Vanilla Bean Marshmallows

For a few years when I was very young, right before we moved to and stayed in Texas, my family lived in a tiny town in Massachusetts. I don't remember a whole lot from those days, but when I went to college in Rhode Island I visited often with a family that used to live down the street from us when we lived there in the late 80s. New England, specifically Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, remains one of my favorite places on earth. After all, it is what introduced me to quite possibly my #1 flavor combination: marshmallows and peanut butter.

My mom somehow found out about this winning combination sometime before I started school, and opening my lunch box to find a Fluffernutter (marshmallow fluff and peanut butter sandwich) was like finding gold to a kindergartener. Once we moved to Texas, the kids would gawk at my funny-looking sandwich with raging jealousy. "What is THAT?" How did they not know?

I would later find out that Fluffernutters were a New England thing, but of course that's all changed now - Fluffernutters are no longer a well-kept secret among New Englanders, and the flavor combination can be found anywhere. But, naturally, I had to make my own. It only took me 23 years since my first bite of Fluffernutter to get around to it.

You will need:

3 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin  powder
1 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites or reconstituted powdered egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, pour 1/2 cup cold water and 3 1/2 packs of gelatin. Let sit while you make the sugar mixture.

In a medium pot combine sugar, remaining water, corn syrup and salt. Heat over low heat and whisk until sugar is dissolved, about 3-5 minutes. Turn heat up to medium and let sugar come to a boil. It will bubble up quite a bit - do not let it overflow. Let it boil for 8-12 minutes, until it reaches 240 degrees F (measure with a candy thermometer).

Once mixture is at 240 degrees F, turn off heat and gently pour it in the mixer over the gelatin with the mixer on low speed. Once all of the sugar has been added, turn the mixerall the way to high and beat for for 6-8 minutes. It should grow in size and be white and fluffy. About 3-4 minutes in, add the egg whites to a separate bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. with a hand mixer. Once stiff peaks are formed, add egg whites and vanilla bean paste to the sugar/gelatin mixture and beat until just combined.

Pour marshmallow mix into the 9 x 13 pan. You will not be able to get it all out of the bowl, but I found it helpful to spray a spatula with cooking spray. Dust powdered sugar on top and let sit to firm up for 3-5 hours.

Once firm, turn the pan upside down on a cutting board to release marshmallow rectangle. Cut them into pieces. I found the easiest way to do this was with a pizza cutter.

Every blog I read about making marshmallows warned of the ridiculous stickiness, the impossibility of getting the whole mixture out of the bowl, the difficulty of removing the marhsmallows from their resting pan. I experienced none of these fiascos, but you must follow these precautions:

1. When you think you've used enough powdered sugar and corn starch on the bottom of your resting pan, you haven't. Use more than you think you could possibly need, then add some more.

2. Pam cooking spray is your best friend. Spray your spaulta, spray your knife, spray your hands.

3. A stand mixer is essential. It is a work horse and it will not let you down. Turn that baby all the way up and let it go. I don't know if I can honestly suggest trying this without one.

Adapted from How Sweet Eats.

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