Confession: I’m a terrible vegetarian.
No, I haven’t been sneaking steaks, secretly gobbling chicken or snacking on sausages. Nor do I plan to…yuck. What I have been doing, however, is eating gelatin.
Not straight-up gelatin, that would be gross. Or Jello, for that matter. Nope, I’ve been making and eating more marshmallows, which definitely contain gelatin. Does that make me a bad vegetarian?
Some would say yes, some would say no…I don’t really care either way! They’re MARSHMALLOWS!
…Besides, it’s not like I’m vegan or a member of PETA (yikes) or anything. At this point, there are two main reasons I don’t eat meat: It keeps me thin and healthy and, after ten years, I just don’t like the taste.
I was lucky enough this past Christmas to get a bunch of awesome cookie cutters from my best friend, one of which is shaped like a penguin. I initially had another idea for a really cute use for it, but it will have to wait until the weather is warmer. Right now, though, is definitely a good time for hot cocoa with tons of fluffy marshmallows, and what could be cuter than penguin marshmallows?
Admittedly I did not keep many of the penguins for myself – I made some cocoa mix and delivered jars of that along with little packages of squishy penguins to my former co-workers yesterday. I did have to come up with a use for the scraps of marshmallow left over after I cut out as many penguins as I possibly could (I think I got 29 of them, not bad), so I busted out the kitchen shears and made mini-marshmallows!
These marshmallows are pure awesome. The vanilla bean I used was particularly oily and lovely, and the little beans sometimes crunch in your mouth as you eat the marshmallows, giving an extra burst of vanilla flavor. They also melt slowly and wonderfully, forming a thick layer of sticky-sweet goodness on top of the cocoa, as opposed to dissolving into nothing like commercially-made marshmallows.
The cocoa mix I made is based off of Alton Brown‘s recipe, and, unsurprisingly, is absolutely delicious. The only thing I added was a bit of cinnamon, just because I don’t think hot chocolate is complete without it. The recipe already called for cayenne pepper, which is a really brilliant addition that gives the cocoa heat even when it’s only lukewarm. The cinnamon, I think, sort of bridges the gap between the chocolate and the pepper, so you don’t notice that extra heat until you swallow a sip of cocoa.
Vanilla Bean Marshmallows with Homemade Cocoa
For the Marshmallows:
1/2 oz. unflavored gelatin (2 packets Knox gelatin)
1/2 cup cold water + 1/4 cup
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 vanilla bean, scraped, pod set aside for another use (I replenished my vanilla sugar supply, and had extra for a friend)
Place 1/2 cup cold water in bowl of a stand mixer. Add gelatin and allow to bloom for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine sugar, corn syrup and remaining water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a rolling boil, add it to the mixer bowl, along with the salt and vanilla. Beat on medium-high for about 10 minutes. You want it to be fluffy but not stiff. While the mixer’s going, line a pan with oiled plastic wrap. If you want big, thick marshmallows, use one that’s about 11″x7″…I used the biggest one I had since I wanted these to be fairly thin so I could use the cookie cutter on them. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan and cover with another piece of oiled plastic wrap. Allow to sit for 3 hours, then remove top layer of plastic wrap. If you’re just cutting the marshmallows normally, flip the marshmallow into another pan filled with powdered sugar and cut with a knife or kitchen shears that have been coated with the sugar, re-applying it every other marshmallow or so. Make sure to thoroughly dredge each marshmallow in the sugar so that there are no sticky spots.
If you’re using a cookie cutter, dust the top of the marshmallow with powdered sugar and coat the cutter with sugar as well, reapplying as needed. You’ll still want to have a pan of powdered sugar for dredging. Use kitchen shears to snip the remaining marshmallow scraps into small pieces and coat them in powdered sugar. Store any marshmallows in an air-tight container for up to a couple of weeks.
For the Cocoa Mix:
1 cup cocoa powder
2 cups powdered sugar
2 1/2 cups powdered milk
1 tsp salt
2 tsp corn starch
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together. Store in an airtight container (will keep well for months, but you’ll go through it faster than that). To make hot cocoa, fill a mug one third to one half full with mix and add boiling water. Stir until dissolved and add marshmallows.
I actually had to make a second batch of cocoa mix this morning, as I gave most of the first batch away yesterday. I’m normally not a fan of hot cocoa made with water, but the inclusion of powdered milk makes up for it. The cocoa is rich, chocolatey, not too sweet, subtly spiced and just plain creamy goodness. I even drank some instead of my usual gunpowder tea this morning.