Winter has reared its ugly head in Southern California, showing up a full two weeks early to the seasonal exchange party. Being a native New Yorker, I use the term winter rather loosely. In New York, winter might constitute knowing that when the weatherman says "expecting 1-2 tonight" that may well indicate feet not inches of snow to come, getting up 20 minutes early every day to dig your car out and scrape the windshield with a credit card if your desperate, and knowing that its perfectly normal to dress in 4 or more layers on a daily basis. The California definition seems to vary slightly, apparently with winter meaning temperatures under 55 degrees, raining, and visible snow on the mountains far, far away.
Despite the shift in coastal perspective on what constitutes winter, seasonal habits certainly seem to be resurfacing. The cold dreary weather conjures up memories of steaming hot cocoa with floaty marshmallow bits and other ways to take the chill off. I've been thinking about making marshmallows for months, not because I have a particular affinity for them, but purely because I think they're fun. The creative combinations of flavors and colors and shapes - oh the shapes! are limitless. I foresee more marshmallow mashups coming in the near future. For now, think about warming up with one of these plump little darlings in your next cup of cocoa when the chill rolls in.
Toasted Coconut Vanilla Marshmallows
Recipe adapted from the Food Network and Ina Garten
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut, firmly packed
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean
Spread a think layer of coconut on a baking sheet and place in 325 degree oven. Toast for 12-15 minutes, or until light golden brown. Remove to cool, and set aside.
Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and allow to sit while you make the marshmallow syrup.
Combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Cook at a steady rolling boil for one minute, continuing to stir, and remove from heat.
With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the marshmallow syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Put the mixer on high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.
Sprinkle half the toasted coconut in an 8 by 12-inch nonmetal pan. Oil the sides of the pan thoroughly with nonstick spray or vegetable oil. Pour in the marshmallow batter and smooth the top of the mixture with damp hands. Allow to dry uncovered at room temperature overnight.
Remove the marshmallows by inverting the pan onto a baking sheet covered with powdered sugar. Cut marshmallows into squares and roll each carefully in confectioners sugar. Store uncovered at room temperature. Makes 25-30 marshmallows.