Inspired by Masterchef: Marshmallows with Strawberries

When last week’s Masterchef focused on afternoon tea and pastries, I knew I was going to have to have a sweet week.   This may sound a little odd, but I’m not especially keen on marshmallows.  I don’t dislike them, but I can take them or leave them.   I don’t quite understand why some people love them in hot chocolate with lots of cream.   Yes, they look good, but they don’t really add anything that chocolate isn’t delicious enough to provide by itself.  Anyway, there was something about the marshmallows Andrew made that really made me want to try them.  They looked lovely and soft and pillowy, but had a raspberry hidden inside.   I would have used raspberries with these but the local shop didn’t have any, and strawberries were the closest I could get.   I also gave up on the idea of enclosing the strawberries inside the marshmallow as they looked so pretty  on top and would have been absolutely huge if I’d added another spoonful of marshmallow.    Well, to be honest,  the mixture left in the bowl was beginning to set anyway and would probably have just looked a mess if I’d tried to use it to hide the strawberries.

I have to say, I was pretty impressed with how these turned out.   I hadn’t realised that marshmallow was so easy to make.  But, they were very sweet and I don’t have a very sweet tooth.   As marshmallow is sweet, and mainly sugar, I’m not sure if anything could be done to make them less sweet.   I suppose just don’t eat too many at once.    Invite lots of people to your home to share them with, because unfortunately they are not at their best for long.  Many of the recipes on the internet said they could be stored for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container (if you don’t add fruit), but I found they were going a little soggy around the edges beyond a couple of days and the sooner they were eaten the better.

I read quite a few recipes when deciding how to make these but the finished result is mainly adapted from a James Martin recipe.

I would like to link these to Alpha Bakes, started by  The More than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes.  This month  the letter is M and it is hosted by Caroline.  I am also linking to Sweets for a Saturday.

Ingredients

230g sugar

1 tbsp golden syrup

9 sheets of gelatine

2 egg whites

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp icing sugar

2 tbsp cornflour

Strawberries (optional)

How to make Marshmallows

1. Mix the icing sugar and cornflour together.   Lightly oil a couple of small muffin tins.    Sift some of the icing sugar and cornflour over the trays.

2. Put the gelatine sheets in a small bowl and cover with 140ml of cold water.

3. Put the sugar, golden syrup and approx 100ml of water in a small saucepan with a sugar thermometer leaning against the side. Bring to the boil and leave until it reaches 127C, and then add the water and gelatine.   It will fizz up so stir it gently till the gelatine has dissolved into the sugar mixture.

4. Whisk the egg white and when it forms peaks, gradually pour in the sugar mixture.   Also add the vanilla extract. Continue to whisk for up to 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and holds its shape.

5. As the mixture begins to set very quickly once you finish whisking, immediately spoon the mixture into the muffin tins.  Top each mound of marshmallow with a strawberry.   Leave to set.   If you are planning to only eat some of these straightaway, don’t add strawberries to the ones you want to keep for more than a couple of days.

6. When you take the marshmallows out of the muffin tins, put them on a plate on in a tin, lined with icing sugar and cornflour.

 

Pecan Meringues

I had 3 egg whites left over.  What should I do with them?   I’ve already made plain meringues and macaroons.   What else could I make?    A quick internet search revealed a few ideas and I chose to make Simply Recipes’ Pecan Meringue Cookies, except, when I looked at the finished product and tasted them I decided to call them pecan meringues.   The good thing about meringues, or indeed a lot of baking, is that they are so quick to make.    Basically you mix the ingredients and put them in the oven.    So many cakes and biscuits just require that simple method.   So, it’s surprising to me that a year ago I never did desserts, well, perhaps once  a year.    It was easier to buy a dessert if I felt like one.    How things have changed!   I’m not making desserts all the time, not even once a week, although I did make 2 yesterday!   But what has especially changed is that I’m excited by making them.    I keep thinking of ways I could adapt things I have made once already.   I’m beginning to feel confident that maybe I could just make something up, the way I do with savoury food all the time.   There are things the puzzle me though – why the vinegar in this recipe?   This reminds me that there are things I don’t understand, principles that need to be learned, research that needs to be done, before I can call really call myself a baker as well as a cook.   Maybe in a few months time…

Anyway, this was a  delicious way to use up egg whites.   I’ll probably use a little less sugar next time as they were a little sweet.   Like I did, you can also put a few spoonfuls of mixture onto the baking sheet before mixing in the pecans so that anyone who doesn’t like nuts would still be able to enjoy these as just plain meringues.   Because of the cooking method these are crispy on the outside but still a bit gooey, almost like marshmallow inside.   If you like that, you’ll love these.   If not, well you could always leave the oven switched on for ten minutes at the beginning then turn it off.

Ingredients

150g sugar

40g pecans

1 tsp vinegar

Pinch of salt

3 egg whites

How to make Pecan Meringues

1. Roughly chop the pecans and then toast them in a dry frying pan.   Keep moving them so they don’t burn.

2. Put the egg white and a pinch of salt in a bowl and whisk.   After about a minute add the sugar.   Keep adding a little at a time and whisking.

2. Add the vinegar and whisk for about 4-5 minutes until it forms stiff peaks.

3. Cover a baking tray in baking parchment.  If you want some plain meringues, spoon some of the mixture onto the parchment first.   Add the pecans to the rest of the mixture.    Fold in then continue to spoon onto the baking parchment.

4. Put in an oven preheated to 150c.  Turn the oven off and leave overnight.

Almond and Coconut Macaroons

I have just amazed myself.   These have turned out stunningly well for a first attempt at macaroons.  On the very day that I have decided to be healthy and lose just a little weight in January, I have managed to make the most amazing macaroons.   This is going to make that challenge so much harder.   I’m especially pleased they turned out so well as they are one of the things on my new year to-do list.   Not the first thing I’ve made though.   The first thing was creme brulees.   I made them two days ago and tested out my new blow torch.   They looked great and the blow torch caramelised the sugar really well.   The only snag was that they hadn’t set.   They still tasted good – like sweet vanilla flavoured cream, but they were a little too runny for me to  post them.   I’m not sure if the mistake was me or the recipe, but I shall just have to make them again.   What a shame!

Now, onto the Macaroons.   In 2010, everywhere I looked people seemed to be making and talking about macaroons.   I’d had them as a child.   My mum made them once or twice but I didn’t think they were anything amazing.   At first I thought, oh no, not another macaroon post.   But gradually my curiosity grew.  If all these people think macaroons are amazing, then maybe they are, and maybe I should make them.   In November, Jenna at Eat, Live, Run made Raspberry Rose Macaroons and it was probably this post that made me decide that I would definitely make them, at some point.   That time was today.   As I hadn’t made macaroons before I needed a method and a recipe and so I turned to Jenna’s post for the basics.     However, as lovely as raspberry rose sounds,  I wanted to make almond and coconut ones and so the recipe has been adapted quite a lot.    I also cooked them for about 5 minutes longer than Jenna as my macaroons were bigger.    The result is below.   Not a great photo, but great macaroons.

Ingredients – makes about 12

2 egg whites

125 g icing sugar

55 g ground almonds

5 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp almond essence

2 tbsp desiccated coconut

How to make Coconut Almond Macaroons

1.  In a bowl mix the ground almonds, desiccated coconut and icing sugar.  In another bowl measure out the caster sugar.

2. Beat the egg until it begins to stiffen.   Add the sugar and continue to whisk until it forms stiff peaks.

3. Add the almond essence and half the ground almond mixture.   Fold in then add the remaining ground almond and fold in too.

4. Put a piece of baking parchment on a baking tray.  If you have a piping bag you could use it but I just put spoonfuls of the mixture on the baking parchment.

5. Put in a pre-heated oven at 180°c and bake for about 15 minutes.

6. Let cool for about 5 minutes then put on a wire rack.  The macaroons are quite delicate so if you lift the baking parchment a little then peel the parchment away from the macaroon it helps avoid them shattering.

Lots of macaroon recipes call for making a cream filling then sandwiching 2 together.   This would be good but as we’ve just had Christmas and New Year I was happy to just to eat these plain.