Made-from-scratch marshmallow is truly a creation to be celebrated. Tell people you make your own and they’ll stare at you in disbelief. How is it that a mere mortal can dare to make something so ethereal, so elemental at home? Next he’ll be telling he makes his own small-batch artisan air! Truly, for many, to presume to make one’s own marshmallow is to try the very patience of the gods. In point of fact marshmallow is no big whoop. If you have a stand mixer you can make it easily. Nothing more than a sugar syrup and egg white foam reinforced with gelatin.
That of course is the modern version. The original marshmallow reinforcer was the glue-like root sap of a plant called — what else — the marsh mallow, a kind of hollyhock common to Europe and Asia. The original is still made on the continent, where it’s known as pâté de guimauve. Powdered marsh mallow sap can be had here in the States if you’re truly dedicated/obsessed.
I personally like marshmallows just fine out of a bag (they’re the only kind that are tough enough to toast over an open fire on a stick), but there’s no question that homemade marshmallow is something quite special. Not only is homemade marshmallow lighter and gooier than the store-bought equivalent, you can flavor it any way you wish with a little extract of one sort or another…mint, orange, lemon, strawberry, coffee, you name it. You can even infuse the water in the recipe with herbs (like lavender) if you feel like going high-brow. Oh yes, amazing stuff, marshmallow.