Lag B’Omer, which begins tomorrow night, is a huge event in Israel. While the air is filled with barbecue smoke during the day on Yom HaAtzma’ut, the smoke that lingers in the air from bonfires the night of Lag B’Omer lasts a few days. (Be sure to bring in your laundry if it’s hanging outside.)
Americans like to roast weenies around a fire; Israelis roast potatoes wrapped in foil. But EVERYONE loves marshmallows. Kosher marshmallows in America aren’t easy to come by. They’re ubiquitous in Israel, but taste disgusting. It’s almost impossible to find plain, white, vanilla-flavored marshmallows here. For some reason, whoever makes them thinks that sicky pink wannabe-strawberry-flavored ones are better. For those who think marshmallows taste awful to begin with, this is no great loss. But for those of us who like to spear a fluffy, white sugar-gelatin-corn syrupy puff on the end of a stick and toast it, pull off the outer skin, eat it, and repeat, it is a crime.
Last winter, my friend Ilana Epstein decided to make her own marshmallows (to accompany her rockin’ spiced hot chocolate). She assured me it was easy, so I gave it a whirl myself. Besides the ingredients and a pot, the only fancy things one needs are a stand mixer and a candy thermometer. (I did it the first time without the candy thermometer, testing often to see at what stage the sugar syrup was, but don’t recommend it.) The following is Fine Cooking‘s recipe for marshmallows (with glosses by Ilana and me). Prep time takes about half an hour, the marshmallows stand for 2 hours, then turning out and cutting takes about 10 minutes. Pretty easy, and the results are so good, you may never go back to store-bought again.
3 (¼ oz) envelopes granulated, unflavored gelatin (1.5 packages of the bovine gelatin we get in Israel; I used 2 packages of fish gelatin yesterday with success)
2 cups sugar
1 cup corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup + 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar (plus lots more for coating and cutting)
Pour ¾ cup cold water in the mixer bowl with the gelatin and fit with the whisk attachment.
Clip a candy thermometer in a saucepan. Boil the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and ¾ cup water until it reaches the firm ball stage, about 15 minutes. (On a candy thermometer, this is 250 degrees Fahrenheit or 120 degrees Celsius. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, test by dipping a finger or spoon handle in ice water, then syrup, then ice water again; it should form a ball of chewy syrup.)
On low speed, pour the syrup into the gelatin in a slow, thin stream. Add the vanilla, then increase speed to high and beat 5 minutes, until the mixture is thick and the bottom of the bowl is just warm to the touch.
Lay a heavy coat of icing sugar on the bottom of a glass 9 x 13” pan. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan, then sift more sugar on top. Let sit until firm, about 2 hours.
Loosen edges with a knife dipped in icing sugar, then turn out onto a cutting board. Cut with a knife or a roller pizza cutter dipped in icing sugar, then roll each individual marshmallow in icing sugar. Keeps a month in a ziplock bag.