It seems like there are roughly two credible times of year to make the case for homemade marshmallows: Hot chocolate season (too late...or early) and s'mores season. Well, it's s'mores season, so here goes.
Like anything that's readily available at the store, there has to be some compelling reason to forgo convenience in favor of doing it yourself. (Of course, I would argue that cooking anything yourself is its own reward, but you know that already.)
When it comes to marshmallows, there is, in fact, a strong case for making them at home. 1) Quality. Like chicken stock, the version that you make at home bears no resemblance to what you can normally get at the supermarket. Homemade marshmallows are fluffy, tender, and don't taste like chemicals. They're basically a different food. 2) Customizability. You can easily make all sorts of flavors, which isn't trivial. (Most stores only sell plain marshmallows, which is like only selling vanilla ice cream.) The recipe here includes variations for chocolate, peppermint, and lemon marshmallows (which are kind of like mini lemon meringue pies), and that's just the start. 3) S'mores optimization. If you're going to turn these marshmallows into s'mores, you can cut them precisely to the size of the graham crackers if you want. Not totally necessary, but very next level (and people will notice). 4) They may make you a legend. Making your own marshmallows for s'mores or hot chocolate or whatever is a power move. People will respect and admire it. (Daniel sent me the photo below, which is his childhood bedroom filled with flavored marshmallows that his mom made for s'mores at his 30th birthday pig roast. I went. They were delicious. And people are still talking about them.)
You don't need much in the way of special equipment, either; a candy thermometer (there is some level of precision required) and electric mixer – that's basically it. You'll see that this recipe makes a lot of marshmallows. They keep for about a week, so either make them when you know you need a lot, or store the leftovers in the freezer (they actually freeze quite well).
Obviously, a picturesque campfire is the ideal piece of cooking equipment if you're making s'mores, but a gas stove also does the trick (fire is fire). If I'm making s'mores with homemade marshmallows, I'm also using good quality chocolate, but I know those are fighting words for Hershey loyalists, so I'll leave it there. Enjoy the weekend.
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Questions, comments, brilliant suggestions? Just want to share the recipe for your grandma's potato salad, or your mom's meatloaf, or your uncle Drew's three-day 100-percent rye loaf (yes, please)? Don't hesitate to reach out anytime.