it's been raining this week (again, again) and watching the news this week has been positively depressing - riots all over england, stock markets down, people starving in africa. i found myself in need of comfort. escape. something sweet.
so i decided to make nutella. and when that didn't feel like enough, i also made marshmallows. the nutella is good, but not yet The Business, but the marshmallows? fluffy clouds of heaven, i tell you. i found the nutella recipe via instructables.com, but strangely, the site is down as i write this, so i can't give you the original link. and, as usual, i didn't entirely follow it anyway, so i'll give you what i did and you can check instructables later (i'm sure it's temporarily down).
chocolate-hazelnut spread (ala nutella) - take 1
250 grams hazelnuts (about 1 cup)
250 grams good quality dark chocolate (i actually used a combo of dark and milk because a certain someone in this household doesn't like dark chocolate and she's the primary consumer of this in this house)
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
a pinch of salt
a drizzle of good quality sunflower oil
toast the hazelnuts in the oven for about 10 minutes at 180°C/350°F (watch them, as you don't want them to burn). put them in the food processor and whiz them up as fine as you can get them. add a drizzle of sunflower oil to help it out. this is where i think the recipe i followed was off...i found it very difficult to get the hazelnuts ground finely enough in my food processor - next time, i might try a coffee grinder. but my advice is, grind them longer than you think.
while they're grinding, place the chocolate in a double-boiler and melt it over medium heat. once it's melted, stir in the salt and the sweetened condensed milk and mix it well. once they're smooth and the nuts are as finely ground as you can get them, tip the chocolate into the nuts and whizz it up in your food processor until it's smooth and creamy. if you think the texture isn't quite right, you can add a drizzle of sunflower oil.
this made two and a half half liter jars. i sterilized them, but am keeping them in the refrigerator, as i'm not sure about how well they'll keep. they taste delicious, but the texture isn't exactly nutella-like. it's not smooth enough. on the other hand, it has a much more hazelnutty depth to it and i actually like it quite a lot better than the real thing. i'm not done, tho' i'm trying to perfect this, so expect me back with further experiments on this front.
and now onto the marshmallows, which worked far beyond expectations. my recipe comes from karen solomon's jam it, pickle it, cure it, tho', of course, i adjusted the gelatin because it comes in leaves here and not in powdered packets.
2/3 cup of water
6 leaves of gelatin (or 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin)
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of light syrup
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
confectioner's (powdered) sugar
coat a medium-sized pan (8x8 or 9x6) in vegetable oil and generously coat with powdered sugar.
combine the gelatin and 1/3 cup of water in the bowl of your stand mixer.
meanwhile, mix the other 1/3 cup of water with the sugar and light syrup in a medium saucepan. whisk them until they the sugar is nearly dissolved. place it over a medium heat and without stirring (this is the bit i couldn't believe, but it's really true) heat it up to 115°C/240°F. use a candy thermometer. it takes about ten minutes. don't be tempted to stir, the bubbles will effectively stir it as it begins to boil.
once it reaches the correct temperature, remove from the heat and pour it carefully into the gelatin mixture in your mixer. turn it up to medium-high, add vanilla and mix until it becomes fluffy white and stiff. this takes about 10-12 minutes (tho' if it's humid, it could take longer).
pour them into the prepared pan and allow them to set for at least an hour. then slice them into bite-sized squares and roll them in powdered sugar (or cocoa or flaked coconut) and enjoy. our weather is a bit humid and i'm keeping them in the fridge, as they seemed a bit soft. i think in normal, dry weather conditions, they'd stay firm and lovely and you'd even be able to toast them over the coals like you would a store-bought marshmallow. but actually, they're just perfect as they are...sweet, fluffy, light and melt-in-your mouth. i will definitely be making them again.