Now that I am married to a farmer, this time of year has become even more precious. After the holidays pass, we are allotted with a bit more ease. We find ourselves lingering over meals, reading for longer stretches in the evenings and evening finishing an entire movie from time to time. Even though there are still potatoes to pack and deliver, cattle to care for, seeds to order and a farmers' market to attend in the winter months, the manic mood of harvest slowly gives way to a bit more tinkering in the machine shop and putzing in the kitchen.
It occurred to me that I always feel a bit cheated by the time Christmas and New Years pass; winter seems to pick up speed with every passing year. Because of that, I am going to take a bit of a social media retreat for the month of January: no website work, no Instagram and no Facebook for at least a month. But what often happens when I close the door to one distraction is that I end up disappearing down the rabbit hole of another, whether it be Netflix or simple Internet mindlessness. So this time, everything online except email will be discouraged for a while. Less madness and more marshmallows!
Making homemade marshmallows is actually pretty simple, and they make excellent gifts. This is a wintery twist on a traditional marshmallow recipe and makes a cup of hot cocoa insanely delicious. If you can't find maple sugar or maple extract, your marshmallows will still taste deliciously maple-y; just be sure to use R E A L maple syrup. You can use plain granulated sugar and vanilla extract instead of the maple versions. And if maple isn't your thing, try brown rice syrup instead of maple syrup! Brown rice syrup has a really lovely, caramel-like flavor to it. Either way, marshmallows are like the cherries of the hot beverage world and should be enjoyed whenever possible.
Happy Holidays from the farm!
Makes 24 large marshmallows
Adapted from Ina Garten
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups maple sugar
1 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp maple extract
Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water in the bottom of the bowl of the stand mixer. Let the gelatin rehydrate completely.
Combine the sugar, maple syrup, salt and 1/2 cup water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Dissolve the sugar over medium low heat, then increase the heat and cook the mixture until the temperature reaches 240 F on a candy thermometer.
Whisk the gelatin on low speed while slowly pouring the hot sugar syrup in a steady stream into the mixer. Gradually increase the speed and beat the mixture for about 15 minutes, or until very thick and glossy. Add the maple extract.
Generously coat a non-metal 8 x 12" pan with confectioner's sugar. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan and smooth the top, then dust with additional sugar. Let the mixture sit uncovered overnight to cure.
The next day, run a knife around the outer edge of the marshmallow block and turn it over onto a surface dusted with confectioner's sugar. Cut the block into 20 large squares and toss them in sugar. Keep in an air tight container.