I have been inundating the blog with sweets lately (well, at least my last post had bacon). I guess that is a testament as to what I have been eating lately.
For example, currently I am sitting in bed with a large pan of brownies, a half pint of raspberries and a fork.
It’s no big surprise that I like the sweet stuff. It is also no surprise that I have a thing for homemade marshmallows.
As a kid the only way I would consume the store bought marshmallows was if they had been perfectly roasted on a stick over an open fire, then squeezed in between two graham crackers and a chunk of chocolate until their perfectly softened insides creep and ooze passed the edge of the cracker leaving me content and sticky.
But homemade marshmallows are in a completely different category. For one thing these sugary, cloud-like confections don’t need to be toasted for me to enjoy them. In fact, I will stand in the kitchen and lick the beaters clean, once again – content and sticky.
One evening, not so very long ago, two of my happy tastes collided. Prior to this collision I found myself in a Mexican market. While my husband giddily filled several brown paper bags with Pan Dulces I was smitten with a bag of dried Hibiscus flowers. I dreamed of lazy Summer evenings sipping Hibiscus Lemonade.
A sudden urge for marshmallows and a recent purchase of Hibiscus flowers sparked an idea. An idea so very delicious – it’s as if fate wrote this recipe.
I often find marshmallows intensely sweet. Considering they are made of two ingredients – sugar and gelatin, it is no wonder they are so very sweet. But the Hibiscus in these marshmallows plays down the sweetness to create a complex flavor with a very delicate texture and a touch of tart that comes from the addition of lemon zest and juice.
You can find dried Hibiscus or Jamaica Flowers in the ethnic aisle or at a Mexican Market. Generally they are used to create a refreshing tea that is quite similar to cranberry juice when sugar is added. Many believe that the Hibiscus is packed with all sorts of healthy goodness including loads of vitamin C. It is also believe that consuming Hibiscus can aid in digestive issues, lowering fevers and act as a natural diuretic.
Beyond marshmallows Hibiscus can be used in teas, cocktails, syrups, jellies, granita, ice creams and sorbets.
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup hibiscus “juice”, divided (recipe below)
12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
1 cup light corn syrup (or glucose)
1 tsp. Lemon zest
2-4 Tbl. Lemon juice (depending on your preference)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
When you are able to blow a bubble with the boiling sugar then it is the correct temperature. Dip the fork in the sugar then lightly blow.
Place the gelatin and 1/2 cup of the hibiscus “juice” in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 hibiscus “juice”, granulated sugar, corn syrup, lemon zest, juice and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.
Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.
Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Line a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with aluminum then spray with pan spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.When ready, pour the marshmallow fluff into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours.
Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel or sharp knife dusted with the confectioners’ sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
Sugar, corn syrup, lemon and Hibiscus “juice” bubbling away.
3 cups water
1/2 cup dried Hibiscus or Jamaica Flowers
Bring the water to a boil. Add the flowers. Turn off the heat, cover and let steep for 10 minutes.
At this point you can also add a sweetener (sugar, honey, agave) and a bit more water and you have a lovely Hibiscus Tea. Add lemon and more sugar for Hibiscus Lemonade.
Other fantastic uses for Hibiscus: