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Coconut Marshmallows
Both the Toasted Coconut and Vanilla Marshmallow Meltaways from Sweet & Sara were among the best we tasted in a field of dozens of brands—and they’re vegan, not made with gelatin like almost all the other marshmallows. Bravo!
Photo by Dhanraj Emanuel | THE NIBBLE.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

STEPHANIE ZONIS is a Contributing Editor.

 

 

November 2007
Updated March 2009

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Candy

Marshmallow Madness

Page 3: Modern Gourmet Marshmallows

 

This is Page 3 of a six-page overview of marshmallows. Click on the black links below to visit other pages.

 

Modern Marshmallows

Jet-Puffed Marshmallows, made by Kraft, were introduced in the early 1950s. They employed a new technique, in which all ingredients were whipped together during the Jet Puffed Marshmallowsheating process. The marshmallow mass was then cooled slightly before being extruded. This, and the fact that the ingredients used are relatively cheap, allows Kraft to make vast quantities of marshmallows inexpensively. That’s just as well, since the Jet-Puffed brand has been the best-selling marshmallow in the U.S. for more than 40 years. USA Today, in a recent article, noted that the marshmallow industry accounts for $132 million annually; a very substantial percentage of that is from sales of Jet-Puffed. A great many Americans—I’m one—grew up on these marshmallows. To my way of thinking, however, they have a major disadvantage to anyone with a palate: They lack any character or real flavor. They’re sweet and rather spongy, but that’s about it.

By contrast, most boutique marshmallows are more tender and delicate. Even the plain vanilla examples of these marshmallows really taste like something, and that vanilla base often serves as a building block for sweets with more than one level of flavor.

Perhaps the most frequently-seen embellishment of gourmet marshmallows is a covering of chocolate. Some companies start with vanilla marshmallows, but roll the exteriors in a cocoa or cinnamon formula. One producer, Artisan Candies, actually tops vanilla marshmallows with creative combinations of flavors, although I was unable to try any of the topped marshmallows because of hot weather conditions that precluded shipping when the research for this article was underway. (They arrived at THE NIBBLE offices after this article was turned in, and were a big hit.) My Flour Garden Bakery, which also produces “topped” marshmallows like the Mocha Chipster monsters at the right, wowed us not only with their toppings, but with their overall creativity (their Trail Mix marshmallow has trail mix mixed into the batter).

Chocolate Chip Marshmallows
These Mocha Chipster marshmallows from My Flour Garden may look formidable, but the marshmallow is delicate, and has no resemblance to Jet-Puffed or other commercial fare. Photo by Dhanraj Emanuel.

Caramel & Marshmallow

Caramel and marshmallows are a much-loved combination, too. In some cases, a marshmallow will acquire a bottom layer of caramel before the entire confection is covered in chocolate (these are sometimes called caramallows). But the most notable example of this pairing is the specialty confection known as a “Modjeska.” Madame Helen Modjeska was a renowned European actress when she made her American debut in 1883 in Kentucky. A local candy maker, Anton Busath, was enthralled by her performance of Nora in “A Doll’s House,” and asked her permission to name his latest confection after her. If you’ve never had one, a Modjeska is a marshmallow center Modjeska Caramelwrapped with caramel. To me, these redefine the word “sweet,” but they are treasured treats in some areas of the country. Busath Candy Company was unfortunately destroyed by fire in 1947, but Anton had given permission to a colleague, Rudolph Bauer, to create his own version, which he called the Caramel Biscuit. A number of versions of the Modjeska are still produced today, including by Bauer’s Candy’s of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky (shown in the photo above—they have been renamed from Caramel Biscuit to Modjeska). The company is run by Rudolph’s great-granddaughter, Anna Bauer Satterwhite. You can buy them at BauersCandy.com.

Flavored Marshmallows

Other popular marshmallow flavors among artisan confectioners are chocolate (by  which we mean chocolate-flavored marshmallows, not chocolate-covered ones, although you can find marshmallows that are both), coconut, coffee, mocha, peppermint and strawberry. But the creative nature of marshmallow producers doesn’t stop there. If you’re craving something a little more unusual, try the Jumpin’ Jack Daniels or Black Jelly Bean offered by Laura’s Candy; or Dolcezza Etc.’s Sambuca or their Black Forest (both are made with liqueurs, but it’s said that almost all of the alcohol evaporates during the cooking process). Still not sufficiently adventurous for you? No problem! My Flour Garden Bakery produces these confections in Pandan, Taro and Matcha (green tea) varieties, among others. I have been left open-mouthed at the imaginative variations on the basic marshmallow flavor conjured up by some boutique producers. 
Chocolate Marshmallows
Chocolate marshmallows are a favorite. These are from Tiny Trapeze, available at Whole Foods Markets.

Jumbo Marshmallows

Some marshmallows are petite—just a bite; some are mammoth, the size of a dessert portion. Does size matter? If you want to be overwhelmed by marshmallow goodness, there are companies that cater to your specifics. The marshmallows tasted for this article were of sizes that varied considerably, from the smaller oblongs made by Dana & Co. to the two inch cubes from Chowcolates to the 4-1/2 inch squares from Pistacia Vera. Part of the ideal marshmallow size depends on what you’ll be doing with the marshmallow, of course. A very large square of, say, cinnamon marshmallow isn’t exactly going to fit into a mug of hot chocolate, but then again it might be just what you want to top that warm apple pie for two.
Jumbo Marshmallow
A jumbo marshmallow from Little Flower Candy Company.

Several producers offer marshmallows in different sizes. Dolcezza, Etc. has one inch cubes in all flavors, but additionally offers 1-1/2 inch cubes in some varieties. My Flour Garden Bakery makes regular, extra tall and jumbo (five inches square!) sizes. Some companies will accept custom orders, while others will not. If you have a special request, it’s fine to ask, but remember that not all businesses choose to work that way.       

Continue To Page 4: Marshmallow Recipe

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