For those us who grew up eating marshmallows out of a plastic bag, those oddly white confections that seemed to taste of nothing but chemicals and stale air, the hand-crafted version is a revelation. Thus marshmallow lovers in this town beat a track to the Little Flower Candy Company in Pasadena, where candymaker Christine Moore makes some of the best of them. Right now she's selling chocolate, coffee and cinnamon-sugar marshmallows, along with the traditional vanilla. During the holidays, Moore is prone to color them and flavor them with mint, which is particularly good when confronted with a large cup of hot chocolate.
Moore's homey shop is also a terrific place to get pastries and cappuccino, sandwiches and soups, and to pick up some of her alarmingly addictive sea salt caramels. Moore also collects interesting candies and sells cookbooks by local authors; it's the kind of place where you can sit and read the paper for a few hours, or come away with a backseat full of treats.
If, however, you can't get over to Moore's Pasadena shop, you might try your hand at making marshmallows at home. They're not nearly as difficult as you might think, as long as you have a KitchenAid with a whisk attachment and some patience (only because they set up overnight; not because you have to do anything very complicated). Moore cuts her trays of marshmallows into simple squares, but you can also use cookie cutters (just be sure to coat them liberally with powdered sugar first) and cut out stars, hearts, whatever.
Makes: 1 baking sheet of marshmallows, cut as desired. If you want to flavor these, substitute a different flavoring for the vanilla, or add coloring.
1 cup water
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Powdered sugar for dusting and coating
1. Place one-half cup of the water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or, if using a hand mixer, in a large bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and set aside.
2. In a medium, heavy-bottom pan, add the remaining one-half cup water and stir in the sugar and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook the mixture, swirling the pan occasionally, until the syrup reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Meanwhile, butter a 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet. Line the sheet with parchment and butter the parchment too.
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3. Whisk the gelatin mixture on low speed and add the 240-degree syrup down the side of the bowl in a steady, slow stream. Gradually raise the speed to high and whisk until the mixture is fluffy and glossy and has tripled in volume, about 12 minutes. Add the salt and vanilla and whisk until thoroughly combined.
4. Using a lightly greased spatula, immediately spread the mixture out onto the baking sheet, smoothing it so an even layer completely covers the pan. Let stand, uncovered, at least 4 hours and preferably overnight to set.
5. When the marshmallows have set, dust the top with a light coat of powdered sugar. Cut with a knife coated in powdered sugar, or coat small cookie cutters with powdered sugar and cut out as many as you can from the sheet. Dust the marshmallows with a little more sugar so that they don't stick together. Store in a sealed container for up to one week.
Little Flower Candy Company: 1424 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; (626) 304-4800.