"Eating your crusts makes your hair curly" an eight year old friend whispered to us assuredly while gingerly pulling off the crust from her sandwich. She had curlier than curly hair and was making every effort to straighten her hair. We were in primary school and passing on important tidbits of information. My other friend Joanne and I chomped resolutely on our crusts. We wanted curly hair - ringlets, if possible.
"But did you know that eating marshmallows makes your (and here she paused dramatically for effect and giggled)... boobies grow?" another friend whispered to us. We were huddled around the playground, our legs burning as we were sitting cross legged on the scalding hot concrete. We leaned in nevertheless when she showed us a bag of raspberry and vanilla marshmallows. We looked at each other. One girl reached forward and then we gasped at her. She wanted boobies? :o She quickly snapped back her arm as if the bag contained a cobra and leaned back down.
"What will happen to us if we do eat some?" I asked picturing growing some spongey marshmallow boobies. And curiosity got the better of us and that afternoon we all ate one of the raspberry and vanilla marshmallows, went home and to bed and woke up looking exactly as we did the day before. We breathed a sigh of relief but every time I think of marshmallows I think back to that day (and I wonder if my friends do too).
Of course eating marshmallows doesn't make anything grow and perhaps my friend came to this theory based on watching her mother making marshmallows and seeing them swell as they were whipped up. Home made marshmallows are surprisingly easy, especially once you have a sugar thermometer and they are so much better than any marshmallow that you could buy in the supermarket. The home made version is soft and light as a feather and melts on the tongue and is only made up of a few ingredients. They've enjoyed a resurgence with Gena Karp from Sweetness the Patisserie making them in myriad flavours and she too uses only real fruit syrups and purees.
I decided to make these using the berries that we seem to have an abundance of lately although you could certainly use any fruit that takes your fancy for the flavouring. I just like the tartness of raspberries against the sweetness of the sugar. After slicing these up I popped some of the end pieces into my mouth (a cook's treat) and tasted the lovely tang of the real raspberries against the pillowy softness of the marshmallows. I melted like these melted on my tongue.
So tell me Dear Reader, which wives tales did you hear when you were young? And did you believe them?
Fresh Raspberry Marshmallows
150g/3ozs raspberries (fresh or frozen will do)
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1 teaspoon raspberry or balsamic vinegar
3 egg whites, at room temperature
175g/ 6ozs caster/superfine sugar plus 75grams or 2.65ozs caster/superfine sugar extra
2 teaspoons liquid glucose
100ml/3.5 fl ozs water
3x4g/12g/0.45oz Titanium strength gelatine sheets (or enough gelatine powder to set 3 cups of liquid)
2/3 cup icing or confectioners sugar for dusting
2/3 cup cornflour for dusting
3 tablespoons of oil and a sharp knife for cutting
Step 1 - Grease a loaf tin with oil and line with cling wrap. Whiz the raspberries in a food processor along with 2 tablespoons of icing sugar and vinegar and then strain through a sieve to remove the pips. Set the strained raspberry sauce aside.
Step 2 - In a very clean bowl of an electric mixer, place egg whites and fit the whisk attachment.
Step 3 - In a small bowl soak the gelatine in cold water until soft and pliable. Squeeze out excess water from the gelatine leaves.
Step 4 - In a small saucepan, combine the 175g/ 6ozs caster or superfine sugar, water and glucose on low heat until sugar is dissolved. Turn up the heat to medium high and boil until it reaches the hard ball stage (127C/260F) being careful not to stir it once you turn up the heat.
Step 5 - When the above reaches the soft boil stage (118C/244F just before the hard boil stage) then start whisking the egg whites to a soft peak. Add the remaining 75grams/2.5ozs of sugar to the egg whites.
Step 6 - When the syrup reaches a hard ball stage, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the softened gelatine leaves combining well. Carefully, while the eggs are whisking on a medium speed pour the hot gelatine syrup into the mixing bowl in a slow, steady stream and then add the raspberry sauce. Keep beating for 10 minutes while marshmallow swells up and thickens.
Step 7 - Pour into prepared loaf tin and with a hot palette knife (run palette knife under hot water and dry with teatowel), smooth over surface. Leave to set for 1-2 hours (do not refrigerate).
Step 8 - When the marshmallow is ready and set, sift cornflour and icing sugar together in a bowl and spread out over a plate. Pry the cling wrap from the marshmallow (a gentle cut with a knife can help start the process) and using an oiled knife, slice up into squares. Keep oiling the knife between uses (you may have to scrape the knife on the edge of a bowl to remove the excess marshmallow).
Step 9 - Dip marshmallows all over in the cornflour and sugar mix. Store in a airtight container lined with parchment paper sprinkled with extra cornflour and sugar mixture.