Vanilla Marshmallows (adapted from Baked, New Frontiers in Baking by Lewis/Poliafito)
Makes 2-3 dozen marshmallows
6 sheets gelatin (measuring 3”x 9”)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted, plus more for dusting
Grease an 8×8-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray or non-hydrogenated shortening. Make sure you get into the corners and along the sides. Set aside.
Put the gelatin sheets into a medium bowl and fill it with very cold water to cover by several inches, adding a few ice cubes to keep it cold. Let them they soak for about 10 minutes while you prepare the sugar syrup.
Place the sugar, 1/4 cup corn syrup and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan and stir gently. Clip a candy thermometer onto the pan, and place it over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, checking it occasionally–it needs to eventually register between 235-240 degrees (soft ball stage).
While the syrup is cooking, pour the remaining 1/4 cup corn syrup into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. The gelatin sheets should be very soft by now–drain them well in a fine mesh strainer and then dry them on a few sheets of paper towels. They will be soft- use the paper towels to gather them up and place the softened gelatin in a heatproof bowl. Set this bowl over (not in) a saucepan of very warm water. Let this make-shift double boiler melt the gelatin completely; it doesn’t take long. Turn the mixer on low, and very slowly pour the melted gelatin into the corn syrup. Keep the mixer running while you check the sugar syrup.
As soon as the syrup reaches 235-240 degrees, pull it from the heat. Carefully transfer the syrup to a large, Pyrex measuring cup with a spout for easy pouring. Turn the mixer up to medium speed and slowly pour the sugar syrup into the gelatin mixture. Be careful not to hit the whisk or the sides of the bowl. When all the syrup has been added, turn the speed up to medium-high and beat it for about 6 to 7 minutes–the candy will turn white and fluffy. Add the vanilla and salt and increase the speed to its highest setting for 1 more minute. Grease an offset spatula and a rubber spatula with non-stick cooking spray.
Pour the marshmallow into the prepared pan (the rubber spatula helps to scrape down the sides of the bowl) and use the offset spatula to spread it into the corners and smooth the top. Sift confectioners’ sugar evenly and generously over the top. Let sit for about 6 hours.
Use an offset spatula to loosen the marshmallow from the edges of the pan and invert it onto a confectioners’ sugar-dusted work surface. Dust the marshmallow slab with more confectioner’s sugar and use a knife greased with non-stick coking spray to cut the sweets into 1” pieces. Dip the sticky edges of the marshmallows in more confectioners’ sugar, patting off the excess. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Dark Chocolate Pie (with a splash of bourbon and toasty marshmallows)
makes one 6 1/2 " pie (my pie plate measures 6 1/2" across, 1 1/2 " deep)
(filling adapted from Jamie Oliver and Hedy Goldsmith)
Chocolate Pie Crust
(makes enough for two single crust 6” pies; wrap one half in plastic and freeze until the next snow day)
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup dark cocoa powder
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 oz.) cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon ice cold water
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment, combine the flour, cocoa, sugar and salt. Add the cold butter and pulse several times, just until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, combine the egg and cold water. Add the egg/water mixture to the coarse crumbs in the food processor and pulse just until the mixture begins to hold together. Do not over process. Turn the mixture out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and divide it in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap; refrigerate the one you are going to use for an hour before rolling out. Freeze the second half for another time.
On a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper, roll out the dough into a circle about 10” in diameter. Fit the dough into a 6½” pie plate. Trim and crimp the edges. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes. When ready to blind-bake the crust, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the pie plate from the freezer, line it with aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with beans or pie weights. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the foil or parchment and beans. Prick the pie crust all over with a fork and return to the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F and bake the crust for an additional 10 minutes, until the dough is no longer shiny. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a rack while you prepare the pie filling.
Chocolate filling for one 6½” pie
½ cup bittersweet chocolate chunks (60%)
9 tablespoons (4½ oz.) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 tablespoons dark cocoa powder, preferably Valrhona
1 tablespoon sour cream
2 large eggs
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons good-quality bourbon
½ teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
In a medium heatproof bowl set over simmering water, melt the chocolate chunks and butter. Remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa, salt and sour cream. Set aside. In another medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until light. (You can use a hand-held electric mixer on low speed to do this, or whisk them together by hand.) Add the eggs and sugar to the chocolate mixture, whisking together just until blended, then add the bourbon and vanilla. Set the pre-baked pie shell on a baking sheet and pour the chocolate filling into the shell. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 40-45 minutes, until the edges are puffed and set and there’s just the slightest bit of wiggle in the center of the pie. Set on a rack to cool completely before serving. (Using a knife dipped in hot water and dried makes for cleaner slices.) Serve with toasty marshmallows.