Marshmallows are sweet pillows of chewy, gooey heaven that have absolutely nothing to do with basketball's most exciting month. But their fluffy, elastic texture and hit of sugary ecstasy make us crazy with craving anyway. Often relegated to a children's treat, adults want in on this ethereal sugar evolution too. Who says you have to give up your playful indulgences just because you're over 18? Not us. We'll even transport you to your own candy land by showing you how to create these cloying clouds at home. You can make mature marshmallows in sophisticated flavors like vanilla-rose, cardamom, and espresso. So adultish.
In the winter, we love to snuggle with a hot mug of marshmallows bobbing in a pond of cocoa like an icebergs that melt on our tongues. Yet marshmallows are also beloved for their stringy sweetness in the summer as s'mores. They're timeless.
In 2008, husband-and-wife team Mark Sopchak and Jenna Park latched onto our love of the marshmallow when they started a Brooklyn-based business, Whimsy & Spice, selling handmade marshmallows, cookies, and other sweet treats. "Not everybody likes marshmallows, but the people who do, maybe it's a childhood thing, where you remember eating them when you were a kid," said Sopchak, who was a pastry chef in New York City restaurants for more than 14 years before starting their business. "People like sweets, and it's almost pure sugar, but it's lighter."
Chocolate, caramel, and maple are the most popular flavors at Whimsy & Spice, but Sopchak whips up seasonal flavors too, like ginger for winter. Sopchak is digging the passion fruit flavor right now.
Making marshmallows at home is simple, but not necessarily easy. "A marshmallow is basically whipped up sugar and gelatin," Sopchak said. "We add egg whites. It's a matter of preference, a textural thing. They end up being softer and lighter; without egg whites, they tend to be a little chewier." Watch our video of how to make marshmallows.
If you're new to using a candy thermometer and making hot sugar syrup, you might mess up a couple times before you get it right, he says. That's expected. But keep at it, and then whip that sugar with gelatin and let it set. Besides a reliable candy thermometer, you'll need a sturdy stand mixer, like the ubiquitous KitchenAid stand mixer.
"Once you master the method of doing the plain one, then add spices or juices," Sopchak said. "It has to be a very strong flavor or else it's going to get lost. When you make a marshmallow there's a lot of air added to it and the flavor gets dispersed in it."
You can infuse any flavor you want at any part of the process, but avoid alcohol because it doesn't work well with gelatin, Sopchak said. You can make a ginger tea and then use that in the water while you melt the sugar, for instance.
Use your homemade marshmallows for cute gifts, pile them onto your hot chocolate, or incorporate them into your s'mores, Rice Krispies treats, ice cream, sandwich cookies, cake frosting — or just eat them whole and plain. They're good enough all by themselves, especially when homemade.
"It's really not that hard but people are intimidated by it," Sopchak said. "It can take a little practice and you'll mess up a couple times."
If you're just not gonna do it but gotta have it, buy some of Whimsy & Spice's marshmallows on Esty. Check out our other candy recipes. But those of you itching to get in the kitchen with your candy thermometer, try some of our recipes below.
1. Classic Vanilla Marshmallows
While the recipe instructs you to make the classic marshmallow cubes, this marshmallow batter can also be cut into shapes with cookie cutters or used to pipe out marshmallow chicks, which are especially cute come Easter. Get our Classic Vanilla Marshmallows recipe.
2. Homemade Marshmallow Créme
It's not the traditional marshmallow you can eat on its own, but if you're a marshmallow fan, you'll love this créme, which is great for cakes and pies. Get our Homemade Marshmallow Créme recipe.
3. S'more Bars
The chocolate, graham cracker, and marshmallow goodness you know from childhood camping trips and love still to this day is available in bar form. Enjoy it inside the warmth of your home. Get our S'more Bars recipe.
4. White Russian Rice Cereal Treats
Here's an adult version of this traditional crunchy, gooey, sweet treat that kids love. Some instant espresso powder, cream, and Kahlúa make this more of 21 and older type dessert. Get our White Russian Rice Cereal Treats recipe.
5. Bourbon Rocky Road Ice Cream Sundae
Make some espresso Bourbon caramel sauce first, and then you only need four more ingredients to make this dreamy sundae a reality. Get our Bourbon Rocky Road Ice Cream Sundae recipe.
What, you wanted basketball? OK, OK. Here's how to pick your March Madness Bracket and how to stream NCAA tournament games and watch online. There. Now you're set.
— Head Photo: Whimsy & Spice.
Amy Sowder is the assistant editor at Chowhound in New York City. She loves cheesy things, especially toasties and puns. She's trying to like mushrooms. Her running habit is the excuse for her gelato passion. Or is it the other way around? Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, What Do I Eat Now. Learn more at AmySowder.com.