This afternoon was happily occupied with a delightful potluck in Northern California hosted by well known food maven and friend Peg Poswall and her husband John whose collection of friends is always eclectic and entertaining. Photographers, wine importers, lawyers, and non-profit grant writers all gather together between the citrus garden and rose garden under a blossom heavy awning overlooking acres of cattle grazing land and natural landscapes.
We were all to bring a dish and a bottle, and when you're cooking for other people who know good food it raises the stakes on your humble potluck dish. As I had been hankering to make marshmallows the last few days I decided this was the perfect time to whip up these puffy little bricks of sweetness. Shockingly easy to make, though difficult to move from bowl to pan as the fluff is easily strung into a sticky spider web of sugar, homemade marshmallows have a wow factor that endears you to people as a talented pastry chef (it'll be our little lie, as white as the marshmallows).
As we toasted our wine and toured the various gardens we worked up an appetite for a little bit of sugar. The real surprise in these marshmallows, a blank canvas for flavor, is the flavor from the sakura, or cherry blossom, extract.
After being inspired by Aran's cherry blossom doughnuts I went on a crazy hunt to find some of the now fabled sakura extract myself. My search was in vain though, it simply cannot be found in the States just yet. Maybe in a few years.
Luckily, Aran's hookup, Chika of She Who Eats, a Japanese food blog, heard my plight and sent me some right away. (I will never cease to be amazed by the kindness of food bloggers and the food community in general as a few days later on my doorstep was a carefully bundled package wrapped in Japanese newspaper.)
The marshmallows were then dredged in a bit of powdered sugar and dusted with an extra little gift Chika sent: powdered pickled cherry blossoms. Floral and salty they offered visual and flavorful counterpoints to the sugar. The marshmallows offered a quaint rosiness that complimented the sunny garden we dined in.
These cherry blossom marshmallows were a well received, flower-scented candy leaving poofs of powdered sugar on happy smiles and dotting our clothes. We brushed off the dust on the sides of our jeans, took another swig of wine, and armed with sugar soon went down to gather colorful eggs from the many resident hens. A simple highlight to a wonderful day.
Cherry Blossom Marshmallows
Adapted from Joy of Baking
1 cup cold water
3 - 1/4 ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons of cherry blossom extract
extra powdered sugar for coating
dried cherry blossom flakes (optional)
1. Lightly grease a pan a 13x9x2 inch pan and then line the bottom with parchment paper. Take a few tablespoons of powdered sugar and soft across the bottom and sides of the pan.
2. Place 1/2 cup of water and the gelatin in the bowl of your electric mixer and let set for 15 minutes.
3. Place sugar, 1/2 cup of water, salt, and corn syrup in a 2 or 3 quart saucepan and set to high heat and let it come to a boil. Bring to 245 degrees without stirring, this will take about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. With the balloon whisk attachment turn the mixer on to low and slowly pour in the sugar mixture letting it fall down the side into the gelatin (this is to prevent the hot sugar from flinging out). Gradually increase the speed to high and beat until mixture has tripled in volume and is very thick and stiff, about 10 minutes. Add the extract and beat to combine, about 30 seconds longer.
5. Transfer to the pan. This will be a nightmare as it is sticky as hell. You will get it everywhere. Accept it. Once the bulk is in the prepared ban use a slightly damp offset rubber spatula to smooth and spread out the fluff.
6. Dust the top with some more sifted powdered sugar. Allow to set for 12 hours.
7. Remove the marshmallows and cut them up (scissors are great for this) and dredge each piece in more powdered sugar and the dried cherry blossoms if using. Serve.