Thursday, 20 December 2012

Toasted Cinnamon Marshmallows


8 firemen. 2 enormous fire engines. 2 hours until twenty guests arrived. 1 embarrassed, tearstained cook.

I'd been searing the chicken pieces, mushrooms and onions in small batches for about 40 minutes. I sloshed brandy into the pan to deglaze it and multiplied the quantity by ten for my huge batch. I wasn't surprised when the pan burst into flames but I was surprised by the rather large ball of fire in front of me and the way it wasn't going out, choosing to burn into the fan hood above the hobs and lick around the cupboards. I panicked, worried that the electrics in the fan were going to catch, grabbed my electric/liquid fire extinguisher, flung the tab to the floor and pressed the button.


Hunched over, with my apron clenched to my mouth, I ran around opening windows as the house filled with a fog of white powder, reaching from the ceiling down to my waist. The smoke alarm kept ringing as the dust clouds bellowed out of the windows. My friend E, who lives across the street, let herself in and found me sitting on the gravel in the garden in tears, jabbing at my phone with a shaky finger.

Four minutes later, the flashing blue lights of two huge fire engines turned down my road, their sirens coming to a stop as the men jogged down the road in full kit. They were so lovely, insisting that they checked everything while calming me down and assuring me it was better to overreact and be careful. They found my concern for the ruined food highly amusing and joked that I should call the local Indian for takeaway.

[For reference for those in the UK, I called 101 as I'd put the fire out and wanted advice - they put me through to the fire service (and said I could have called 999 if I wanted). The fire people insisted on coming to check everything - I was very embarrassed when I realised they'd sent so many men but they were so charming and really didn't seem to mind. I was pleased that I had a fire extinguisher and blanket easily accessible on top of my kitchen counter and had installed smoke alarms in my house - it really does make a difference in an emergency, even if this was a small one.]


Thankfully the only damage was the fan hood (it turns on but makes a horrible noise), the pan and some of the food and drink I'd prepared. Luckily I hadn't set out all the food on plates - that was my next job. One of the casualties was a big tray of these marshmallows that I'd prepared so we could roast them in the fireplace. They looked so normal with their extra layer of white powder.

I still had vanilla shortbread and mince pies waiting to be baked in the fridge. I had a few nets of clementines and the remnants of the gingerbread (one tin had been knocked to the floor in the chaos - many reindeer lost their heads and limbs). The cheese (an oozing slice of unpasturised Swiss vacherin, a hunk of manchego and a lovely goat cheese) was well wrapped and the crackers and little squares of quince membrillo I'd made were safe. I still had potatoes to bake, herby salad and some burnt and peeled peppers, along with strong cheddar and some tuna from the cupboard. Sadly I completely forgot to serve the tiny slices of salted caramel and cocoa nib brownie I had stashed in the freezer (though now I get to eat them...). We had enough.


It wasn't perfect. I didn't have time to shower and change, so I spent the party in the old clothes I'd thrown on to clean that morning. The house wasn't too dirty but I hadn't had time to clean properly as we'd been frantically cleaning every single thing in the kitchen to get rid of the powder (which, miraculously, didn't seem to settle elsewhere). The food wasn't as I'd imagined it. But I was safe, as was the house. I made new batches of mulled wine and mulled cider, cracked open some champagne and relaxed. Nobody cared about the details. It was a wonderful, warm evening filled with friends I don't get to see enough - of course it was perfect, in its own memorable way.



My marshmallows always weep. I've tried different recipes, added and subtracted ingredients, but the effect is always the same. I thought I'd nailed it yesterday but low and behold, they wept overnight. You can solve it by dabbing with kitchen paper and letting the cubes dry again on a rack, but it's such a faff and I'm sure there's something I'm not doing right, even though I love the taste and texture.

I haven't included the recipe (just like the first time I made marshmallows) but I'll definitely keep trying and be back soon with a solution. I don't want you to try a recipe I'm not confident about (the archives sometimes keep me awake at night, but that's another story).


I tried steeping crushed cinnamon sticks in the water I used for the syrup. I concentrated it by boiling some of the water off before using it but I still lost the flavour once it had been made into marshmallow. In the end I settled for adding normal ground cinnamon at the end.

They toast beautifully, browning and burning on the outside and liquifying on the inside - so much so that the one above slid the whole way down the stick. They're sticky, satisfying and warm with spice - do try adding cinnamon to your favourite marshmallow recipe. Even if I can't get them just right (yet), homemade marshmallows are always joyful (a bit like parties with good friends).

(And, finally, I quickly whipped the fire guard out for the first and third photos but I usually use it - fire safety!)


A few related posts:
Pomegranate and Berry Pavlova
Almond Brandy Butter
Baked Oatmeal

38 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. They are! I love toasted marshmallows - that lovely smoky flavour with all the sugar.

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  2. Well what an eventful day my lovely. Merry Christmas and hope the New Year brings you much joy.

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    Replies
    1. It was very chaotic. Merry Christmas to you too! Hope you have a lovely holiday.

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  3. That sounds like a rather eventful day of party prep! I am always worried about something like this happening when I am by myself, especially as I can be incredibly clumsy. Glad everything worked out in the end (even if slightly different than originally planned).

    As for the weeping marshmallows - I have the same problem!! They are perfect when first made and then, after 1 or 2 days, they start weeping :-( Like you, I have always used a recipe based on egg whites ... but now that I have come across the Tart Tart's recipe for moonshine marshmallows http://www.thetarttart.com/2012/12/moonshine-marshmallows/) I am intrigued to try making marshmallows without egg whites and see whether that has any impact (intriguing though as it sounds to not use any eggs, her marshmallows looked picture perfect!).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was definitely eventful, especially as I'd already had fridge-dying drama.

      I'd thought of the non-egg-white ones, but I've heard they're not as tasty or bouncy. Though it is so annoying so I might have a go and see what I think. It's so annoying, isn't it!

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  4. Oh Emma, your poor thing! In between this and your broken freezer, it's been a battle with the elements over the last few weeks.

    Cinnamon marshmallows do sound delicious, even if the recipe doesn't quite yet meet your exacting standards - one to add to the (ever-growing) list of things to try!

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    Replies
    1. It was so chaotic. So pleased to be settling down for a quiet Christmas! Do try the cinnamon - it's particularly lovely when they're toasted and it's all warm and spicy. Merry Christmas!

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  5. Oh my goodness! What a story! I'm glad you are still in one piece.

    This is such a lovely reminder, though. I find it easy to get obsessed with the details and idealism of hosting an event. Don't get me wrong, I love those details, but sometimes you just need to pop a jar of olives, pour some wine, and call it a party.

    Happy Christmas!

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    Replies
    1. I'm glad it reminded you, too - the details are amazing but it's so easy to get wrapped up in them. At least I now have a good Christmas party story :) Merry Christmas!

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  6. My OH had a rather embarrasing fire incident as well but he only managed to get four fireman and one firewoman. Poor you. Cinnamon marshmallow yummmmmmmm. My list of to do things increases whenever I look at your site. Thanks for your inspiration.

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    1. Oh dear! Very cool to get a firewoman, I've read that there are very few of them. Homemade marshmallows are so delicious, I hope I can get you a good recipe soon. Merry Christmas!

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  7. Hi, nice blog and inspiring recipes.
    I 2anted to clear something about indians, in india people believe that food is god so they dont waste it. They utilize it to the extend they can consume it. It doesnt mean they are baggers.....
    Hope this clears the firman's joke.
    Humanity is the largest relegion and we should respect other relegion too.....
    Thanks for the lovely blog.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment - they only said that because it's the closest takeaway! But nice to know some background too. Merry Christmas!

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    2. Just read your comment again and realised that I didn't quite understand what you meant. I'm very sorry if you found the mention offensive. They suggested that I got food from the my local restaurant (which happens to be an Indian restaurant) as so much of mine was ruined and I had lots of friends coming over that I needed to feed - I probably should have written takeaway rather than specified the cuisine, but I was just reporting what they said and in no way meant anything about the cultural or religious background of the cuisine when I mentioned it. The joke was that I, someone serious about cooking who loves to make things from scratch and had been preparing for weeks, would buy the food in, rather than anything to do with the cuisine itself.

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  8. Hi...oppsss comunication gap.....
    What u call as takeaway....we call as parcel service...
    Some misunderstandings are neccessary for batter understanding.
    Meanwhile go through ur recipes, its really nice. But we are not eating eggs if u can post some eggless layer cakes.
    Merry X'mas to u and ur family.
    I am making chocolate fudge frosting cake and strawberry cake with white frosting for X'mas.
    Enjoy and keep in touch

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  9. Ohhh...forgot to mentikn anout misunderstanding, i felt they said call indians they eill take away ur burnt food. But from ur reply now i am getting that they were saying to order prepaid food.
    Sorry for the misunderstanding. No need to delet those lknes..
    Enjoy ur X'mas.

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  10. Oh dear, not the best party prep at all! I'm glad that the show managed to go on though and I'm sure all the food was wonderful (on a side note, we had to call the fire brigade in our block after the alarm went off and there was a funny smell and some smoke and although I felt very embarrassed to get them out for what wasn't anything much (someone in one of the flats had left something in the oven), the fire brigade were so nice about it and so reassuring that we had done the right thing).

    Merry Christmas Emma, I hope you have a lovely time at home : )

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  11. poiresauchocolat26 December 2012 15:18

    They are! I love toasted marshmallows - that lovely smoky flavour with all the sugar.

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  12. poiresauchocolat26 December 2012 15:18

    It was very chaotic. Merry Christmas to you too! Hope you have a lovely holiday.

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  13. poiresauchocolat26 December 2012 15:19

    It was definitely eventful, especially as I'd already had fridge-dying drama.

    I'd thought of the non-egg-white ones, but I've heard they're not as tasty or bouncy. Though it is so annoying so I might have a go and see what I think. It's so annoying, isn't it!

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  14. poiresauchocolat26 December 2012 15:19

    Thanks for your comment - they only said that because it's the closest takeaway! But nice to know some background too. Merry Christmas!

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  15. poiresauchocolat26 December 2012 15:19

    Just read your comment again and realised that I didn't quite understand what you meant. I'm very sorry if you found the mention offensive. They suggested that I got food from the my local restaurant (which happens to be an Indian restaurant) as so much of mine was ruined and I had lots of friends coming over that I needed to feed - I probably should have written takeaway rather than specified the cuisine, but I was just reporting what they said and in no way meant anything about the cultural or religious background of the cuisine when I mentioned it. The joke was that I, someone serious about cooking who loves to make things from scratch and had been preparing for weeks, would buy the food in, rather than anything to do with the cuisine itself.

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  16. poiresauchocolat26 December 2012 15:20

    It was so chaotic. So pleased to be settling down for a quiet Christmas! Do try the cinnamon - it's particularly lovely when they're toasted and it's all warm and spicy. Merry Christmas!

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  17. poiresauchocolat26 December 2012 15:20

    I'm glad it reminded you, too - the details are amazing but it's so easy to get wrapped up in them. At least I now have a good Christmas party story :) Merry Christmas!

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  18. poiresauchocolat26 December 2012 15:20

    Oh dear! Very cool to get a firewoman, I've read that there are very few of them. Homemade marshmallows are so delicious, I hope I can get you a good recipe soon. Merry Christmas!

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  19. theroamingkitchen26 December 2012 22:07

    Your post reminds me that I really should buy myself a fire extinguisher. On the other hand, no need to install a fire alarm: the (clearly culinarily-doltish) designer of the apartment decided to place the alarm basically over the stove. Even simple vegetable-roasting often results in a loud, automated woman's voice rudely announcing "FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!", as I run around like a headless chicken, fanning the alarm with a dish towel.

    Also, I too am haunted by my blog archives, vowing weekly to return to and retest all of the recipes. It's good to know I'm not the only one.

    Lastly, very jealous of your charming fireplace!

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  20. My mom used to make marshmallows on a regular basis and never (or hardly ever!) had problems with it weeping. I asked her about it (she made some recently and it did weep a little) and she said it probably was 1) because she covered it with plastic wrap; 2) there could've been more humidity than normal; and 3) it might have been slightly overcooked. We live in a fairly dry area of the Pacific Northwest (North Central Washington State). And I know she always sprinkles the top with a cornstarch/powdered sugar mixture. :-) I hope this might have helped. Glad your party wasn't a total bust! Hope you have a very Happy New Year.

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  21. Interesting - I have literally only just come across the first non-egg white recipes but had not heard anything about how they taste yet. I might give it a try just to see whether there is less weeping, but then again, if they are not as tasty, that doesn't sound like a real alternative either. Hmmm ...

    I hate kitchen dramas - so far I have managed to put a plastic kettle on the stove and turn it on (since that incident I try and get someone else to make my first cup of tea/coffee each day, for safety reasons), broke an oven simply by using the oven light to prove bread dough (still don't know how I managed that) and broke a friend's mixer through making a batch of peanut butter at home ... Ahem ...

    Hope you are enjoying some kitchen drama few days!

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  22. poiresauchocolat28 December 2012 11:54

    I asked about marshmallow tips/advice on twitter a few weeks ago and the preference for egg white ones came from that - and posts like this one on smitten kitchen - http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2009/06/springy-fluffy-marshmallows/ I am curious about them so I think I might give a recipe a go to see.


    Oh dear! I think we all have a few kitchen dramas now and then. Thankfully I don't seem to have broken my mum's kitchen over the holidays (touch wood!).

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  23. poiresauchocolat28 December 2012 11:54

    I'm so pleased we managed to clear the misunderstanding up - I felt awful. Happy New Year!

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  24. poiresauchocolat28 December 2012 11:56

    They're so nice and reassuring, aren't they - I guess they'd much rather be called out to a small problem than a big one anyway. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas too - and have a Happy New Year!

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  25. poiresauchocolat28 December 2012 11:59

    It's definitely a good idea to have one handy, especially if you cook a lot. And read the instructions so you don't have to read them in a panic ;) Your fire alarm sounds very annoying - mine only beeps very loudly.


    Maybe someday I'll manage to go back through. In some ways it's great - it shows quite how much I've learnt - but I dread to think of someone picking one of the early ones as their first recipe to try from the site.


    & thanks, I love having an open fire! There's something so comforting about it.

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  26. poiresauchocolat28 December 2012 12:02

    How sweet of you to ask her - thank you! I always leave them uncovered so I don't think that's the problem. It has been very rainy in the UK recently so maybe that didn't help with the humidity and I could have overcooked the mixture - does she mean the syrup was too hot? Happy New Year!

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  28. hi - I've been on your blog so often and love it! I've just made marshmallows for the 3rd time using a recipe that comes from here - http://shaunasever.com/2010/02/totally-perfect-vanilla-marshmallows.html - but uses 1/4 cup clear honey and 1/2 cup golden syrup in the place of light corn syrup. It's an egg free recipe and it has never wept but I did find that they are much better if you leave them for

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  29. poiresauchocolat14 January 2013 10:35

    That sounds promising, thank you! Shauna's book was one of the ones recommended. Will give it a go soon!

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