Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!
Episode: “Just Candy”
The Set-up: Ina is working on ways to display and gift candy, so she invited Dylan Lauren of Dylan’s Candy Bar to help!
0:22 – Ina’s not really a fan of store-bought marshmallows, but says that making them at home was a revelation. High praise, indeed.
1:15 – Anything involving packets seems to make me nervous, whether its gelatin or yeast. I need to conquer that anxiety!
2:29 – I didn’t really think about this, but since these are going to be white marshmallows it’s important to use light corn syrup.
3:31 – Good call on recommending that children be really carefully supervised if they’re going to help. Molten sugar is not a toy.
4:04 – Pro Tip #1 – Use a heat proof measuring cup with a spout to help pour the hot sugar syrup into the mixer.
5:18 – We visit Dylan Lauren at her store, Dylan’s Candy Bar, to learn some tricks for displaying candy. Idea #1: a topiary shaped like a witch’s hat. Oh, I forgot to mention – this is a Halloween episode….just a bit late.
6:34 – Back to Ina, who manages the marshmallow mixture without too much trouble. Pro Tip #2: a generous dusting of confectioner’s sugar helps to keep the marshmallows from sticking too much.
9:45 – Ina is making Winter Squash Soup as a gift to Dylan. She says it’s inspired by a French dish – soup au potiron, essentially a pumpkin soup.
10:11 – Rather than using fresh pumpkin, Ina is using some butternut squash and canned pumpkin (not pie filling.)
11:26 – We’re back to Dylan who’s making a cookie tin Halloween-ish with decoupaged tissue paper and funky stickers. #crafty
12:48 – The finishing touches on the soup will be some honey-white bread made into croutons. Pro Tip #3: Any bread can be toasted and made into croutons.
13:53 – It’s interesting to me to see when Ina uses an electronic tool and when she’ll do something by hand. I tend to avoid anything with a cord unless that’s really the only way, but I have no idea why.
18:30 – The day of Dylan’s visit has arrived and Ina is making one more type of candy for their wrapping party: White Chocolate Bark.
19:25 – Pro Tip #4: an easy way to temper chocolate is to melt a portion of it in 30 second increments using the microwave. Then add the remaining portion to cool it down and stabilize the mixture.
20:17 – I didn’t realize that tempering chocolate prevents that cloudy bloom, but Ina says that this process will keep it shiny.
21:32 –The chocolate is melted but still soft and now Ina is adding toasted pistachios, chopped apricots, and dried cranberries. Yum.
22:18 – Pro Tip #5: Choose ingredients that both look pretty and have flavors that compliment each other.
23:01 – Dylan is packing up her loot to bring it out to East Hampton and Ina is packing up the Winter Squash Soup and croutons to send back with her.
24:59 – Ina has cut the Homemade Marshmallows into squares and put a lollypop stick into each one and wrapped them in individual glassine bags ready to go for Dylan!
27:16 – Dylan has arrived an the assembly of the marshmallow-witch’s hat topiary is under way. I was all prepared to hate on this, but it actually looks pretty cool.
28:20 – Next up is the White Chocolate Bark, which Ina has cut into large squares. Dylan suggests placing two pieces back to back so that the pretty fruit and nut topping shows. Then they go into the tin with a few other treats and it’s good to go!
29:43 – Ina gives Dylan her soup take-out and after a sample of the white chocolate bar they agree, “that’s a wrap!”
Ina’s right, a homemade gift really can be jazzed up with the right wrapping.
I have really never made candy of any kind, probably something to work on…
These packaging suggestions are cute, but Halloween colors tend to be tacky - maybe in autumnal golds and creams?
I’m not normally one to make something easily purchased, but I also find candy and caramel making just a bit terrifying so Homemade Marshmallows seemed like a good entry point. Here’s what I learned along the way….
Sugar Syrup – Is really nothing to be trifled with, the temperature of molten sugar is very, very high so it’s important to be extremely careful when handling it and have your oven mitts at the ready. Add it very slowly and keeping the mixer on low speed until it cools a bit before ramping up to high – splattering hot sugar is not anyone’s idea of a good time.
Battling the Sticky – A rubber spatula coated with non-stick spray will be a godsend when it comes time to scrape the marshmallows out of the mixing bowl and into the pan. Trust. You’ll also find that confectioner’s sugar (aka powdered sugar or 10x) is your friend here and basically serves the same purpose flour does with pie crust. Don’t be shy and embrace the mess! Give both the pan and the top of the marshmallows a generous layer and coat the knife when cutting the squares. I’d recommend tapping the edges of the cut marshmallows in it as well to keep them from sticking to one another.
Prep & Timing – This is a recipe that rewards the organized cook who has her ducks in a row. Do have the gelatin and water mixed ahead, do prepare the baking pan in advance, do have your rubber spatula coated with non-stick spray before you try to scoop out the marshmallows.
Flavored Marshmallows – I came across this recipe in Southern Living a few weeks ago and now that I’ve got my feet wet with a vanilla version I really want to make some different flavors. If you have some extracts on hand this would be the time to get creative. Wouldn’t a cinnamon swirled marshmallow be so good in hot chocolate?
Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes and no. A stand mixer really is pretty essential here, although if you had patience and a steady hand a strong electric hand mixer could work in a pinch. Beyond that I needed a medium sauce pan, 8x12 glass baking dish, rubber spatula, fine mesh sieve, liquid measuring cup, and measuring spoons. A chef's knife or bench scraper and a ruler will be helpful to cut the marshmallows into pieces. You’ll definitely need a candy thermometer or an electronic thermometer that can register 250 degrees or higher. Non-stick spray will be helpful too, even though the recipe doesn’t call for it.
I felt a little like the Ghostbusters after the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man explodes by the end of my Homemade Marshmallow adventure and I absolutely had that “A Marshmallow World”* song in my head the whole time, but the results were totally worth it. I’ve had what I’d term homestyle or artisan marshmallows before but these blew them out of the water. Incredible texture - sublimely light, tender, fluffy - with a lovely sweet vanilla flavor. I’m pretty sure one of these would be awesome in everything from hot chocolate, to coffee, to apple cider, and I can’t wait to make them in more flavors too!
*I gave you the Dean Martin/Frank Sinatra duet from 1967 where they’re both preeetty ‘toasted’.