Sunday, March 23, 2008

the sweet tooth I gained in paris

Like many students at liberal arts colleges, I spent a semester in Paris during my junior year. And like many college students studying abroad in Paris, I spent a lot of time exploring the wonders of French food. My program had its offices right around the corner from a truly excellent boulangerie, and I routinely put their viennoises, palmiers, and pain au brioche to the test. I tasted time-honored gastronomic treasures: tripes à la caen and boudin noir and a lot of fantastically stinky cheese.

And also I ate other things that were... less culinarily edifying.

Like chocolate. You'd guess, for example, that I would have gloried in the offerings at the various Parisian chocolatiers. Or, barring such extravagance, I would at least have indulged regularly in blocks of Lindt or Cote d'Or.

Well, er, no. Not exactly. I did stop by Christian Constant once. And I bought a few bars of Lindt 99% because it was such a novelty to be able to find it at the supermarket. But my major discovery on the sweet front? Ours en guimauve from Monoprix.

Translation: supermarket-chain chocolate-covered marshmallow bears.

I have no idea why. I have no love for smores. I don't particularly like toasted marshmallows. I don't like marshmallows in hot chocolate. In fact, I don't really like marshmallows at all. Something about their aggressively chewy texture and cornstarch-dusted exteriors puts me in mind of powdered latex gloves.

Those chocolate-covered marshmallow bears, though... those were different. The marshmallow was softer. More pliable. Not quite so tooth-achingly sweet. And the chocolate cracked in the most satisfying manner when you bit into it. It was enough for me to overlook my usual aversion to animal-shaped confectionery.*

Those marshmallow bears completely slipped my mind until the Easter candy display started taking over my local supermarket last week. The sight of boxes upon boxes of Peeps brought back the memory with a vengeance. And so I went off to attempt chocolate-covered marshmallows of my own.

A pound of sugar, four envelopes of gelatin, and one failure later, I had soft, squishy, mildly chewy marshmallows. Sadly, my efforts to coat them in chocolate had mixed results. I haven't learned how to temper chocolate, so my attempts did not crack in a satisfying manner when I bit into them.

Never mind. I'll just have to see if anyone I know is going to Paris soon.

Sugar Marshmallows

If you're going to coat these in chocolate, be sure to use dark chocolate chips. The results that come of using semisweet will only be palatable if you have the sweet tooth to end all sweet teeth.

(Makes a lot. Recipe not for one, unless you want to end up more hyper than the Energizer Bunny.)

Grease a small Pyrex dish or loaf pan.

Dump two cups of sugar and half a cup of water in a small saucepan. Place over low heat until sugar dissolves, then raise the heat to medium. The mixture will start bubbling.

Sprinkle two envelopes of unflavored gelatin over a quarter-cup of cold water. When the gelatin has formed a solid mass, scoop it into the bowl of a stand mixer.

When the sugar mixture has turned into a thick syrup and the bubbles are forming and breaking very slowly, remove from heat, pour into the mixer bowl, and turn the mixer on. Whip until the mixture is thick and fluffy. Add half a teaspoon of vanilla extract (plus a few drops of red food coloring, if you'd like your marshmallows pink) and whip further, until the mixture is only warm to the touch.

Use a rubber spatula to glop the marshmallow mixture into the greased pan. When the marshmallow has cooled, use a knife or oiled scissors to cut it into squares. Roll the squares in powdered sugar or shredded coconut, or coat in chocolate. Enjoy.

*I am perfectly fine with the knowledge that meat is dead animals. I prefer it when my fish comes with the head, and my chicken comes with bones. But cartoon-animal-shaped things make me wibbly. I'll eat leg of rabbit and saddle of hare, but chocolate bunnies are a definite no-no. And classmates who tortured their Teddy Grahams before eating them were the bane of my childhood.


Virgin In The Volcano said...

These look good!

adele said...

Would you like one? I brought some to class.

Jen Dockter said...

I've found the trickiest part of tempering chocolate is holding it at the stable temperature after melting it and raising and lowering the temperatures. It's only easier to do if you're doing like 3lbs of chocolate at once, but I've never had that kind of stamina for chocolate coating even when doing truffles for holiday presents.

librariane said...

Ooo! Proof that marshmallows *can* be coated in chocolate! I've made two batches of homemade marshmallows--one mint flavor--and wondered how it worked with a chocolate covering.

adele said...

Chocolate-covered mint marshmallows. Now that's an idea!

tammy said...

Latex gloves. Marshmallows. What an apt analogy. Wish I had thought of it!