(1) Toasting marshmallows over a campfire is a lasting memory of childhood. But while enjoying this gooey treat, people rarely stop to think about how marshmallows got their name or who made them first. After all, toasting them golden brown or turning them into flaming torches is much more fun.
(2) Marshmallows have a long and interesting history. The ancient Egyptians first developed the sweet some 4000 years ago using the mallow plant that grew wild in the marshes along the Nile River, hence their name “marsh mallows.” They used the white, sweet sap from marsh mallow roots to thicken a mixture of nuts and honey. It wasn’t a treat for everyone though. It was considered a food for the gods and severed only to the pharaohs and members of his royal family. What the first marshmallows looked like, no one really knows.
(3) The ingredients and methods used to make marshmallows have changed greatly over the centuries. In the early to mid-1800's French candy store owners whipped egg whites, sugar and mallow sap into a fluffy meringue. They placed the mixture in cylindrical molds, giving the marshmallows their familiar shape. This rather time-consuming process produced marshmallows so costly only the wealthy could afford them.
(4) By the late 1800's a new recipe and a new method of making marshmallows emerged. Cornstarch and gelatin replaced the mallow sap and machines replaced hand mixing. Once hardened and placed in tins, the marshmallows sold as penny candy and became a treat everyone could afford.
(5) In 1954, American Alex Doumakes, the son of a Greek immigrant candy maker, developed the marshmallow recipe and manufacturing process in use today. He combined corn syrup or sugar, gelatin, gum arabic and flavoring for his marshmallow recipe. Instead of making them by hand, he squeezed the mixture from long tubes to create long spongy marshmallow ropes. After a dusting them with non-stick cornstarch, the ropes were sliced into the bite-sized chunks familiar today. The whole process slashed production time from 24 hours to just 6o minutes.
(6) You might be surprised to learn that marshmallows were once used as medication. The Romans and Greeks, as well as nineteenth century doctors, hardened marshmallows to looked like lozenges and prescribed them to soothe sore throats, to suppress coughs, to cure ulcers and to treat toothaches and insect bites. While marshmallows are no longer used as medication, the mallow’s roots, leaves and flowers are used to make a wide variety of pharmaceuticals and herbal remedies.
(7) Today, eaten straight from the bag, used to make cookies or toasted over a campfire, marshmallows have proven to be a popular year-round snack.
Marshmallow Fun Facts
• Americans buy 90 million pounds of marshmallows each year, about the same weight as 1,286 gray whales.
• The marshmallow capital of the world is in Ligonier, Noble County, Indiana.
• Each summer more than 50% of all marshmallows sold are toasted over a fire
• Americans spend nearly $125 million dollars on marshmallows each year.
• During World War II marshmallows were used as a substitute for rationed sugar.
• The largest marshmallow treat ever made weighed 1,600 lbs and used 20,000 toasted marshmallows and 7,000 chocolate bars. The record was set on May 23, 2003.
• When the Olympic flame, hand-carried from Greece to Canada in 1988, was left within easy reach of people along the parade route, they roasted marshmallows over it.
• In one year, the Kidd & Company’s marshmallow factory churns out enough marshmallows to circle the globe nearly twice.
• marshmallows today are almost 100 percent sugar and are injected with air to make them fluffy.
Marshmallows, Made From Scratch
Once you try a homemade marshmallow, you will find it difficult to eat store-bought ones. This delicious confection is wonderful in a cup of hot cocoa, Rocky Road Fudge, or any recipe that uses marshmallows. Or just simply eat them plain. These are not difficult to make, but they are a little messy since the marshmallow mixture is sticky.
Did you know that I love candy, and marshmallows are easy to make? And magic? Similar to beating egg whites into fluffy, big meringues, making marshmallows takes a syrup of water, corn syrup, and sugar combined with a few packets of gelatin, and makes something delicious and fluffy and sticky and huge.
I've made it a few times and really, it's awesome. And fairly easy. And impresses people, how many people do you know that make marshmallows?
½ c. cold water
3 ¼ oz. envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 c. sugar
2/3 c. corn syrup
¼ tsp. salt
½ c. water
2 tsp. vanilla
½ c. potato starch or corn starch
½ c. powdered sugar
Dissolve the gelatin in the bowl of your mixer (not hand-held! You need a heavy-duty stand mixer! And with a whisk attachment) with the first ½ c cold water. Let sit for about 15 minutes, while you make a syrup from the sugar, corn syrup, salt and water. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves, and then bring to a boil and cook for about 8 minutes (to 240 degrees, but I've never temp it, just gone with 8 minutes). Turn your mixer onto low (by this point, all your gelatin should have dissolved in the water) and slowly and carefully pour the hot syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin. Slowly (seriously, otherwise hot liquid will splash all over and it will hurt) turn the mixer up to high, and then go do something else, like wash your dishes or eat some pizza. Oh, but first, line a 13x9 pan with foil, and grease the foil. Once your syrupy mix has turned into a lot of fluffy white stuff (about the consistency of Fluff), scrape it into your pan, smoothing the top, or just slamming the pan down onto the counter. Walk away for about 4 hours, maybe go see a movie, and then come back and mix your corn/potato starch and confectioners sugar in a bowl. Dust a work surface with that mix, then turn the marshmallow rectangle out onto it, and carefully peel off the foil. Dust the bottom (now top) and then cut into strips, dusting each side as you cut, and then into cubes, dusting as you go. These keep for a while.