I thought a treat that was squishy (hint!) and whimsical would be a good choice - I said that analogy to Jeff and he kind of crossed his eyes like "wha...?". Ok, maybe that wasn't the best way to say it, but what I decided to make were these Chocolate-Honey Marshmallows!
These egg-less (thought not veggie-friendly, sorry! They do contain gelatin.) cocoa-dusted squares are not nearly as tough as you might think they are to make at home. I do highly suggest you only try this if you will be using a stand mixer though!
Sugar, corn syrup, honey and a bit of salt dissolve in just a half cup of water to start the syrup used to create the marshmallows. The recipe called for heating this mixture in a small 2-quart saucepan, but I went with one a bit large and was thankful I did. Just as the hot sugar came to a boil, it started to bubble up the sides of the pan and went almost to the top - if I used the smaller pan and not caught it in time, there would have been a disaster and a mess to clean up!
When the syrup hit a bubbly 250 degrees on a candy thermometer, the heat was cut off and the syrup is allowed to cool briefly back down to 220 degrees before using it. Do make sure you use a thermometer which has the temperature reader that reaches almost all the way down to the bottom of the pan. I used a classic one like this - I notice the temperature dropped past 220 within a minute or two, even though it looked like the bulb was sitting in the syrup. I knew that couldn't be right and tipped the pan towards the bulb - yep, it was still quite hot! The syrup just did not come up high enough for an accurate reading.
Once it had cooled slightly, the syrup is poured in a mixing bowl that already contained bloomed gelatin and a healthy scoop of Dutch-process cocoa powder. What is bloomed gelatin? This step of softening the gelatin granules ensures a silky smooth end result. All you need to do is sprinkle the granules over a bowl of cold water and let it sit for a few minutes. You'll notice it absorb the water, expand and become very hard. You can't use it like this just yet - the next step is to gently heat the bowl over a pot of simmering water to dissolve the gelatin. This liquefies the mixture quickly, making it very fluid and ready to use.
With the still-warm syrup added to the mixing bowl, the stand mixer does all the strenuous work by whipping lots of air into the sweet concoction. This will take several minutes - you will know when it's ready when the volume has greatly increased and sticky mixture holds a stiff peak. I do feel like I should give you a warning - when I say sticky, I mean s-t-i-c-k-y. This will stick to anything and everything it comes in contact with until it sets.
Just do your best to scoop as much of the warm marshmallow goo that you can into the well-prepared pan (don't skimp on this - follow the directions in the recipe!) and anything that stays behind, just leave it (or scoop it out with a spoon for a snack). Don't stress about cleaning - it may be sticky, but it will dissolve in a snap when the mixture comes in contact with water. One more tip - give the marshmallows plenty of time to rest before you cut and dust them. Overnight is best, but give them at least 6 hours.
These bouncy beauties have a soft, billow-y texture to them and after you place one in your mouth, you get a bit of resistance with your first chew, but the mallow quickly gives way and starts to melt on your tongue. The honey flavor is fairly faint, but using the milder Dutch-process cocoa allows its natural sweetness to come through without being too dominating. If you've never had a homemade marshmallow, you are definitely missing out - they completely blow away any pre-packaged factory-made marshmallows you would find in your market.