Thursday, May 4, 2017

Saffron Honey Marshamallows

I consider myself a fairly proficient cook and baker, but a novice when it comes to candy-making. To be fair, most of my history with attempting to make candy occurred in my childhood without the aid of a candy thermometer. I had to get by with being told to cook until the "soft ball stage" or "hard ball stage" and spent my time dropping bits of fudge or hard candy into glasses of water then scrutinizing its consistency. More often than not, this resulted in sweet goo which was edible, but nothing like what it was supposed to be in texture.

My first truly successful foray into the world of candy-making was recounted on this blog when I made the Times recipe for microwave saffron Turkish delight. In fact, I have made it twice and it turned out beautifully each time. In between this attempt at making marshmallows and that old success with Turkish delight, I made Alton Brown's homemade marshmallows recipe and it turned out fantastic. That recipe utilizes what many feel is the devil's breakfast drink of choice, corn syrup, but that didn't really put me off. As someone who cooks most of her own food (down to even making my own bread), I don't think a little corn syrup in the occasional homemade marshmallow recipe is going to be a significant detriment to my health.

Perhaps emboldened by that success, and being an enormous fan of the flavor of saffron and honey, I wanted to try the Times recipe for saffron honey marshmallows. It didn't hurt that the recipe showed up on my Facebook feed around Easter and the prospect of making cute, yellow sweets (though not shaped like chicks - I don't have that type of cookie cutter) seemed like a great idea at the time.

I followed the recipe to the letter except for one tiny point. I didn't use a 1/2 tsp. of crumbled saffron threads because it's too expensive to squander in that way. I used 1/4 tsp. Other than that, I did exactly as I was told and this was the result after I sprinkled colored sugar on it:

One commenter on the Times recipe page said hers turned out "gooey," but attributed it to her lack of skill. I'm not going to put the blame on me. The recipe is too wet. Far, far too wet. It was so wet that I decided to cut them up and separate them out several times in an attempt to get them to dry a little:

My first attempt was to gently take the soft, squishy blobs and put them in a container with no lid and more sugar. All that did was have moisture pooling at the bottom of the container much as it did the baking dish I'd poured them into. I allowed them to sit like that for two days and it did little to dry them. If I wanted to eat one, I had to put it in a bowl and eat it with a spoon because it was too wet and soft to handle.

After the container approach failed, I took them out and spread them on a baking rack so there was more air under them. I allowed them to be completely exposed to open air for three days to no avail. They were less sopping, and a few of them had crispy, sugary corners where they'd dried out, but, on the whole, they were still far too gooey and soft to handle.

In the end, I put them back in the container with no lid and just ate them slowly. Any hopes that they would dry out enough to be given to others to enjoy (which was my initial plan) was dashed. They sat on top of my refrigerator for two weeks and never did get dry, but they did start to eventually taste stale and I threw the uneaten ones away.

It is unfortunate that this is such a terrible recipe because the flavor was quite nice and the texture of the marshmallows fluffy and soft. The recipe adds in a total of 1 1/4 cups of water and I think that could be dramatically reduced to get a better result. I'm unlikely to try this recipe again, but if I were to give it another shot, I'd reduce the total water down to no more than 3/4 of a cup (1/2 cup of cold on the gelatin and 1/4 cup cooked with the sugar instead of 3/4 cup and a 1/2 cup).

Someone in comments who said she/he was a professional confectioner said that the issue is that honey is hygroscopic and that other liquid should be reduced so I'm not alone in thinking there is an issue with how wet it was. I don't know if there was an error in the original recipe or if the creator of the recipe did something different, but I wouldn't use this recipe as is. That commenter recommended Thomas Keller's French Laundry marshmallow recipe, which looks a lot like Alton Brown's. I'd recommend either of those over this. Though you won't get the honey and saffron flavor, you also won't get a pile of wet marshmallows.