Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Guest Blog {Makin' Marshmallows}


Hey All!  This is Mere's sister, writing from the other coast. With the holiday season upon us, Mere asked me to share the recipe for one of our favorite holiday treats--marshmallows. Yes, marshmallows!  I know sounds crazy, but homemade marshmallows are the best. Light and fluffy. Bright and white. With the right preparation they are super easy to make.  And your friends and family will be super impressed!  

My recipe started with this one from David Lebovitz, but I have made a few modifications. When I'm in super humid Washington, DC I find a few tricks can make a huge difference in the quality of the marshmallows. In super dry Montana, it is a bit easier to make the perfect marshmallow.

Here are my tricks to ensuring your marshmallows are perfect, no matter your climate.

First things first, read the ENTIRE recipe. Making marshmallows requires that you complete a few steps, sometimes simultaneously. You can do! I believe in you!

Second, accept this fact. You will make a mess. You may have marshmallow fluff all over your face or powdered sugar all over your pants. Accept the mess. Lick the beaters and worry about it later.

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Next, measure your ingredients and take out any tools you may need. Again, you will be completing multiple steps all at once. Nobody wants to dump powdered sugar or corn syrup all over the floor because they were in a rush.

Finally, start making marshmallows.

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Bloom some gelatin. That is just a fancy way of saying "sprinkle some powdered gelatin over water and wait." Use terms like "bloom" and people think you are super kitchen savvy.

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Sugar and its friends start heating up in a pot. Make sure your thermometer works. Otherwise you have to drop hot liquid in ice water to see what "stage" the sugar is at. That is just stressful.

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Egg whites are beaten in increments.  You want to achieve stiff peaks just as the sugar mixture is heated to 245 degrees F.  Look at you multitasking.  This marshmallow-making bit is a breeze.

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While the egg whites are beating and the sugar is heating, dust your pan with a mixture of powdered sugar and corn starch. Again, accept the mess.

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Now, gently stream the sugar mixture into your egg whites. BTW, streaming hot sugar into egg whites while taking a photo is super hard. A thinner stream of sugar is really better. (Note to future self: Procure a photographer, aka a friend that can be easily bribed with food, the next time you help your sister out and write a recipe blog.) Melted gelatin is added.

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Now, the magic happens. Beat the mixture until cool. Some recipes say this takes five minutes. I usually beat my mixture for 10-15 minutes. If there is any heat left in the mixture it will create steam in your marshmallows and they will be gooey on the outside. And not in a good way gooey.

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Once the mixture is cool, pour into a your prepared pan and wait. The more humid it is the longer you wait. In Montana, a quick 4-6 hour wait is fine. In wet Washington, DC, I wait overnight. Then cut up the marshmallows. Toss your marshmallows in a the powdered sugar mixture and let them dry out on a baking rack. Again, humidity matters. I would wait at least an hour if guests are eating the marshmallows. If they are just for you start playing chubby bunny asap.

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Now, eat. Most people pair their marshmallows with hot chocolate or graham crackers and chocolate. Both are solid choices, but I like to serve my marshmallows with chocolate salami. Chocolate salami is a bit of tomfoolery-- a chocolate fudge-like log dressed to look like salami. Trust me, it is delicious.

Marshmallows, adapted from David Lebovitz

2 envelopes powdered gelatin 
1/2 cup water for gelatin + 1/3 cup cold water for sugar mix
1 cup white granulated sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1 cup corn starch mixed with 1 cup powdered sugar

  1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the 1/2 cup of cold water.  Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, mix the sugar and corn syrup with 1/3 cup of water. Place over medium heat.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, pour in the egg whites and beat on low speed until frothy. Add the pinch of salt.
  4. When the syrup reaches about 210ºF, increase the speed of the mixer to high and beat the whites until they are thick and fluffy.
  5. Dust a pan with the mixture of powdered sugar and corn starch.  I use a wire strainer to evenly distribute the powder.
  6. When the syrup reaches 245ºF, slowly drizzle the hot syrup into the beating egg whites.  Avoid hitting the beater or the side of the bowl.
  7. Scrape the gelatin and water into the hot and now empty syrup pan. Swirl and melt the gelatin.
  8. Pour the melted gelatin into the whites as they are whipping. Add the vanilla extract and whip until completely cool when you touch the outside of the bowl.  This typically takes 10-15 minutes.  
  9. Use a spatula to spread the marshmallows in a layer on the pan. Allow to dry for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, uncovered.
  10. Sprinkle more of the powdered sugar/ corn starch mixture over the marshmallows using the wire strainer.
  11. Using a scraper cut the marshmallows into desirable sized pieces.
  12. Toss the marshmallows in the powdered sugar/ corn starch mixer.
  13. Place the marshmallows on a wire rack to dry out.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Best Holiday Songs {And A Giveaway}

FaLaLaLovelies!  How are you today?  Are you enjoying the month of December and all of the celebrations it brings to the table?  Things have been busy over here.  Lots of parties and get-together's.  I am trying to wrap up work, finish my shopping and prepare for my trip home to Montana!  All good things.  A busyness I am tremendously grateful for.

One of the best parts of the holidays is the music!  I love Christmas music.  I always have.  I always will.  Though I have made many playlists over the years, there are tunes that can be found on just about every list.  My 10 Favorite Christmas Songs!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Twist Your Dickens {Portland Center Stage}

Another performance, another glowing review!!  Portland Center Stage is quickly becoming one of my favorite spots.  The Armory Theater in the super-chic Pearl District is within blocks of some of my favorite restaurants and houses a team of passionate artists who deliver amazing productions throughout the year.  For Twist Your Dickens, my friend Mary Ellen and I had dinner at Oven and Shaker before the show.  It was the perfect way to catch up, enjoy a night on the town and get into the holiday spirit.  The humorous holiday spirit, I should say.

Twist Your Dickens is a spin on the Charles Dickens' classic with multiple pop-culture references and a mash up of holiday staples.  The part-scripted, part-improv production involves plenty of audience participation, a few songs and plenty of jokes.

I would recommend checking this out for a girl's night out or a date with your special someone.  I would not advise bringing kids to this.  The language is punchy and some of the references are very mature.