Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Guinness Marshmallows and the Birth of an Experiment

You know, I named this post "Birth of an Experiment", but I think I like "Gateway Drug" better. You see, that's exactly what this marshmallow recipe is. It's not like it's the first recipe I've tried, believe me, I've tried a few. There was an uber fluffy (one could say too fluffy) pink beauty made from dried Hibiscus flowers. I didn't post about that one because it had a very odd mouth-feel and while it acquired a nice natural pink blush, the taste was lacking. There was an egg-white based one that I learned in pastry boot camp, but for some reason I'm not a huge fan of that one either. Something about using eggs that weirds me out. Then there were a series of variations on Martha's recipe that used jam as the main flavoring agent, and this has been my staple recipe for the past 5 years. But now I have a new love. One that has opened up a world of flavor possibilities, and while my first attempt fell just shy of my rather high expectations, I think this recipe and I will be great friends.

Guinness Mallows in Choc

The recipe comes from the kitchn newsletter that I subscribe to and it caught my attention almost right away. The subject was Beer Marshmallows, and doesn't that just sound genius? I had a few bottles of Guinness extra stout sitting in my fridge, so I popped one open and left it on the counter to de-fizz. Once the fluffy mess was whipped up and cut, I thought I'd try a few different presentations, so I dunked a third in chocolate and sprinkled with pretzels, just as the recipe instructed, rolled a few in pretzels skipping the chocolate, and left a few plain, just dunking them in a bit of powdered sugar to de-stickyfy them. While I really liked the chocolate covered ones (I mean it's chocolate, what's not to love), I think the flavor was still a little too faint and it only really came across in the pretzel and plain variations.

But think of the possibilities! Next up, I'm thinking of a wine reduction infused marshmallows in dark chocolate. I'll keep you posted :D

Guinness Mallows

Guinness Marshmallows
Adapted from The Kitchn
Makes about 3 dozen marshmallows, the first few will be neat but you'll be tempted make giant marshmallow blocks by the end, so your results may differ.

For the Bloom:
3 tablespoons (1 ounce or 4 packets) unflavored gelatin
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup (5 ounces) flat Guinness Stout

For the Sugar Syrup:
1 cup (8 ounces) flat Guinness Stout (basically, dump whatever is left in the bottle....unless you've been drinking it, in which case... Come on! It's flat beer!)
1.25 cup (10 ounces) corn syrup or sugar cane syrup
1.5 cup (12 ounces) granulated sugar
pinch salt

Powdered sugar for coating and a bit of vegetable oil for coating the pan

To flatten the beer, open the bottle and let it sit overnight. If you're in a rush, pour it into a bowl and stir the beer with a whisk to release as much of the carbon dioxide as possible. Do not, and I repeat, do NOT attempt to whirr the beer in a blender to de-fizz it. Beer will foam up and leak out everywhere. I won't tell you how I know, but trust me on this one.

Line a 8x8 or 9x9 square cake pan with parchment paper and brush it lightly with vegetable oil. You can try and tape the flaps to the outside of the pan so the paper stays in place when you spoon in the marshmallow or just crease it and fold it over (for some reason I couldn't get the tape to stick to the parchment for very long).

For the bloom, sprinkle the gelatin in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix the vanilla and flattened beer, and pour this over the gelatin. Whisk or stir until no lumps remain. Set the bowl back into your mixer and fit the mixer with a whisk attachment.

For the sugar syrup, dump the beer into a 6-quart saucepan or larger. I used my large dutch oven, the biggest pot I own, plus I think it's heat retention helps you achieve the high temperatures necessary. Simmer the beer until it's reduced by half, then add in the corn syrup, sugar, and salt. Clip a candy thermometer to the side, or stick your probe thermometer in there. Turn the heat to high and bring the sugar mixture to a boil. As the syrup heats, it will foam up to nearly fill the pan. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't boil over. When the mixture is between 225° and 230°, let it bubble for another 5 minutes and then remove it from heat. You want the syrup to reach somewhere between 240° - 250°. If you're having a hard time getting a read but think you're almost there, turn off the heat, stir down the bubbles really quick and take a read. You'll lose a degree or two, but you'll know for sure where you're at.

With the mixer on low speed, carefully pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin bloom. (This was where using my dutch oven became not such a great idea...that sucker is heavy! So if you used yours, you might need to solicit help.) Slowly turn the mixer to high once all the syrup has been added and let it whip for 8-10 minutes, until it looks like glossy meringue and is very thick. Pour the marshmallow into the loaf pan and let it cure, uncovered, for 10-12 hours or overnight.

When the marshmallows are cured, rub the top with a little powdered sugar and turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board. Rub the top with more powdered sugar. Cut into 18-22 squares of equal size. Marshmallows will keep in a covered container for several weeks.

The original recipe had you dip the 'mellows in chocolate and top them with pretzels, and I tried a few that way, but the chocolate completely overpowers the beer flavor. I tried just pretzels too and that was a bit better, but plain marshmallows were the best. So learn from me and skip the extra work :D

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Homemade Greek Yogurt

Bwahahahahahahaha! Look at this, look at what I have created! Okay, fine, it's not evil, but it is delicious. I know it doesn't look very impressive here, but what if I told you that it used to be milk? I made homemade Greek yogurt and it can be yours too for a mere fraction of the cost that those tiny little tubs run for at your local grocery store.

I ran into an article at NY Times about this a while back and I finally worked up the nerve to try it myself. You can use any milk you like (obviously whole milk will produce a richer and tastier yogurt), but it's always been frustrating to me that Greek yogurt can only be bought in full fat or completely fat free (and weird tasting) versions. So I picked up 1% milk and a tiny tub of full fat greek yogurt to use as a "starter". It takes very little work, a bit of patience, a cheese cloth and some fridge space. I portioned the thickened deliciousness into a bunch of small jam jars, topped half of them with a spoonful of my raspberry jam and after a glamor shot or two tucked into the first one. Yum!


To make your own, pick out the milk you'd like to start with. Local, organic, or raw would no doubt give you amazing results, but even regular store bought stuff will work here. You can use as much, or as little as you like, but half the point is the value of doing this yourself, so start with a half gallon of milk, at least.

Heat the fresh milk at 180F to 190F degrees, or to the point that it’s steaming and beginning to form bubbles. I used my thermometer, watched the pot closely, and took it off heat exactly at 183F. The heat alters the milk’s whey proteins and helps create a finer, denser consistency. Don't overheat the milk or you'll start to alter the taste or it could boil up and run away.

Let the milk cool to around 115F to 120F degrees, somewhere between very warm and hot. For each quart of milk, stir in two tablespoons of yogurt, either store-bought or from your last batch, thinning it first with a little of the milk. So for your half gallon, a quarter cup of yogurt should do it.

They say to put the milk in a warm jar or container or an insulated bottle, cover it, and keep the milk still and warm until it sets, usually in about four hours. I don't like getting extra containers dirty, so I tightly wrapped the pot with three kitchen towels, stuffed it into the microwave and left it to "cure" overnight.

Yogurt Draining

In the morning, the yogurt was nice and set, so I lined a colander with several layers of cheesecloth, set it over a pan to catch the whey, and dumped the yogurt in to drain while I was at work. You can see the whey and its lactic acid drain out in the picture above.

After several hours, scoop the thickened stuff into clean containers of your choice and enjoy. So far I've just been eating it straight, but I think it would be lovely in lots of recipes too.