Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Adventures in Vegetarian Marshmallow Making

I didn’t publicize it too much, but I moved back to Colorado for awhile. Since I wont be in Spain to celebrate with my friends for Christmas I decided to send a box of homemade cookies and marshmallows to them. I had everything all set up and was about to open the packs of gelatin to get the marshmallows started when I thought…uh oh…is this gelatin made from Pork? Most of my friends in Spain don’t eat pork for various reasons so I would feel terrible sending them something that I knew had pork in it. Turns out Knox brand and all the store-brand gelatins are made from pork and beef.

Not a problem, I thought. How hard can it be to get pork-free gelatin? After all, Denver is a great foodie town. My dad and I hopped in my car and went on what turned out to be LONG tour of Denver’s different super markets. We went to 3 Arab super markets, Whole Foods, a Kroger brand super market, Vitamin cottage and a Korean super market. No luck. While we were out driving my dad found out that there is a kosher supermarket not that far from where we live. I went there the next day and was happy to find Leiber’s Unflavored Jel which is a vegan gelatin made from a product of a chemical reaction. I had done some research which said that this stuff substitutes for regular gelatin without problems, so I bought 2 boxes and headed back to the kitchen.

Leibers jel

It did not work. At all. The marshmallows turned out like the texture of the inside of a Junior Mint and had a disgusting aftertaste. I was starting to get defeated, but I am never one to give up on something in the kitchen.

Marshmallow Fail
Marshmallow fail
Luckily, I have been keeping up with this season of Top Chef and remembered that one of the contestants made a shrimp noodle with agar agar. Agar agar is a vegan substitute for gelatin and is made from algae. While we were at the Korean supermarket I picked up 2 packets of powdered agar agar to play around with. Get your Agar Agar Here.

Agar Agar

Once the Leiber’s marshmallows failed miserably I started looking for a recipe for agar agar marshmallows. Again, this turned out to be way harder than I thought. Don’t get me wrong, there are many bloggers with recipes for them. Only one of them has a recipe that works.
First, I will tell you all the ones that didn’t work.

University of Indiana: Vegetarian Marshmallows
Inhabitots: Vegan Marshmallows
Oh My Sweetie Pie: Vegan Marshmallows
Vegetarian.Lovetoknow: Vegan Marshmallows

Yes…I did try all of those. Side note to all of you recipe hunters: If you are going to try a recipe off a blog, make sure you read the comments. If the recipe doesn’t work, you’d better believe the readers will let the blog writer know.

At this point I was about ready to give up, but while on hold to sign up for health insurance I came across an interesting website that said vegan marshmallows usually don’t work because they need some sort of strong protein (ie. animal protein) to hold them together. This explains why none of the recipes listed above worked.

Deep in the pages of Google I came across the blog Be Miam and her recipe for Agar Agar Marshmallows. To make up for the lack of animal protein she uses egg whites. I was so happy to find out that based on the comments, her marshmallows actually worked! And they did!!!! These marshmallows turn out a little more dense and less squishy than normal marshmallows, but considering how many failures I had before I was unbelievably excited to finally have a recipe that works! Thanks Miam. Smile

Marshmallow pile

Marshmallow

Agar Agar Marshmallows from Be Miam Christmas-ified by me
Note: These marshmallows don’t do well in hot chocolate.

Ingredients:
3 egg whites or vegan egg substitute
8.82 ounces Sugar
3.38 fl.oz water
1 Tbs Honey
1 Tsp Agar Agar Powder
1 cup crushed peppermint candies
Powdered sugar for dusting (about 1 cup)

Directions:
  • Grease a 4x4 baking dish and line with parchment paper. Brush the parchment paper with cooking oil.
  • While preparing the rest of your ingredients, dissolve the agar agar in 100ml of cold water.
  • In a small sauce pan, boil the sugar, honey and agar agar until it reaches 250 F on a candy thermometer.
  • Whisk egg whites in an electric mixer until they are very firm. You should be able to take out the whisk and have the egg whites stand up in peaks.
  • When the sugar mixture reaches 250 F, lower the mixer to a slower speed (so the hot syrup won’t splash out and burn you) and slowly pour in the syrup mixture.
  • Once all the syrup is in, raise the speed to high and mix until the syrup is incorporated.
  • Add the candies and mix until they are blended in.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and let dry for at least 10 hours.
  • Once the marshmallows are dry, unmold them and cut to your desired size.
  • Roll the marshmallows in powdered sugar and enjoy!