Daring Bakers July: Marshmallow fun!

Wow! With this post I’ve officially been a member of the Daring Bakers for a year. I joined last year in late July, which meant my first challenge was Eclairs for August 2008. Time sure does fly!

The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

Now, given we are a household of two and we don’t have family living nearby, I didn’t want to make two sets of cookies. Especially since the two recipes claimed that they would make about 5 dozen cookies all told.  I figured that 5 dozen was a little much for us to finish off, even if I did have Rich take some of the cookies in to work with him.

Hah! Little did I know that the recipe I did choose, the Marshmallow one, would make so many cookies. Way, WAY more than the recipe said.

Of course, as usual I couldn’t just make the recipe exactly as written. Marshmallow is typically made with gelatin, which I prefer to avoid as it is derived from animal skin and bones. Yuck. This vegetarian isn’t really interested in eating that, so I had to find a different solution.

On the Alternative Bakers forum, a fellow baker named ‘tastyTrifles‘ pointed us all at a recipe from a really cool book called Texture: a hydrocolloid recipe collection. That recipe replaced the gelatin with xanthan gum. While it still contained egg whites and therefore wasn’t vegan, it was certainly an option the vegetarians in our group could use.  So I picked up some xanthan from a local store and set about making my cookies.

The bottom of the cookies was pretty easy to make, just a simple dough with a bit of cinnamon flavour. I followed the instructions as written, using a shotglass to cut 1.5 inch rounds of dough.  The recipe was supposed to yield about 2 dozen cookies, but after I’d cut 2 dozen rounds, I was left with more than half the dough. Hmm. Well, I kept cutting rounds until I got to 3.5 dozen, then I got annoyed and started cutting larger shapes (like, umm, mooses and crabs), thinking we could have those to snack on while I finished the rest of the cookie components. Baking up the cookies was simple and they came out of the oven nice and golden brown.

Making the marshmallow was actually not too bad, but as I don’t have a candy thermometer, I had to really watch things to make sure I didn’t take the sugar mixture well into the ‘hardball‘ stage. I also learned something very important, something I should have remembered from making caramel back in November – always use a pot with nice high sides when making candy.  My caramel started to boil over at one point, so I had to remove it from the heat, dump it into a much larger pan (while wearing silicone oven mits to avoid burns!), and take 15 minutes to clean up my stove. Ooops. But in the end I did manage to get my sugar mixture to the proper stage and get it all mixed in with the egg whites.  Then I added the xanthan and, well, hoped. It was a tense few minutes, but soon I had a nice mixture that resembled marshmallow fluff!  Success!

Being without a decent pastry bag, I just scooped my marshmallow mixture onto the cookies with a spoon. Then I left them in the fridge to harden overnight, and covered them in semisweet chocolate the next day. One issue I did have with this marshmallow is that it doesn’t stay very solid at room temperature; you really need to keep these cookies in the fridge if they’re going to hold their shape. Which actually makes them tastier, especially on a hot summer day. The other issue I had with the final product is that the original recipe makes way too many cookie bottoms but not nearly enough chocolate glaze. So if you want to make these yourself, make double the amount of glaze.

As always this was a fun challenge! If you’d like to see what the other Daring Bakers did with this recipe, just head on over to the blog roll.

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