Summer days as a kid at Upalong Beach were very Charlie Brown. We (a gaggle of cottage kids) would cruise around – swimming to the raft, camping out at the treehouse, playing cards or dragging driftwood up the beach for a bonfire – all without a parent in sight.
This cherished benign neglect meant that on rainy days, after long card sessions, we could settle into one of the cottage kitchens and bake. In the daytime this meant tearing open chocolate cake mixes, pudding from a package, electric-hued Jell-O or brownies. But at night, we shifted into the savoury world of pizza. One of the kitchens always had a Kraft pizza kit – you know the kind: a box with a little can of pizza sauce inside, along with a sachet of spices and another for the dough. We just had to add water, splat the shaggy dough onto a circular cookie sheet and cover it with sauce and spices. In just 20 minutes we had a ‘homemade’ midnight snack.
These days I’m the adult, but rainy afternoons in our cottage kitchen still seem playful and childlike. Kraft pizza kits may have been replaced with homemade dough, and cakes are made from scratch. But the ‘it doesn’t really matter how it turns out’ summer feeling still floats in the air. When you’re not rushed, when the rain is coming down, when the beach isn’t waiting for you, it’s the process that’s the fun part.
Afternoons like these are perfect for making marshmallows. They require at least four hours of resting time, which means they’ll be ready when the rain stops and the bonfire is ready. These fluffy cubes, cut with an icing-sugar coated knife, are far removed from the squishy, saccharine store-bought versions. And when they’re toasted… it’s a whole other level of bonfire deliciousness.
Marshmallows are open to creative licence. I like to stud them with Celebration cookies. We always have them on hand at the cottage; their layer of chocolate already built into the biscuit makes s’mores a breeze. But they’re even better when broken up and stirred through marshmallows – it’s a ready-made s’more in one sweet, squishy bite. The cookie bits get crunchy and charred in the fire and the chocolate melts over everything. Try experimenting with broken toffee, shards of dark chocolate, or even a big spoonful of nut butter, stirred in at the end. Just play. It’s summer at the beach, after all, and parents are nowhere to be seen.
There are many versions of homemade marshmallow recipes out there, some with egg whites and some without. I like this recipe, made with just gelatine, sugar and corn syrup, more or less, and lots and lots of air.
- 3 sachets of unflavoured gelatine
- 1 cup of water, divided
- 1 ½ cups of sugar
- 1 cup corn syrup (I use white)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 6 chocolate covered cookies, like Celebration cookies, broken into small pieces
- vegetable oil for greasing the pan
- ½ cup icing sugar
- Grease an 8 x 11 pan with oil and set aside.
2. Pour ½ cup of the water into the bowl of a mixer and stir in gelatine. Let it sit while you make the sugar syrup.
3. In a saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, mix together sugar, corn syrup and remaining ½ cup of water. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then leave mixture to bubble away, stirring occasionally, until the temperature on the candy thermometer reaches 240°F.
4. Turn the mixer, with the gelatine mixture still in the bowl, to medium speed. Carefully pour the hot syrup down the side of the bowl, with mixer running, making sure not to pour syrup directly over the beaters. Turn the speed to high and leave mixture to whisk away until the outside of the bowl is cool to the touch. This can take about 15 minutes. Beat in vanilla.
5. Spoon marshmallow into prepared pan and sprinkle broken cookie bits over top, prodding them into the marshmallow with the end of a wooden spoon.
6. Leave the marshmallow to set, at room temperature and uncovered, for at least 4 hours, but overnight is best.
7. When ready to slice, place about ½ cup of icing sugar in a bowl. Coat your knife with icing sugar to keep it from sticking. Slice into cubes and place them in the bowl of icing sugar, tossing to coat. The size and shape of the marshmallows will depend – are you toasting them in a bonfire, floating them in hot chocolate, or eating them straight from the bowl? It’s entirely up to you.