However, this Hallmark occasion does give me an excuse to bake cute little treats and decorate them. And so, may I present you with...... Cinnamon Heart Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows!
I have been on a home-made marshmallow kick lately. I made Eggnog Marshmallows right after Christmas. They were amazing, and a great way to use up leftover eggnog. Then I had some limes and WAY too much coconut; which I turned into Lime Pie Toasted Coconut Marshmallows. They were super delicious, and went very quickly when I brought them into work on a slow Sunday shift.
I was going through my baking supplies cupboard (yes, I have a cupboard just for baking supplies), and I came across a small bag of leftover red cinnamon hearts. They were from last year, so I didn't really think they would be that great to eat. Then again, they are sugar, flavouring and food colour so I guess they can't really spoil or go bad. Anyhow, I started thinking about what I could make with old, hard, hot cinnamon flavoured candy while holding a couple in my hand.
The recipe was part experiment, part science. So I guess technically it was a science experiment. Dissolve a solid in a liquid, then apply heat and add that hot liquid to more liquid infused with a gelling agent, then apply friction and incorporate air to turn it into a foam. Easy, right?
Making marshmallows at home is not terribly tricky, but it does require attention and timing. First, your liquid to gelatin ratios have to be correct. Too much gelatin and the marshmallows turn gummy and tough; too little and they don't firm up and you have a sort of marshmallow fluff. Second, you really need to whip that hot liquid with a stand mixer. Because it needs to spin for a good ten minutes. Give it the full ten minutes to ensure it triples in volume. And finally, be sure you have a couple of greased rubber spatulas and an off-set spatula close by. Warm marshmallow goo will stick to anything and everything if you don't apply a thin coat of either cooking spray or butter/margarine. I save the paper wrappers that blocks of butter or margarine come in and use those to grease pans, parchment paper and my utensils. I have bag of them in my fridge and just pull out a couple and have them on the counter by my work area to use as needed.
Oh, and you need a candy thermometer. Seriously, you do. The mixture can very quickly go from 235 to 240 to 250 if you're not watching closely . . and then you recipe is hooped. You want to reach 238 to 240 degree F. No higher.
Okay, on to the recipe:
Cinnamon Hearts Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows
20-30 red cinnamon hearts
1/2 cup water
3 envelopes gelatin powder (I use Knox brand)
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups granulated white sugar
3 tbsp white corn syrup
8 oz good quality melting chocolate (dark, milk or white)
pink, red and white sprinkles or decorative trimmings (optional)
Place cinnamon hearts and 1/2 cup water in a small bowl. Give it a stir. The water should start to turn colour. Let this sit for about 30 minutes, stirring every so often. You want to dissolve the hearts into the water. Strain out and discard any lumps that don't dissolve.
Place 1/2 warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let this sit for about 30 minutes so the gelatin can bloom.
Lightly grease a 9x9 inch baking pan on the bottom and sides (here is where the wrappers from the butter or margarine come in handy) Cut two pieces of parchment paper 9 inches wide by 11 inches long. Fit these into the pan so that you basically have an overlapping cross with the long ends extending up and over all four sides of the pan. Press the parchment into the greased sides to hold it in place. Lightly grease the parchment.
Place the sugar, dissolved hearts liquid and the corn syrup in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir until sugar dissolves. Clip that candy thermometer to side of the pan. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook without stirring until candy thermometer reads 240 degrees F. If needed, use a pastry brush dipped in water to brush down the sides of the pan to avoid crystallization.
Slowly pour the scalding hot syrup mixture into the bloomed gelatin mixture and whisk on low until combined. Increase speed to high and beat until thick and fluffy and mixture triples in volume. This will take about ten minutes, so be sure to give it the full amount of time. The outside of the bowl should be no longer hot and comfortable to touch.
Now you need to work quickly. Using a lightly buttered rubber spatula, scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. You are not going to be able to get absolutely everything out of the mixer bowl; it's just so sticky and it cools off too quickly once the main mass of marshmallow goo is removed. Using a buttered offset spatula, try and smooth out the top surface of the mixture, pressing it into the corners. You want to get it as even as possible to have uniform marshmallows, but trust me.....getting it completely even while not getting it to stick to everything else is nearly impossible. Set the pan aside and let it cool to room temperature; about 8 hours (or overnight).
In a heat-proof bowl, melt the chocolate. Lift the block of marshmallow out of the pan using the parchment paper. Using a serrated knife, slice the block into strips about one inch wide and then cut those into one inch pieces. You should end up with a kind of one inch rectangle; about the size of a regular store-bought marshmallow. I usually end up with 80-ish pieces (9 inches by 9 inches in the pan)
Dip each piece into the melted chocolate about half way. Gently stand each piece up on the non-dipped end on a baking sheet lined with a piece of parchment paper. If you dip the "uneven / top side", then the bottom or flatter end will stand up better. If it doesn't, just trim it with a sharp knife. Before the chocolate sets, sprinkle with decorating trimmings. I dip a few, then sprinkle; dip a few more, then sprinkle those. Carefully move the baking sheet into the refrigerator for 15 minutes to allow the chocolate to set. Here you can see my small army of finished marshmallows. So cute !
Marshmallows will keep in an airtight container for up to five days. These would be so sweet (pun intended) done up in little packages with pretty ribbon for Valentine's gifts for a child's classmates, co-workers or anyone that would appreciate home-made treats.