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Memory Dish: S'Mores with Homemade Marshmallows

Wednesday 12 November 2014

We got a new wood burning stove this week. I haven't quite gotten the hang of all of its nuances yet - I'm either prodding a few blackened logs and muttering under my breath, or staggering back from a fire roaring so loudly it sounds like a fighter jet.

But when it does settle itself down, it's nice to be back in front of a fire. And as I hypnotise myself in front of the flames, there's a recurring idea that pops into my head. Marshmallows!

Last year in Nashville, I finished off a meal with s'mores at the Tavern Midtown (home of the balsamic martini). I'd just finished the most incredible burger, so I was pretty involved with that, until a local girl insisted we all share a few. So out came the Bunsen burners, and the instant flashbacks to chemistry classes in school. Bunsen burners! Do you remember the thrill of being allowed to use them? I can't even remember what we did with them, but I do remember fiddling with the plastic tubes and being shouted at for messing with the gas taps.

Anyway, the s'mores. I hadn't actually tried them before, though I had of course heard of them. Those All American campfire treats, eaten while huddled together in plaid and hunting hats, waiting for the serial killer to come out of the trees.

It wasn't quite the same scene in Tavern, but it was pretty cool nonetheless. You take your cracker (more of a digestive biscuit), pop a square of chocolate on it, melt your marshmallow over the flame and smoosh them all together. And there you have it!

I wanted to get fancy when I made mine, so I made the marshmallows. This is insanely easy to do. I went with the David Lebovitz recipe, and as he says, if you can whip egg whites, you can make marshmallows. I've seen fancy pants ones in the shops recently, with salted caramel, rose petals and all that jazz. But as they were about €7, they did NOT make it home with me. You do need a sugar thermometer, but don't let that put you off. They're very cheap, which is just as well, because some tosser just broke mine.

You can, of course, just buy the marshmallows.

I feel a bit weird giving this recipe after such a stern talking to from my dentist yesterday. He has me convinced that all of my teeth are about to spontaneously combust in a big dust ball of icing sugar, and now I'm terrified. But he did tell me that if you eat sugar with meals, rather than in between, the damage is all but eradicated four hours later. So if you want to be good, eat these WITH a steak.

And that's all your life lessons for today.

S'mores with homemade marshmallows
Inspired by Nashville
Adapted from a David Lebovitz recipe

8 sheets of gelatin
200g sugar
100g golden syrup
4 large egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
140g icing sugar
140g cornflour

1. Soak the gelatin leaves in 500ml cold water.

2. Put the sugar, golden syrup and 80ml of water in a saucepan on a medium heat. You will need a sugar thermometer - sorry.

3. In an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Whisk in a pinch of salt.

4. When the syrup reaches 118 degrees Celsius, carefully pour the mix into the egg whites, while the beater is still on high. Mind you don't splatter yourself.

5. Pour the gelatin leaves (and two tablespoons of water) into the syrup saucepan and swirl around until it's melted. Then pour this mix, and the vanilla, into the egg whites, which are still being beaten. Keep the mixer on for five minutes, until the outside of the bowl feels cool.

6. Mix together the cornflour and the icing sugar, and dust the hell out of a baking sheet (feel free to make pretty patterns in it). Make sure every inch is well covered. I used what I think is a brownie tray.

7. Scoop your mix into the tray, using a plastic spatula, and make pretty wave patterns for the hell of it. Leave it to try for at least four hours.

8. When it's dry, dust the top with the mix, as well as any work surfaces you're going to use, and a pizza cutter or knife (the pizza cutter did an amazing job). Cut into whatever shapes you like.

These would make amazing gifts, in a little box. But we're not interested in that right now - let's get to the s'mores!

I got these chocolate chip cookies from Le Fournil in Sligo, But you can use any biscuits you like - digestive if you're traditional (I hate digestives).

Then you need to toast your marshmallows. Ideally, you'll be snuggled in front of a fire, an Avoca blanket slung across your shoulders. But I also tried doing this with a candle, and it did the trick perfectly.

Put a square of chocolate on your cookie, then squish your melted marshmallow on top of it, before adding another cookie. Give it another wee smoosh, and then eat it, while making a solemn vow that you'll never tell your dentist what you did.

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