Blood orange marshmallows, some of which are chocolate-covered

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I know I’ve only been posting sweet things lately. It will end soon, I promise.

In the meantime, I hope this will please you: I went through a bit of trouble to get these to work–when marshmallows go wrong, they go really, really wrong. Oh, but when you get it right…

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These have a delicate chewiness to them before they dissolve into melt-in-the-mouth bliss.  Because of the fresh blood orange juice and zest, they’re ever-so prettily coloured (ivory or palest pink with orange flecks) and have a surprisingly bright orange flavour.

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And when you pair these with a crisp shell of dark chocolate–well, forgive yourself if you eat them by the handful. Mr. Pear said they taste like ‘fancy jaffa cakes.’

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A word of caution before you begin: marshmallows do not forgive. They’ve been weeping on me lately, an unfortunate circumstance usually caused by not having the right proportions or not beating the mixture properly. For the right structure, air needs to be whipped into boiling sugar syrup and gelatine (and possibly egg white) so that it cools and fluffs up correctly.

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Egg whites (when you’re using a hand-held mixer, at least) add an extra complication as they need to be beaten til stiff before the gelatin and sugar syrup go in. Timing is crucial. If anything throws that off–a temperamental sugar syrup, for example–your marshmallows will be disappointed in you and weep inconsolably. These guys don’t know how to express their anger in appropriate ways and will take it out on you.  They will resist attempts to re-dust them or dry them out, weeping anew, expressing their feelings with slime. Nothing can save them or tell them to knock it off. Not even Sophie.

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So I dispensed with the egg white because it was, really, an added bonus (a little bit of extra fluffiness) which did not offset the amount of stress required to make it work.

One of the better decisions I’ve made in life, I think. You should be alright with this recipe.

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BLOOD ORANGE MARSHMALLOWS
Marshmallow base adapted from Tamarind and Thyme, chocolate-dipping from Local Milk.
Makes about an 16 – 18 cm square slab about 2 – 3 cm high. I cut this into about 28 uneven bite-size pieces.
Keeps well in an airtight tin for a week.

Allow time to completely prepare for and complete these: once you start boiling the syrup, you can’t stop. And don’t underestimate how much the syrup boils up: make sure the pan is large enough.

You can make these with bitter oranges, too: use 75ml bitter orange juice + 75ml water and the zest of 1 bitter orange. Experiment with other flavours, but take care with the ingredient proportions or the marshmallows won’t set properly, rendering them unsalvageable.

I’ve made this with both powdered and leaf gelatine and they turn out pretty much the same. For reference, both types of gelatine were Dr Oetker brand. You need enough to set 1 pint of liquid.

ingredients

for the marshmallow coating
2 tablespoons cornflour
2 tablespoons icing sugar, crushed/sifted if very lumpy

lightly flavoured oil, for greasing

for the marshmallows
150ml freshly squeezed blood orange juice from 2 – 3 oranges, sieved (press pulp really well)
Zest from 1 whole blood orange
Pinch of salt
4 leaves platinum strength gelatine (or the entire contents of 1 x 12g sachet. You need enough to set 1 pint/about 2 cups liquid to moderate firmness)
200g white granulated sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup (optional; ensures a smooth syrup. Substitute liquid glucose or corn syrup)

for the chocolate, if desired
100g chopped dark chocolate
light, dry toppings, e.g. flaky salt, flower buds, freeze-dried fruit, etc

equipment
sugar thermometer
sturdy hand mixer
flexible rubber spatula (maryse)

instructions

make the marshmallow coating: Mix together the cornflour and icing sugar in a medium bowl.

line the dish: Very lightly oil a 20 – 23 cm square pan and press a sheet of greaseproof paper on it. Dust sides and base with the marshmallow coating. Make sure will be dish within easy reach of the finished marshmallow mixture.

make the marshmallows: Squeeze and strain the blood orange juice really well, making sure you get exactly 150ml. Put 75ml in a large (at least 2 litre capacity) heatproof bowl and the other 75ml in a large saucepan (again, at least 2 litre capacity).

Put the orange zest and salt in the same little bowl or plate. Ensure it’s within easy reach of your working area.

Snip the gelatine leaves into or evenly sprinkle the gelatine powder over the blood orange juice in the bowl. Let it completely absorb the liquid for 5 – 10 minutes.

Have your hand mixer ready.

Meanwhile, add the sugar and golden syrup to the pan of blood orange juice and let the sugar dissolve completely over a low heat, stirring occasionally. Increase the heat and boil hard til 115 degrees Celsius (soft ball stage) is reached. This takes about 10 minutes–it will shoot up to boiling point, then linger there for ages before crawling to the soft ball stage.

Once the syrup’s at heat, quickly pluck out the thermometer and pour all the syrup into the bowl with the gelatine and juice. Add the orange zest and salt, then beat mixture on high for about 12 – 15 minutes. A timer is useful here. Be careful of splatters at first. The thin goo will double in volume and become pale and glossy.

You’ll know the batter is approaching readiness when the mixer will struggle with the effort of whipping such a dense, sticky mixture, which may even attempt to climb up the beaters. When you lift the beaters, the batter should hold its shape. The outside of the bowl should also be completely cool.

set them: When–and only when–the marshmallow batter is ready, immediately scrape it into the prepared pan and smooth the top. A rubber spatula makes this somewhat easier, but don’t worry if you can’t get every single scrap out of the bowl and off the beaters. Leave to set and dry uncovered (or with room to breathe) at room temperature for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. I perch a spatter guard on top.

cut them: Dust a chopping board with a spoonful of the marshmallow coating. Carefully turn the marshmallow slab out onto the dusted surface. With a lightly dusted sharp knife, divide up the marshmallows into whatever size you like, first into strips and then into small pieces. Toss the pieces a few at a time in the bowl of marshmallow coating. Store in an airtight container.

coat them with chocolate: Break the chocolate into small pieces, place into a heatproof bowl and melt on a low heat in a microwave in 1 minute blasts, stirring til all but a few tiny lumps are melted. Leave for a few minutes to completely deliquesce before dipping pieces in, just holding with your fingers. Leave to set in the fridge. (You should temper your chocolate if you want them to look nice.)

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