Plump and pillowy, the modern marshmallow owes its name to a swamp plant commonly known as—no surprises here—the marshmallow. Althaea officinalis is first recorded as growing in Europe and West Asia. The Smithsonian museum’s official magazine reports that the Greek physician Dioscorides recommended using marshmallow extracts to treat wounds and inflammation. “During the Renaissance, extracts from the plant’s roots and leaves were used for medicinal purposes, namely as an anti-inflammatory and soothing agent for sore throats.”
How did marshmallow move from being a medicine to a sweet, fluffy treat? In 19th-century France, the juices of the marshmallow plant were beaten into a foam with eggs and sugar before being made into mildly medicinal sweets. As they became increasingly popular, the medical connection was forgotten. People ate marshmallows simply for pleasure; the plant extract was replaced with gelatine, which was more widely available and easier for confectioners to work with.
Even so, making marshmallows required patience and delicacy. Although mass production was well under way at the beginning of the 20th century, it wasn’t until the 1950s that an American candy manufacturer found a way to force marshmallow mix through long tubes, blasting it with gas and extruding the result as a long single piece to be cut into smaller cubes. The technique delivered the springy consistency we associate with such commercially produced marshmallows.
By contrast, handmade marshmallows—like the ones increasingly seen on petits fours plates at ambitious restaurants—have a delicate, more ethereal texture. Yolaine Corbin’s raspberry marshmallows are as vividly flavoured as they are coloured, a deliciously adult and sophisticated take on a childhood favourite.
- For the raspberry puree, place the frozen raspberries in the bowl and blitz 10 seconds/speed 6. Cook for 7 minutes/100 degrees/speed 1, scraping the sides of the bowl half way through the cooking. Strain the puree through a sieve, discarding the pips.
- Soak gelatine sheets (if using) in cold water for 5 minutes until soft.
- In the meantime, combine 300 grams raspberry puree with 175 grams sugar in the bowl.
- For TM5: cook for 8 to 10 minutes/110 degrees/speed 2. The temperature must reach 105 degrees, as soon as it does, stop the cooking process. If it hasn’t reached it at the end of the cooking time, prolong until it does. For TM31: cook for 5 minutes/100 degrees/speed 2—then for 1 minute/Varoma/speed 2 with no MC on.
- Squeeze the gelatine sheets out of the water. Add the remaining 75 grams of puree, 150 grams of sugar and gelatine and stir 2 minutes/speed 2 no MC until dissolved.
- Insert Butterfly and whip 15 minutes/Butterfly/speed 3 no MC. Then a further 5 minutes/Butterfly/speed 4 with simmering basket instead of MC.
- Rest for 15 minutes, and give a final whip for 3 minutes/Butterfly/speed 4 no MC. The mixture should be light, pale, fluffy and aerated and have come down close to room temperature.
- Pour into a tray lined with baking paper, spread to desired even thickness and decorate if desired (dried rose petals, dried frozen raspberry powder…). Leave to set for at least 4 hours (not in the fridge, which will make the marshmallow “sweat” and become wet and sticky).
- Once cold and set, cut to preferred-size pieces. The marshmallows can then be lightly coated in a cornflour mixture (half cornflour, half icing sugar) or cocoa powder, or simply left natural.
AND … If using gelatine powder, we recommend weighing it on separate digital kitchen scales, as the Thermomix may not be accurate enough to register the exact weight. You may wonder what the difference is between using gelatine sheets as opposed to gelatine powder. The answer is that they both work. Although powdered gelatine is a lot easier to source and use (no soaking needed), Yolaine personally finds the result using gelatine sheets is nicer, more stable and has a better shelf life. “At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference so use whatever you feel most comfortable with,” she says.