A sweet, comforting drink.
5 gelatin sheets, or 3-3/4 tsp powdered gelatin
1/3 cup water, if using powdered gelatin, plus 3 tbsp
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp light agave syrup
Pinch of kosher salt
Sea salt, for garnish
8 oz. high-quality bittersweet chocolate (62% to 70% cacao), finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
8 cups whole milk, steamed or warmed
* Note that this recipe makes more marshmallows than you need for the hot chocolate. Since the marshmallows are best made in this batch size and have a 1-month shelf life, consider using the leftovers for s'mores.
Step 1: If you're using gelatin sheets, fill a medium bowl with ice water and submerge the sheets in the water. If you're using powdered gelatin, pour the 1/3 cup of water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface. Let either stand for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the cornstarch and confectioners sugar into a small bowl.
Step 2: Line an 8" x 8" baking pan with 2 sheets of parchment or waxed paper, laying the sheets perpendicular to each other so that the bottom and all sides of the pan are covered. Sift enough cornstarch mixture into the prepared pan to completely and generously cover the bottom. Reserve the remaining cornstarch mixture.
Step 3: In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together the remaining 3 tbsp of water, granulated sugar, agave and kosher salt. Bring the mixture to a boil without stirring and cook until the temperature registers 238°F to 240°F on a digital thermometer.**
Step 4: Meanwhile, if using gelatin sheets, lift the softened sheets out of the bowl, squeeze out the excess water, and put the gelatin in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. If using powdered gelatin, put the bloomed gelatin directly into the mixer bowl. Add the vanilla extract to the mixer bowl.
Step 5: With the mixer turned off, pour all of the hot sugar syrup over the gelatin. Whip on low speed for 30 seconds, increase to medium speed and beat for 30 seconds, and then increase the speed to high and whip for 10-11 minutes until the mixture is smooth, glossy and holds medium-firm peaks. It won't begin to resemble marshmallow until around the 5-minute mark.
Step 6: Working quickly, transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a greased offset spatula. Lightly sprinkle the top with sea salt and let stand at room temperature for 3-4 hours until set.
Step 7: Sift a generous amount of the reserved cornstarch mixture over the surface of the marshmallow. Remove from the pan by running a knife along any stuck edges, and then carefully peel away the parchment paper. Cover all edges with cornstarch mixture.*** Using a clean, hot knife or clean, hot scissors, cut the marshmallow into 1-1/2" squares. Generously dust all cut edges with cornstarch mixture to prevent sticking.
Step 1: Meanwhile, put the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl.
Step 2: In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the cream, stirring occasionally, until it registers 180°F to 190°F on a digital thermometer and bubbles start to form around the edges. (Alternatively, put the cream into a microwavable liquid measuring cup or bowl and microwave at full power for about 60 seconds.)
Step 3: Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and, using rubber spatula, stir until the chocolate is mostly melted. Blend with an immersion blender or transfer to a food processor and process until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth and shiny. (Alternatively, set the bowl over a saucepan of just simmered water and whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.)
Step 4: To make the hot chocolate, rewarm the ganache to pourable consistency, if needed, and place 1/4 cup of ganache into each 10-oz. ceramic cup. Pour 1 cup of the steamed milk into each cup. If you pour holding the vessel containing the milk 12" above the cup, gravity will provide all the agitation that's required to blend the ganache with the milk. No stirring needed.
Step 5: Top with two marshmallows and serve.
** This recipe requires an accurate thermometer for taking the temperature of the sugar syrup. Instant-read thermometers are notoriously inaccurate, so if you own an instant-read thermometer, it's good practice to check its calibration before beginning. Simply bring a small pot of water to a boil and verify that the thermometer registers 212°F (at sea level) when inserted into the water.
*** Once the marshmallows have set, they are still quite sticky. The best way to conquer the stickiness is to be generous with the cornstarch and confectioners sugar mixture, dusting your hands, tools and all marshmallow surfaces.
Do Ahead: This recipe makes enough chocolate ganache for 8 servings of hot chocolate. The ganache can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, and can be made ahead, or saved for another round of hot chocolate another day. The marshmallows take 3-4 hours to set, but can be made up to a month in advance and, in fact, the curing time gives them an even better texture. Stored in an airtight container, the marshmallows will keep for 1 month at room temperature.
See more recipes from Caitlin Freeman.
Reprinted with permission from Caitlin Freeman's Modern Art Desserts (2013 Ten Speed Press).