Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Never mind that I second guessed myself at every turn during this recipe. Also, never mind the fact that while I was making these I was entirely certain that if I were to spill some of the molten hot sugar syrup down myself, no one would have been around the house to hear me scream, let alone take me to a hospital.

Because frankly, all things considered, it was worth it. There aren’t many recipes that actually make you feel like a kid again, or let you so vividly recall how fun it can be to get messy.

Before embarking on the making of these marshmallows, I wasn’t entirely certain that the end product would be much different from the countless marshmallow experiences I’ve had to date. Then, when I actually ate one, I realized that I’d clearly never had a homemade marshmallow before. The texture is so much more satisfying—chewy yet airy—unlike the over-dried packaged ones. And while it was a bit unnerving working with things I generally tend to avoid (i.e., liquid glucose and cornstarch), the process itself was not inherently difficult.

Essentially, marshmallows are just an Italian meringue with gelatin added to the syrup to allow the mixture to hold its shape once it’s dried.
And if you know me at all, you know exactly what I did once they were done…

Later that day, when I had some friends over for dinner, what had previously been a perfectly polite meal turned into a competition of who could make the biggest mess of themselves when I unveiled these for dessert…

And then this happened…
Proust, you can keep your madeleines—I’ll take the marshmallow.

Marshmallows (adapted from James Martin’s Great British Winter Cookbook)
650g Sugar
2 Tbsp. liquid glucose
3 Egg whites
14 Leaves of gelatin
2 tsp Vanilla extract
3 Tbsp Powdered sugar
3 Tbsp Cornstarch
Special Equipment:
Electric mixer
Candy thermometer
Directions: Sift together the powdered sugar and cornstarch. Grease a 10x10-inch baking pan with cooking spray then dust with the cornstarch mixture. Soak the gelatin leaves in 150mL cold water. Pour the sugar, liquid glucose and 200mL water into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, place over medium-high heat and insert your candy thermometer. The sugar mixture needs to come up to 127 degrees C/260 degrees F (also known as hardball stage)—this will take about 10 minutes. While the sugar is cooking, beat the egg whites in a large heat-proof bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. When the sugar syrup reaches hardball stage, remove it from the heat. Very carefully, slide in the softened gelatin and its water—the mixture will bubble up, so don’t burn yourself. Stir to dissolve the gelatin. With the mixer running, slowly pour the syrup into the egg whites in a small stream, taking care not to cook the eggs. When the syrup is added, the mixture will deflate slightly, but continue mixing for about 10 minutes longer until it starts to stiffen up again. When the mixture holds a soft peak, scrape into the greased and dusted baking dish and allow to cool completely, about an hour. Dust a kitchen surface well with some of the cornstarch mixture, and then tip the marshmallow onto it. Dust a knife and cut into cubes, rolling each one individually so it is no longer sticky, but patting away excess cornstarch. Allow to dry a further hour before storing in an airtight container.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Lemon Yogurt Almond Cake

I don’t know why I waited so long between making this delicious cake and telling you all about it. It may have something to do with the fact that every time I thought about sitting down and writing about this cake, I was suddenly overcome with the desire to make it again and have some rather than just talk about it. The acidity of the lemon zest and the cool tang of the yogurt work so well together; and the combination improves once the nuttiness of the ground almonds gets involved on the back of your palate. Once again, we have here a recipe adapted from a lemon yogurt cake from Ina “start with four sticks of butter” Garten, but in this case, the moniker is undeserved since this ain’t no pound cake. It’s really light and achieves a nice balance between moist, sweet and airy. Combine that with the bright citrusy kick which I so dearly love, and you’ve got a hit on your hands.

Perhaps in future attempts (and there will be several I am sure), I might make this look a little sexier with a powdered sugar-based glaze on top rather than the syrupy version I did on this one. And it would certainly be possible to play around with pan shapes and sizes, or even get crazy and use other types of citrus like lime, blood orange or even grapefruit. Or I could just stop tinkering and make it again already…

Lemon Almond Yogurt Cake
1 cup flour
1 cup finely ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
1 cup plain yogurt (Ina said to use whole, but I used low fat—you be the judge)
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
Zest of two lemons
1 teaspoon almond extract
½ cup vegetable oil.
For the syrup:
Juice of two lemons
¾ cup sugar

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/ 180 degrees C. Butter and flour an 8x8 baking tin and line the bottom with parchment. In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until yolks are lightened, just about a minute or two. Add the yogurt, vegetable oil, lemon zest and almond extract and whisk again to combine. Add the dry ingredients and stir until just incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 18-20 minutes or until a tester toothpick comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, pour the lemon juice and sugar into a small saucepan and place over low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When the cake is out of the oven and has cooled for about 4-5 minutes, carefully pour the hot syrup over the cake, allowing it to soak in. Cool in pan before removing and slicing.