The Girl Scout Handbook of 1927 may have introduced campers to the first printed recipe for S'mores (reputedly named after the refrain "gimme some more" frequently heard around campfires), but the ancient Egyptians were actually the first to make these treats. Originally, these pillow-like confections were made from the root of the plant that bears the same name: the mallow plant (Athaea officinalis), also known as marshmallow because it thrives in marshes. By the late 1800s, however, candymakers prefered whipping modified cornstarch and gelatin over sap from mallow root to save time and to achieve a more stable form. Today, an estimated 90 million pounds of the fluffy stuff are consumed each year in the U.S., no doubt many of them from a stick toasted on a blazing campfire.
In the world of DIY marshmallow-making, the method calls for bringing two components together -- a base of simple syrup and a "bloom" of gelatin and water, so-called because it makes the combined parts foam up when introduced. This recipe uses light corn syrup, but you can use honey light (amber) agave instead. Similarly, Vegan Jel is a gelatin alternative available online and from many natural food stores. Use 1 1/2 teaspoons to replace each teaspoon of gelatin in recipes.
Bloom 4 tablespoons unflavored gelatin 1¼ cups puréed blackberry fruit
Base ½ cup water 2/3 cup puréed blackberry fruit 1¼ cup light corn syrup 2 cups organic turbinado sugar
Coating 2 tablespoons organic cornstarch 1/3 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar
In a small bowl, stir the gelatin and fruit purée together to combine. Set aside.
Place the base ingredients in a large sauce pan and heat to a temperature of 250' F over medium-high heat, which will take about 8 to 10 minutes. Don't be tempted to rush things by turning up the heat!
Remove the pan from the heat and immediately stir in the bloom mixture. The mixture will froth up at this point -- just keep stirring until both parts are well mixed.
This next step is just like making homemade whipped cream. Using a hand-held electric mixer, beat the combined mixture on low speed with the whisk attachment. After a minute or two, slowly increase the speed to medium-high. In about 10 minutes, you'll be able to form stiff peaks. Pour the mixture into a greased 9 x 13 pan (or line with parchment paper).
At this point, the marshmallow mixture will be sticky to the touch, but left out to "cure" on the counter, uncovered, for 8 hours or overnight, will produce a firm but still gooey treat.
In the morning, combine the coating mixture in a small bowl. Dust some of the coating mixture on a clean cutting board and turn out the marshmallow from the pan. Using a sharp knife (or pizza cutter), cut the slab into long strips from top to bottom, then cut these into 2" squares. Lightly roll each piece in the coating mixture. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.
Important Note: Do not refrigerate while curing or storing homemade marshmallow because the condensation will cause the mix to become mushy.