Wow what a fascinating voyage of discovery. I have combined The Complete Confectioner recipe of 1864 for Syrup of Marshmallow with a recipe of my own for Italian meringue:
egg whites 5
sugar 280 g
marshmallow root 50 g
water 350 ml
Simmer marshmallow root in water for 10 minutes, blend softened root to a soup like consistency with a stick blender, simmer for 20 minutes. Add water if necessary to maintain a soup like consistency. Strain and add sugar to the brown / green liquid. Boil to the soft-ball stage (234°F to 240°F; 112°C to 116°C on a candy thermometer). Be careful in the last minutes that the froth does not rise over the pan top.
Whip egg whites to hard peaks. While continuing to whip add in the hot syrup. The mixture will expand and become light green brown. Scoop out mixture onto a dusted baking tray and dry in an oven.
What's amazing about the syrup is its stringiness and bounce. The old texts call it mucilaginous. It's quite possible to pull very fine strand 30 cm or more from the pan. The taste is also quite remarkable. I can confirm that vanilla is definitely not the original marshmallow taste. It's a complex taste with a nice lingering floral, nectar like finish. I detect notes of caramel, not fully cured vanilla bean and mushroom. Nothing quite like it. Fantastic.
I'll try and post some images of the finished marshmallows if I have time and the kids don't polish them off too quickly.
Wow, quick turnaround on the experiment. Where did you get your marshmallow root powder from in Aus?
Are we going to see a marshmallow root iceblock?
From the local health food / organic shop. They stock loads of obscure spices and things. Expensive at $95 a kg though. I just like deconstructing confectionary to understand it. Marshmallow clearly has a facinating history. Perhaps the first sweets of kings in Egypt.
What's amazing is how haunting the marshmallow taste is. It survives a meal for example. I can see why this flavour would become popular as your reminded of it so long. I can also see why gelatine and gum arabic came to be used, because the mallow I have are still sticky and not easy to handle. Using gelatine clearly leads to more stable results but bouncy, soft and sticky with a gooey centre is pleasant too.
I agree, there is nothing like a bit of experimental archiology, I like making old hot chocolate recipes.
I don't think anywhere here will stock it, is the shop in Brisbane?
I think its important to understand why something became popular then we can build something better. The gelatin based mallows have the advantage of ease of manufacture and taste neutrality.
Fresh Wholefoods Murwillumbah is where I got it my dry marshmallow root. I suspect fresh root works better but am not sure whether it was ever introduced into Australia.
From what I've read around it looks to me like marshmallow as we know it today was popularised when it was combined with whipped egg whites as a pharmaceutical in France. Perhaps to make it easier to swallow or eat. Thus the most original recipes are probably those containing simply marshmallow root, sugar and egg white. The most original recipes seem to use orange blossom water. I found one recipes that look interesting:
2 egg whites
1/2 cup raw cane sugar
1 tbsp powdered Marshmallow (root)
Whip egg whites until almost stiff. Then whip in the sugar, 1 tsp at the time. Finally, add Marshmallow and whip again. Place by teaspoon full on cookie sheet. Bake in oven
for 1 hour at 325 F 160 C .
Changing the meringue to Italian style by heating the sugar and marshmallow root with a little water and adding it to the whipped whites then baking may work well too. I like Italian style meringue as it ensures the whites are properly heated. I'll probably make the two in tandem and compare results then tweak until I get a recipe I'm happy with.