Friday, November 30, 2012

Edible Gifts: Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix and Peppermint Marshmallows

Need a quick gift idea in your back pocket this season?

You can put together a gift package of homemade hot cocoa mix and peppermint marshmallows before you know it.

Yes, I said homemade peppermint marshmallows. Don't let the marshmallows scare you.
These puffy soft clouds of sweet Christmas cheer are easier than you think. In about 30 minutes of active time, you will have pillowy marshmallow creme ready to set up over night.

The magic of chemistry make the process so fun. As you whip air into the gelatin and sugar mixture, it slowly transforms into marshmallow creme. If you have kids, grab them to help you cut them out with cookie cutters. To make them even easier, use a sharp knife to cut them into squares.

The hot cocoa mix can be done in a matter of minutes with the help of a blender or food processor. To package the hot cocoa mix, grab an empty baking powder or lemonade canister out of the recycle bin and cover with wrapping paper. Wrap the marshmallows in a square of parchment paper and tie with ribbon.

Hot Cocoa Mix:
Makes about 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cups mix, enough to fill one baking powder canister

1 1/4 cup dry milk powder
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse a few times until well combined. Store in an airtight container.

Peppermint Marshmallows:
Makes 9-10 marshmallows using medium-sized cookie cutters

1 cup cold water, divided
2 packages unflavored gelatin (I used Knox)
1/3 cup honey
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 cup+ powdered sugar for dusting

Grease and dust a 9 x 13 pan with powdered sugar and set aside. Sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water in a bowl and set aside to soften. Use the bowl of your stand mixer if you have one.

In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, bring remaining water, honey and sugar to 240 degrees using a candy thermometer. Once the sugar mixture is boiling, this could take 5-10 minutes.

Prep your stand mixer or blender with the whisk attachment or the smallest beaters available. When the sugar mixture has reached 240 degrees, slowly pour into gelatin mixture with machine on low. Continue pouring and increase speed slowly to high.

Beat marshmallow creme until doubled in volume, about eight minutes. Add vanilla and peppermint extract and continue beating until thick, about two more minutes. Ribbons in the marshmallow creme should disappear in about two seconds.

Pour marshmallow creme into prepared pan and dust top with more powdered sugar. Allow to set up for at least four hours or overnight. Turn marshmallow out onto a cutting board and cut into squares with a sharp knife or cookie cutters. Toss with powdered sugar to cover cut edges. Store in an airtight container for two to three weeks.

Put together a batch today and spread some Christmas joy with those cherished people around you. Don't forget to cut up those marshmallow scraps for your self, they all melt just the same.

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