syrup? sugar?) on the stove until the candy thermometer hits the magic temperature. Then you slowly add the melted stuff to the mixer bowl on low, with the whisk attachment. When it's all in the mixer, you speed up the mixing, after protecting your kitchen by wrapping plastic wrap around the mixer.
After it starts thickening, you can remove the plastic wrap and let it keep mixing. In a while, it starts looking like marshmallow creme.
Then you scrape it into a glass baking pan and smooth it out with wet fingers to keep them from sticking. And you let it sit uncovered (my aunt covers it loosely with a flour-sack-style dish towel to keep it clean) for 8 hours while it does its thing. Then you cut it with a wet knife to keep it from sticking (my mom and I each snitched a piece).
You can sprinkle it with powdered sugar and call it good. But what would be the point when the other alternative is to dip it in melted chocolate? Use wet fingers to keep them from sticking.
And you set the dipped squares onto powdered sugar, or powdered sugar with toasted coconut, or powdered cocoa with toasted almonds, or whatever powdered something your heart desires, to keep it from sticking.
They taste NOTHING like the substances in the plastic bags that try to pass themselves off as marshmallows. These are delicate, foamy the way they should be, mellow and rich, and ours have a hint of raspberry beneath the chocolate coating. Pure delight!
My aunt sent us home with the recipe.