Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Marshmallows: a new obsession

Number 38 on my 101 Things list is to cook every recipe in one book. That book is Home Cooking by Rachel Allen. It's a great book and everything I have tried has been great. One of the recipes in it is marshmallows.

Here is my first attempt. Just some plain ol' vanilla marshmallows.

Marshmallow attempt 1
I wasn't really sure what I expected, but they were much easier to make than I thought. You do need a sugar thermometer to be sure, but they were pretty straightforward.

The first batch I made were a little soft-set for what I wanted, more 'Tunnock's tea cake' than your shop bought marshmallow. I'm not sure if this is down to not using enough gelatine or not enough beating. They did taste great though!

Then I found this recipe for Coconut Ice marshmallows by Sarah Cook in the BBC Good Food magazine. And it was amazing. A touch of Malibu in the mallow and tossed in toasted coconut - delish. This recipe used leaf gelatine rather than powdered (though I have no idea if this makes a difference), and the texture was just perfect.

Coconut Ice Marshmallows
I do make a fair bit of cake, but have become quite used to not eating it when it's in the house. These marshmallows were a completely different story - I couldn't stop eating them. I only made half a batch of the coconut ones and I was a little sad when I finished them. (Really!) So I HAD to make another batch (or two) pretty soon.

So, with a bit of googling and pinning and inspiration I opted for some vanilla marshmallows coated in My Secret Kitchen Secret Vanilla Pudding Spices which I had been desperate to try and some Armaretto marshmallows coated in crumbed armaretti biscuits I was given for christmas.

Vanilla Marshmallows with MSK Secret Vanilla Pudding Spices
Armaretto Marshmallows with crushed armaretti biscuits
Here is how I made them, adapting the Coconut Ice Marshmallow recipe above. I made the full recipe and split it to make the 2 different flavours, but you can just use half the recipe if you wish.

For the Vanilla coating:
  • 40g icing sugar 
  • 40g corn flour
  • 5g (1tsp) MSK Secret Vanilla Pudding Spice
For the armaretti coating:
  • 100g crushed armaretti biscuits
For the marshmallows:
  • 10 sheets gelatine
  • 500g caster sugar
  • 4 tsp liquid glucose
  • 200ml cold water
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp Armaretto
First you need to line two 8" square tins. There are a few ways to do this, the one that worked for me was lightly brushing with vegetable oil and lining with clingfilm.

Make up your coatings and put half of the vanilla coating in one tin and half of the armaretti biscuits in the other tin. Put to one side.

Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water until ready to use.

Next put the sugar, liquid glucose and cold water into a saucepan - the smaller the pan the better, so you have a good depth of liquid to get a decent reading on your sugar thermometer. Leave over a low heat while the sugar dissolves, stirring gently, then bring it to the boil. Stop stirring and put in your sugar thermometer. Leave it to bubble until the temperature reaches the 'Firm Ball' stage. This can take about 10-15 minutes.

While the syrup is boiling whisk your egg whites until they form stiff peaks.

When the sugar syrup is ready pour gently, in a steady stream into the egg whites, beating all the time. A stand mixer (or helping hand) is very handy at this point!

Once the syrup has been added, remove the gelatine leaves from the water and squeeze out any excess water, then add one at a time to the marshmallow mix - still beating the whole time. Add the vanilla extract and leave the whole mixture to keep beating for about 10 minutes until thick and shiny.

Tip half of the mixture into the tin you put the VANILLA coating in, smooth the top with a palette knife dipped in just boiled water, then top with the remaining vanilla coating.

Add the Armaretto to the other half of the marshmallow and mix in (I put it back on the mixer for a minute or so) then tip it into the tin containing the armaretti biscuits, smooth the top as before, top with the rest of the crushed biscuits, and put both tins to one side, somewhere cool (but not the fridge) and dry, for a good few hours. Mine were set after about 2 hours.

When ready tip the marshmallows out onto a chopping board & peel away the cling film. There should be enough of the coating on the top so they won't stick and cut up. Dust your knife with a little icing sugar or corn flour if they are sticky to cut. Gently roll them in the right coating to prevent them all sticking together and store in an air tight container.

I'd love to know if you do try these out. Happy marshmallowing! 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My Secret Kitchen

If you like food & cooking and haven't heard of My Secret Kitchen yet, you really should look into it. I found out about it via Twitter and booked myself a party last year. Basically, My Secret Kitchen sells ingredients and ready mixes, but good quality, easy to use, interesting products.

Is this starting to sound like a sales post? Well, it should do because I have recently become a MSK consultant! It ties in really well with my cake baking, and the products are great, and I do like my food.... anyway, this is how it works:

You book a party and I turn up with a selection of the products to try (think of the old tupperware parties, Avon, Jamie at Home, Pampered Chef, etc etc) and then we...I mean you & your friends get to sample the food and order what you fancy. As host you get a gift or money off your order, depending on the value of orders placed.

A small display I set up at a Christmas Market

I really enjoyed when I had my party - it was something a little bit different and we had so much to taste, including some cocktails!

To get an idea of the type of products available take a look at the website and to see just how versatile the products are check out the recipe blog.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

My new kitchen chart

Tomorrow is my new start. I think starting new things on January 1st is a bit ambitious as I'm usually still trying to get back to 'normal' after the christmas break, let alone getting straight into 'better than normal'. Now I have had a week to reaclimatise myself (sort of) with what I would usually be doing before trying to develop some brand new habits.

Having said that, there are a few tweaks I have been making to my regular routine (ha!) that I am hoping to build on. Having spent the last 10 years trying to better myself, and often taking the 'all-in-one' approach I have decided this clearly doesn't work for me. So this time I am trying something new. This time I am taking baby steps and not getting fed up when it doesn't work.

The things I have been working on this week are:

1. Getting out of bed earlier - this has been a complete failure to be perfectly honest! Evie has been going to bed late and not getting up until 9am, so I have been taking advantage of the lie-in. Tomorrow I have to be in work by 8:45am, so am planning to get up by 6:30 for a cuppa and some extra time.

2. Drinking more water - this has been going a bit better, but it does usually take me until about 11 to actually pour myself a glass, after my second cup of tea. What has helped me here is buying two 500ml bottles and making sure I always have one with me. I still don't drink anywhere near the recommended quantity, but it's a start.

3. My cleaning schedule - as I said, this is all about baby steps, and most of this week has been spent getting the house de-christmassed and catching up on washing and cleaning that was missed. I have also spent some time thinking about what I want out of a cleaning plan (yes, I know) and how I can get it to work around all the other things I want and need to do. I am a huge fan of lists and am a very visual person. If I don't see something I can very easily forget. So I devised my very own Kitchen Chart.

It's based on a number of charts I have seen on the internet, but with sections that I need. I printed it out on an A3 sheet of paper, framed it and hubby hung it on the wall. This meant I could write on the glass with a dry-wipe pen then rub it off the next day. It was working so well...but after a particularly vigourous ticking off sessions it fell off the wall and the glass smashed. So I need to get a new frame.

Even in the short time I was using it I found a few things that needed adjusting, like the space to write down meals, and sometimes hubby and I will have different food. And the week starts on a Sunday. I do also want to add in some weekly tasks. However, when I have sorted it out I will provide it as a printable. It is currently set as a Microsoft Publisher file, but I am happy to send it via email if you are interested. 

Wish me luck for tomorrow. Tomorrow's new 'thing' will be getting up & fitting in some exercise....

Tuesday, January 01, 2013


Happy New Year!

As usual, here is my 'I will get back to blogging THIS year' post.

I am so excited by 2013 already, it really does have the potential to make one of my dreams come true and - while this does scare the crap out of me a little bit - I am so excited! I can't wait to tell you more about it, but really don't want to jinx it for the time being, so you'll have to bear with me for a little bit.

I have made some new years resolutions - pretty much the same ones I make every year, though they feel different this year. More positive. Just in case you are interested, here they are:

1. I will set up & stick to a cleaning schedule.
This is a long time coming and a real bug bear of mine. I've tried several methods and plans and now feel like I have bits from each that I could work with. The big change I hope to make here is not to give up totally if I miss one day but just to carry on.

2. I will plan to spend time doing things with Evie.
I have been a bit guilty of getting on with stuff in the house while Evie plays in the background and I want to start spending time going places and doing instead. I have already booked her in for Tiny Toes ballet lessons.

3. I need to focus more on work.
I don't feel like I have given anything enough attention over the last 12 months. My family, my house, web design and cakes. They've all just been fitted in when and where I can and I haven't given any of it the attention they deserve. Getting into a proper routine and planning to spend time on each item without trying to do too many things at once will hopefully make me a bit happier & more productive.

The three items are very much linked, and I have today started planning out a routine, but without trying to do everything at once as that way I am sure to fall at the first hurdle.

Well, EG is awake now, so we're going to have some food and go out for a little walk. Here's to a fab 2013!