Do you have any holiday baking traditions? Do you make those cut little green wreath cookies with your mom every December, or break out your frying oil and your great aunt’s famous sufganiyot recipe?
I, for one, don’t really have any holiday traditions in the kitchen, unless you count being consumed by an overwhelming urge to make ~all the cookies~ between December 1st-25th. The closest thing I’ve got are the hours I spend in my yiayia’s kitchen twisting kouroulakia to make her famous recipe every time I come home for the holidays. She doesn’t let me come over when she’s making the dough though. It’s a legendary family recipe and I don’t think she’s keen to share it with me.
All that to say, I usually spend December experimenting with as many new seasonal desserts as I can possibly find or imagine. There has been a dark and sticky gingerbread cake one year, obviously a lot of cranberry things, cookie recipes from around the world (shoutout to Irish shortbread!), and this year, two molasses/gingerbread experiments. The first was a lebkuchen dough from Luisa Weiss that had to be aged at room temperature for TWO WHOLE MONTHS and only made me a little nervous to eat, because after all two months is a very long time.
The second experiment was these molasses gingerbread marshmallows. They were very good and unfortunately quite a bit of them got thrown away in the midst of a very frantic and last minute move, but thankfully there were still a lot of cookies left over to make up for it.
The core concept at the heart of the these marshmallows is the very daring move to sub in molasses for corn syrup. And it works! Not only do you get corn syrup-free marshmallows, but the molasses also means that they’re not nearly as overwhelmingly sweet as normal marshmallows (not that I’m usually complaining, but still). They also have a very lovely spice situation going on, so that they’re, duh, very gingerbread-y. It’s a holiday success story!
If you haven’t made marshmallows before, you’ll need a stand mixer and a candy thermometer. Although to be honest, I made marshmallows several times before getting a candy thermometer and I don’t think the science is quite as exact as people make it out to be. Just have a bowl of ice water, and when a drop of the boiling syrup mixture forms a soft ball after being dropped into the ice water, you’re good to go. Other than that, be prepared to be amazed by the awesome transformation of boiling sugar into billowing white marshmallow cream. It’s almost as addictive as the marshmallows themselves.
Oh! And you should know that these have a very strong molasses flavor (obvi). Which is great if you love molasses like I do, less so if you think it’s usually too strong or overpowering.
Now get on with your holiday baking and be a champ.
* * *
Molasses Gingerbread Marshmallows
Adapted from Joy the Baker
Makes about 30 marshmallows
1 cup cold water, divided
2 1/4-ounce packages unflavored gelatin
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
1 cup powdered sugar, for coating the pan and topping the marshmallows
Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper, then spray generously with oil. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add 1/2 cup of water. Sprinkle the two packets of gelatin over it, then let stand to bloom. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1/2 cup water, sugar, molasses, and salt in a large pan on medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Then, use a candy thermometer to measure the temperature, bringing it up to 240 degrees. Don’t worry about stirring.
As soon as the mixture hits 240 degrees, turn the stand mixer on low speed and gradually pour in the hot sugar syrup. Once you’ve poured in all the syrup, increase the mixer speed to high and beat until the mixture has paled significantly, is thick and billowing, and the bowl is no longer hot to the touch, about 8 minutes. Add the vanilla and spices and beat a few minutes longer.
Spread the fluffy marshmallow mixture into the prepared baking pan. Sift a generous amount of powdered sugar over the top until it is completely covered. Let set at room temperature at least 4 hours or overnight.
Once set, gently remove from the pan, then use a well oiled knife to cut into squares. To store, coat the marshmallows in powdered sugar, or a mixture of powdered sugar + cornstarch.
Most people seem to say marshmallows will last for about a week stored airtight at room temperature, but tbh I’ve had some batches last for over a month because of all the sugar, so you do you. They can also be stored in the freezer indefinitely and eaten straight from there.