Puff the Magic Mallow Transcript

Whole Foods, Atlanta, GA

    Our food culture is full of delicacies that, for one reason or another, have fallen from the apex of gourmet delicacy to the nadir of poly-bad pablum. Well, take for instance, marshmallows. You know, it’s hard to believe that these factory-formed, glute-y gobs, destined for flaming twigs, were originally hand-made masterworks formed one at a time in the finest confectionery shops of Paris. Those marshmallows or pâte de guimauve, I believe, possessed subtle flavors, beautiful textures, and heady perfumes. But, nope. No more. Nope. Years of mediocrity have deadened our palates and hardened our hearts to this magnificent manifestation. [sarcastically] Fine with you? Okay, no problem. [walks off]
    [walks back] Well it’s NOT alright with me, okay? It’s time for all true marshmallow lovers to rise up and take back the candy that, perhaps more than any other, qualifies as ...

[“Good Eats” theme plays]

The Marsh

GUEST: Deb Duchon, Nutritional Anthropologist

    [paddling a canoe] You know, we’ve become so separated from our traditional food ways that folks don’t even remember that once upon a time, marshmallows grew on bushes. Ahh, let’s see. [looks at a plant] No. [looks at another] Ahh. [laughs to himself, picks a marshmallow off of a "marshmallow" bush and tastes] You know, there’s nothing quite like a warm freshly picked marshmallow.
    Okay, marshmallows don’t actually grow on bushes, okay? But, if it weren’t for a plant called the “marsh mallow”, we would never have any marshmallows. In fact, I’m here in this swamp ...

DEB DUCHON: [appears in the other end of the boat] It’s a marsh, not a swamp.
AB: Why can’t you wait for your cue, “Nutritional Anthropologist”? It’s easy.
DD: Because you take too long getting to it. Now get paddling! I saw some Althaea officinalis right over there.
AB: Alright. Keep your pants on. [paddling] You could do this too, you know.
DD: [sets up a gas-powered hot plate and starts it up, indicates a bush] Behold, the marsh mallow.
AB: Wow, it looks ... It looks so ... uh ... dead.
DD: Well, that means there’s probably plenty of mucilage in the roots. [reaches]
AB: Hey, wha ...
DD: As you know, Platina, in his classic 15th century cooking treatise ...
AB: [cheating off notes on his palm] You mean, of course, “De Honesta Voluptate et Valetudine
DD: ... “On Right Pleasure and Good Health” ...
AB: That’s what I said.
DD: ... devotes an entire chapter to mallow and its usual applications, most of which were medicinal.

    You have to remember that back in those days mallow root extract was used to treat everything from sore throats to urinary tract infections.

DD: But to make this one into candy, we’re going to have to boil it, strain it, boil it again with sugar, and whip it.

    [sarcastically] Well, that sounds like fun. Of course, the reason for all that is that the mucilage, the sap inside the roots, is packed full of proteins and polysaccharides which will provide stability to the marshmallow candy. Luckily, there are other ways to skin that chemical cat.

The Kitchen

    [at the pantry] A processed extract of the Acacia tree, called “gum arabic”, has been used to stabilize commercial marshmallows for close to a hundred years. But what normal kitchen is going to have gum arabic? Luckily, gelatin—which is a protein derived from connective tissue inside animals—it can do the job and it’s a lot easier to find.

    [at the counter] Now gelatin is handy stuff, to be sure. But it does not like to dissolve in hot liquid unless it is soaked in cold liquid first. We call that “blooming”. So, I have here three envelopes worth, and that’s a total of three quarters of an ounce. And we’ll simply pour over half a cup of cold water. And we’ll let that sit and kind of percolate for a few minutes. Oh, and make sure you’ve got your whisk attachment on your mixer. We’re going to need that. 3 Packages Unflavored
½ Cup Ice Cold Water
    Now as to syrup construction, here’s how it goes. Another half cup of water goes into a small saucepan along with a cup and a half of sugar. It’s about 12 ounces by weight, one cup of corn syrup. I like to use a plunger [measuring cup] for that. It’s sticky stuff. And a quarter teaspoon of kosher salt. Put that to medium-high heat and cover for three to four minutes or just until the sugar really starts to dissolve. Now, what’s going on in here? [laughs] ½ Cup Ice Cold Water
1½ Cups Sugar
1 Cup Light Corn Syrup
¼ tsp. Kosher Salt
    [at the kitchen blackboard] Okay. Candy making, with the possible exception of chocolate work, is all about controlling the concentration of sugar syrups. It doesn’t matter if you’re making nougats, or lollipops, taffy, toffee, fudge, caramel sauce, or marshmallows. It’s all about how much sugar is in that solution.
    Now, centuries of experimentation have rendered a semi-reliable guide, called the Ball System, based on the fact that syrups of different concentrations act differently when dropped into cold water. Some form threads. A little more concentrated, they make different kinds of balls. And then finally, you’ve got your crack stages. Kind of tough to interpret.


HARD BALL NOUGET [sic, "Nougat"]


    [moving to the opposite side of the blackboard] Luckily, we don’t have to because someone figured it all out in plain, good old-fashioned Fahrenheit. Now you can see that at 240° our marshmallows, that’s the same as fudge, and that’s, uh, I don’t know, what is that, uh, [camera pans to the first side of the blackboard] Soft Ball Stage, I think. Right. I don’t have to think about it, though, because I’ve got a thermometer.

Candy Temps


230° - 235°

FUDGE 235° - 240°

CARAMELS 245° - 250°

NOUGAT 250° - 265°

TAFFY 270° - 290°

BUTTERSCOTCH 300° - 310°

    [at the stovetop] Now at sea level, water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. But as the water boils out of a solution and that solution becomes more concentrated, the boiling point goes up. So all we have to do is boil this until enough water leaves the pan for the remaining solution to hit 240 degrees. Now that’s a snap, as long as you’re in possession of a candy thermometer like this. Now by my calculations, well, I think we’re talking seven to eight minutes here.
    [later] Alright, 230. We’ve still got 10 degrees to go. That gives us just enough time to consider one of the unsung heroes of this bubbly elixir.
    [back at the pantry] Corn syrup is the candy makers friend because it can prevent regular sugar—that is, sucrose molecules—from growing together and forming big, crunchy crystals, which is what they want to do, especially in a pot that is slowly having all of its water cooked out of it. Now corn syrup prevents this because it’s not sucrose and can’t grow crystals with it, even though it’s made from the same stuff as sugar. How is that? Well, it all starts with corn.

Corn is planted on about 75 million US acres annually.
Over half of the crop ends up as livestock feed.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Taste Bud

    [AB points to some ears of] Corn. Of course, the problem is is no matter how delicious it is, sweet corn really isn’t that sweet, because it doesn’t really contain that much sugar. What it contains is a lot of starch. [shows a model of a polysaccharide chain, using batteries as sugar units] Now if you’re a fan of this show, you’ll recognize that a starch molecule is just a long chain of single sugars, called glucoses, which are made up of, well, AA batteries in this case. So, if a starch is 100% sugar—which it essentially is—then it ought to taste sweet, right? To find out, let’s consult the human tongue and one of its thousands upon thousands of taste buds. [using a large model of a taste bud]

TASTE BUD: Hi, hi, hi, hi, hi.
AB: Give this a try, Sir.
TB: Okay, okay. Let me see. [taste bud “chews” on the model of starch] Yech! Tastes like library paste. You want me to eat that stuff again?
AB: [laughs] Charming.

    He’s right, though. The human tongue simply cannot recognize a molecule of this shape and size. However, if we were to conjure up a little culinary magic, say, a little acid, and perhaps a bit of heat, we might be able to change this molecule ... Starch

FAIRY: [descends, waves her wand, breaks apart the starch into pieces of glucose, and reassends]

    See, science is fun! Now we’ve broken up this big starch into small little glucoses. Glucose

AB: Give that a try, huh.
TB: Sweeter, yeah. But sweet, no.

    Well, that’s true. Glucose isn’t typically sensed as being that sweet. But you know what? If we were to conjure up the culinary magic yet one more time, this time, in the form of enzymes ...

F: [reappears, waves her wand, then disappears again]

TB: That has got to be the lamest scientific metaphor I’ve ever tasted.
AB: Hey, you want to spring for a scale model of an enzyme, hmm?
TB: [shakes its “head”]
AB: Yeah, I didn’t think so.

    The important thing is, is that by changing some of the glucose into a much sweeter fructose, and by dissolving the whole thing into a solution, you produce high-fructose corn syrup; which can be sweet, if not sweeter than sucrose. Which, by the way, is made up of equal portions of glucose and fructose.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

AB: [feeds some to TB] How is it?
TB: Oh, baby, now that’s sweet. But I gotta tell ‘ya, that flying monkey stuff? LAME!
F: [reappears, casts a spell on TB]
TB: [now now has a hairy cat doll in its “mouth”]
F: What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?
AB: Nice touch. I like that.

    Well, eight minutes have gone by, and sure enough, we are at 240 degrees. Kill the heat; thermometer out, and I’m going to grab a little heat protection. I will take this straight over to the mixer. Obviously, this is a lot like, kind of culinary napalm, so you want to be very careful.
    [looking into the work bowl of the standing mixer] Oooh, take a look here. We can see that our gelatin has thoroughly bloomed. We’re in good shape there. Snap that [mixing arm] into place, turn the mixer to “stir”, and we’re going to pour the syrup. I’m aiming for the side of the bowl, not the beaters, very slowly down the side of the bowl. Respect the syrup!
    [after the addition] Now the name of the game here is air. We want to get as much air into this as possible. So once the syrup is safely in, crank up the speed to “high”. Now it’s going to take a minimum of 13 minutes to blow as many bubbles as we want into this syrup. In fact, 13 minutes will render a relatively soft marshmallow. I like mine a little stiffer. So I’m going to go with 15 minutes at “high”. Either way, your patience will be rewarded.

    [later] Of course, when your mixture is one minute from done, add one teaspoon of vanilla extract. There.  tsp. Vanilla Extract

    Needless to say, air-whipped sugar syrup is pretty sticky stuff, so proper pan prep is critical. Now I like to use a metal 9 by 13 pan because glass pans tend to be more rounded in the corners and I want a nice, sharp shape. So we’ll hit that with some no-stick spray. But unfortunately, that is not enough. I have here a quarter cup each confectioner’s sugar and cornstarch and we’re going to need that a couple of times in this process. I’m just going to dust some of that in, cover with aluminum foil, and shake to coat. Perfect. ¼ Cup Confectioner's Sugar +
¼ Cup Cornstarch

    [back at the mixer] And we are done. What was once just kind of a flat little puddle of goo is now a big, fluffy, white ball of goodness. Of course, the reason is air. This is pretty much like, well, making a meringue, only the candy version. Now I don’t want to waste any of this, but by the same token, I know that I’m not going to get it all out of here. It’s just too gosh darn sticky. It would help if I used a spatula that was properly lubed. [sprays it with no-stick spay, some of which falls to the floor] I’m going to fall on that spot. I just know it.
    Now, I’m just going to get that out into our pan as quickly as possible. And it is a real mess, because it is so sticky. If you get it on you, odds are you will never get it off. You can see it’s already starting to set the second that agitation stops. There. Now just smooth it out best you can. We’re not looking for it to be very attractive. Kind of push it into the corners. You can see it’s already sticking to the spatula and moving around like one big sheet of gooeyness. There. This part [indicates some marshmallow on the spatula], well, I’m sorry, you’re just going to have to lick that off at some later date.
    Now, sprinkle whatever remaining confectioner’s sugar and cornstarch you have. Actually, you don’t want to use all of it. We’ll need a little bit more when we turn these out. Now, allow this to cool to room temperature and then just recover with the aluminum foil we used on the pan earlier. At least four hours must pass before you dive in to these. Overnight would be better. But if you’re anything like me, you’re not going to be able to wait.

In Ghostbusters, the Stay-Puft marshmallow man was
112 feet 6 inches tall before the beams were crossed.

The Kitchen

    Well, it’s been three hours and [mumbles] minutes, and we’re ready to de-pan our marshmallows. So, if we played our cards right, these should flip right out. So, a little bit more dusting on the bottom [which is now facing up] and we will cut. Not with a knife, but with my favorite pizza cutter. We’re going to work in strips about an inch wide. Whatever you do, don’t worry about getting these perfect. Perfect is for factories. You want that Old World hand-cut look. There. Now line them back up again. A sure sign of hand-cut marshmallows, the square. We’ve still got some pretty sticky edges on them, so what I’m going to do, dust on a little bit more sugar and cornstarch and then just kind of break them up and toss them around on the board.
    Now is a good time to contemplate storage. Although tins would be traditional, I like gallon-size zip-top bags. Kept in a pantry, you can probably store these for two, maybe three weeks. I know, not as long as you might keep factory-made marshmallows. But trust me, what they don’t have in longevity, they make up for in flavor. Now just look at that, would you? Beautiful sight.
    [now at the table] Of course, homemade marshmallows can also be used as ingredients in rusty old classics, like The Puffed Rice Treat. Brings it to whole new heights, believe me. Or you could cut your marshmallows into small cubes and float those on top of Good Eats patented cocoa. [tastes] Mmmm, après ski.
    Of course, if you really want to commit to the mini-marshmallow format, you might want to take advantage of extrusion. Just load up your marshmallow mix in a piping bag fitted with a wide, round tip, and instead of dusting a 9 by 13 pan, you would lube and dust a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan and just lay out nice, long lines like this. As soon as you have four or five nice white ropes lined out, you’re going to have to hit the tops with your sugar/starch mixture for no sticking later. Let this set up for about four hours and snip with scissors.
    Of course, once you get into extrusion, it’s kind of like being in the plastics industry. You can make anything you want as long as you’ve got a suitable mold, that’s food safe, of course. Check this out. I got this at a local junk shop. It is nothing but an old-fashioned, tin-lined chocolate Easter bunny mold. So, what we do is we spray that up with a little lube which we have already done, and lay her out, and fill her up with the white stuff. Just get everything ... Kind of work it down into the crevices. Don’t worry about being too neat, the mold will take care of the rest. There. In four hours, we’ll have 16 perfect little bunnies. And that’s pretty fast, even for bunnies.
    [four hours later] Ahh, just imagine. In no time, you’ll have your own little bunny army ready to do your bidding. Don’t care for white? Not a problem. Check this out. You can either add food coloring directly to the marshmallow mix, or you could simply roll the finished bunnies in colored sugar. [eating them] I just love rabbit, don’t you? No? Fine, let’s shoot for the moon.
    [back at the counter] Place a standard household heating pad, set to “high”, inside a large mixing bowl, and then nestle another bowl into that containing a pound of chopped, good-quality, semi-sweet chocolate. The goal here is to melt the chocolate without having it lose its temper. That is, we don’t want it to move past the mystical state where the melting points of the chocolate’s polymorphic fats align. In other words, we want to dip something into that and have it set up hard, not gooey. Now we’re going to use a thermometer for that, and we’re going to shoot for 94 degrees. Don’t pass 98. Beyond there be dragons.

    Now meanwhile, we have two dozen cookies. You could use sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies, whatever you like. Half of those need to go onto a cooling rack, set over a sheet pan, for cleanliness sake. And take your marshmallow mix, and pipe it onto the cookies. Basically, we’re just going to build a cookie sandwich here. Top it thusly [with another cookie]. Repeat with each cookie, until you’ve got one dozen little sandwiches. 2 Dozen Cookies
    By the time the marshmallow sandwiches have cooled and set, the chocolate should be just right. Give it a few stirs with the old thermometer. Well, 97; that’ll certainly do if we move quickly. I’m going to turn off the heat. 1 Pound Semi-Sweet
     Chocolate, Melted

    Now, carefully dip one side of each sandwich, thusly, and give it a little spin on your way up and return it to the rack. Now we could, of course, completely submerge these devices, but I think that that would leave us not only with a really big mess, but with an overwhelming amount of chocolate. Better to show a little restraint.
    [tasting] Mmm, delicious, and you wouldn’t be able to do it if it weren’t for the extrusion of the marshmallow. Now if you grew up in the south the way I did, you’ll know exactly what to call this. But since that name is copyrighted, I’ll remain mum on the subject. [a picture of the moon and a pie appear next to AB's head]

Another popular marshmallow treat, the s’more, was
introduced in the 1927 Girl Scout Handbook.

Mount Olympus

GUEST: Colonel Bob Boatwright

COLONEL BOB BOATWRIGHT: [his head is through a little wall sitting on top of a small puppet on top of a mountain, aka Zeus] Now, everybody knows that Zeus and his cronies up on old Mount Olympus rollicked about all the live-long day, sipping on nectar ... [to Thing] Bring that here, sugar.
THING: [offers CBB some nectar, which CBB sips]
CBB: ... ahhh, and snacking on a succulent sustenance called “ambrosia”.
T: [shows CBB a covered tray of ambrosia]
CBB: My, but that does look nice. Problem is, none of the citizens of this fair and lofty land bothered to write down the recipe. So about a hundred years ago, we Southerners decided to suss it out our own selves. Let’s go on in the kitchen. I’ll show you how. Come on.

The Kitchen

CBB: [CBB continues for this scene] Put one half cup of heavy cream and a tablespoon of sugar in your mixing bowl and stick that old whisk-y thing on there. What do they call that? An attachment. [laughs] Anyhow, whip that up until it looks just like a big old white fluffy cloud. Whoo! That’s noisy. I don’t know. [walks away]. ½ Cup Heavy Cream
+ 1 Tbs. Sugar

    [later] Whoo! Calamity! I went and dozed right off. I almost over beat that there cream right there. Why look at that, I almost did that in. Looks more like butter now, but I guess it’d be okay.

    We’re going to add four ounces of sour cream. Now you know that no matter what this turns out to be, it’s going to be some kind of delicious, you know. So I’m going to just stir that on in there, and I’m trying not to nap off this time. I promise there. All right. 4 Ounces Sour Cream
    [later] Now let’s get that old bowl out of there, shall we? There. We’re going to stir in some bits and pieces, starting with one cup of Clementine segments. Now this here’s a yuletide dish, you know, and that time of year, well, these little jewels, they just jump right up in the old grocery cart. They do. I’m serious. All right, we’ll follow that up with a cup each of chopped pineapple. Now you know, fresh is best, don’t you? Sure you do. Same could be said of this shredded coconut. Now I recall the first one of these I ever did see when I was a boy. Thought my daddy dug up a Yankee cannonball when he brought that in the house. Now, I know what y’all are thinking. You’re going to buy that kind that comes in the bag. But you ain’t gonna do it! Nope, you not gonna! Next, let’s see here, a cup of chopped pecans—"pee-cans," "pee-cahns", I don’t care how you say it—and half a cup of Maraschino cherries. Have you ever seen anything so red? I suspect you have not. [laughs] 1 Cup Clementine Orange
1 Cup Chopped Fresh
1 Cup Freshly Grated
1 Cup Toasted Chopped
½ Cup Maraschino Cherries,
    Now, for the pièce de résistance. We gonna put in three cups of homemade miniature marshmallows. Goodness me! Now, just stir that up and come over to the icebox over here. 3 Cups Homemade Mini-


    Whoo, a couple of hours of chilling and this humble collection of goods have become food for the gods. Now I know it’s going to be hard, your waiting. But, your patience will be rewarded, I reckon.

The Kitchen

    Well, that’s right, Colonel. Patience is almost always rewarded on Good Eats. And never more so, than when you take a little time to put out a little effort to make your very own marshmallows. See you next time, on “Good Eats”.

Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010