The Kitchen Prep: December 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's a Marshmallow World...

I haven't completely lost my marbles. The title of this post is really a song. One my Mom used to sing all the time {and completely change the words to, in true Mom fashion}. 

Here's a little clip for your listening & viewing pleasure {plus, who really needs an excuse to watch Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin?}:

Anyway, I'm actually going somewhere with all this nostalgia. {Which, as we know, is not always the case.}


I've never been much of a marshmallow lover. You won't find me eating plain ol' marshallows right out of the bag the way you might find me licking plain ol' Nutella right off a spoon. No, ma'am. Not my style.

Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy marshmallows as a component of a sweet treat. Swirled into deliciously fudgy brownies; oozing from a graham cracker sandwich in a S'more; serving as the cement for a crunchy Rice Krispie treat {you KNOW I love those.} On their own? Not so much. Perhaps it's because I'm not much of a fan of gelatinous substances. {Jell-o and I are not friends.}

Regardless, when I was browsing Martha Stewart's site for edible Christmas gift ideas, I couldn't help but swoon a bit over these Peppermint Marshmallows I came across. They were just too cute.

But really... homemade marshmallows? I could just picture the sticky mess in the kitchen. An OCD nightmare.

Since I'm{almost} never deterred by a kitchen challenge, I decided to roll up my sleeves and give them a try. And since I didn't have any peppermint extract, I figured I'd try them out in plain vanilla first to see if it was worth a trip to the store eventually for the extra ingredient.

I am happy to report that not only were they shockingly easy to make* {and contain only 7 ingredients! That's if you count water and salt!}, but they have completely changed my outlook on marshmallows.

They're delicious alone.

They're amazing in hot cocoa.

And they're FABULOUS dipped in chocolate candy coating.

You will never buy marshmallows in a bag again.

I plan on making these again, and experimenting with different flavors... well... because I can. And you should, too!

*I made these with my Kitchenaid stand mixer and since I am STILL not able to remove the paddle, I did not use the whisk attachment. They still turned out, though they may have taken a few minutes longer to come together. Now, I must warn you that you can severely hurt yourself if you decide to be a little lax on safety when you are adding boiling hot sugar syrup to a machine with a spinning paddle. As always, use caution & common sense, friends!

Homemade Vanilla Marshmallows
Slightly adapted from Martha

  • 3 (1/4-ounce) packages unflavored gelatin

  • 1/2 cup cold water

  • 2 cups granulated sugar

  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup

  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract & 1 vanilla bean, scraped (optional)

  • Confectioners' sugar, sifted, for coating

  • 1. Lightly spray a 9-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line pan with aluminum foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; set aside.

    2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water; let stand for 10 minutes. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water. Place saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil; boil rapidly for 1 minute. Remove from heat, and, with the mixer on low at first, carefully pour the boiling syrup down the side of the mixer bowl into gelatin mixture. Gradually turn mixer speed up to high. Add salt and continue mixing for 12 minutes until the mixture is thick, white, and cooled. {Will look like loose marshmallow fluff. Mostly because that's exactly what it is. Duh!}

    3. Add vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds {optional}; mix until well combined. Spray a rubber spatula with cooking spray. {I found a silicon spatula works best.} Spread gelatin mixture evenly into pan using prepared spatula. Let stand for 2 hours.

    4. Carefully lift marshmallow from pan by using the foil overhang. Remove foil and discard. Cut marshmallows into 2-inch squares using a sprayed sharp knife. Place confectioners' sugar in a large bowl. Working in batches, add marshmallows to bowl and toss to coat on all sides of squares.

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Let It Snow {In My Freezer}

    I grew up in South Florida. Christmas around here was never synonymous with Winter Wonderland. {Which is probably a good thing since we'd have to wear our entire Floridian wardrobe all at once in order to stay warm if the mercury ever dropped below 50.}

    I vividly recall spending many a Christmas in shorts and tank tops. It was not uncommon for my Mom to crank the A/C down super low on Christmas day to help us get into the holiday spirit {Read: Allow us to wear Christmasy flannel pj's without having heat stroke.}You do whatcha gotta do.

    Even though my holiday memories consist more of palm trees and tropical breezes than snowmen and warm woolen mittens, I can definitely appreciate the magic of a white Christmas. There is something surreal and enchanting about seeing the world draped in a glistening blanket of white.

    Two weeks ago, Steve surprised me with a trip to NYC, and we were able to take in all the holiday sights around the city: the tree in Rockefeller Plaza, the window displays on 5th Avenue, the decorated lobby of The Plaza Hotel, and even the Rockette's Christmas show {Amazing!!}. One of the best parts was getting to bundle up and get a little dose of that nip in the air. No snow... but certainly weather more conducive of warm, fuzzy holiday activities.

    Now that our trip is over, we're back to 80-something degree weather {which is lovely, but not very Christmasy}. My tree is up, the holiday baking is going full force in the kitchen, but we're missing just one thing... snow!

    But since I'm no stranger to Florida Christmases, I won't hold my breath. There may be no cold, white, magical stuff on the ground outside, but there is some right in my very freezer.

    Coconut Granita with Coconut Wafers. Who needs flurries?!

    Sweet, tropical, delicious... no scarves, mittens, or coat needed.

    Whether your holiday season is balmy or blizzardy, you'll want to give this a try.

    Coconut Granita with Coconut Wafers
    From Rachael

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar

  • 2/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

  • Pinch salt

  • 3 egg whites

  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, for sifting {optional}

  • One 14-ounce can light coconut milk

  • For Wafers

    1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°. Line 3 large baking sheets with parchment and brush the parchment with 2 tablespoons melted butter. In a medium bowl, whisk together 2/3 cup granulated sugar, 2/3 cup coconut, the flour and salt. Stir in the egg whites, then the remaining 4 tablespoons melted butter, until smooth. Using a teaspoon, drop the batter about 2 inches apart onto the prepared pans (the batter will spread).
    2. Bake the wafers 1 pan at a time until 1/2 inch of their borders is golden-brown, 9 to 10 minutes. Slide the parchment onto a rack to cool completely. Sift the wafers lightly with the confectioners’ sugar.
    For Granita
    1. Place a 9-inch square cake pan or baking dish into the freezer to chill. In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups water and the remaining 2/3 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup coconut to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Let simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and let steep for 20 minutes.
    2. Pour the coconut liquid through a fine strainer set over a medium metal bowl and press firmly on the solids (you will have about 2 cups syrup). Discard the solids. Stir the coconut milk into the syrup and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes. (Alternatively, let the mixture cool quickly by setting the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice water and stirring it for about 8 minutes.)
    3. Pour the coconut mixture into the chilled pan and freeze for 1 1/2 hours. Using a fork, quickly stir any frozen crystals from the edges to the center of the pan. Repeat the stirring process every hour or so until the mixture is well frozen into crunchy flakes, up to 5 hours.
    4. To serve, freeze 8 dessert bowls or plates until chilled. Scoop the coconut granita into the center of each bowl and serve with the wafers.