Macaroon Marshmallows

This recipe showcases the alchemy of candymaking at its most thrilling: An odd gray mixture first fills your kitchen with the depressing scent of horse hooves, then billows up into white clouds of exquisite marshmallow.

It's lots of fun to make, and so extravagantly delicious that you'll want to taste it before wrapping it up festively for teachers and classmates, friends and family. If you're planning to give this stuff away, make some extra, okay? After all, you don't want your children tearing open their friends' gifts just so they can cram a handful of marshmallows into their own deprived faces. (I'm just imagining here.)

Hands-On Time: 1 hour
Ready In: 1 hour
Yield: 117 marshmallows

Ingredients

    3 cups sweetened, flaked coconut, divided
    1 cup cold water, divided
    3 (1/4-ounce) envelopes unflavored gelatin
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    1 cup light corn syrup
    2 teaspoons vanilla
    1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350. Toast coconut on a rimmed cookie sheet, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant, about 10 to 18 minutes. Oil a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and sprinkle 1 cup of the toasted coconut over it.
  2. Pour 1/2 cup of the water into the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, then sprinkle the gelatin over it and leave to soften for 5 minutes. It will get very strange looking, but don't worry.
  3. In a small, heavy pot over medium heat, stir together the sugar, corn syrup, and remaining water until the sugar is mostly dissolved, about 3 minutes, then cook without stirring until the syrup reaches 240 on a candy thermometer, about 10 to 17 minutes. As the syrup cooks, use a brush dipped in cold water to wash down any sugar crystals on the side of the pot (so they don't burn — you won't need to do this if you're using a nonstick pan). And be patient: The syrup may take what seems like forever to climb the last 5 or 10 degrees.
  4. Turn off heat and let the syrup settle for 1 minute (so it doesn't splatter), then pour it down the side of the mixing bowl and over the gelatin with the mixer on low. Once it's all in (after about 1 minute), turn the mixer to high and beat for 15 minutes. It will turn delightfully thick. Add extracts and beat another minute or so, then use a rubber spatula to scrape mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers in cold water to pat down the top, then sprinkle on another cup of coconut and let set overnight at room temperature.
  5. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan and invert onto a cutting board, then use the knife to cut the marshmallow first into 1-inch strips and then into 1-inch cubes. Coat cut sides in the remaining coconut and store in airtight containers before packaging.

Variation
To make the kind of marshmallows you'd want to melt in hot chocolate, skip the almond extract and add any other flavor you like with the vanilla (peppermint extract, say). In place of the coconut, sift together 1/2 cup cornstarch with 1/2 cup confectioners sugar. Prepare the pan by lining it with foil, oiling it, and sifting some of the sugar-starch mixture over it. After the marshmallow has set, sift more sugar-starch over the top, then turn out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch cubes, sifting more sugar-starch as you go. Finally, dredge cubes in the mixture and shake in a sifter or sieve to knock off the excess.

Sweets, Cubed
These trays (Tovolo perfect cube, blue or green, $15, amazon.com) are just the right shape and size for the marshmallows. Once the trays were full we sealed them in cellophane bags (8 1/4-by-10 1/4-inch bags, $10 for 100, paperpresentation.com) to keep the treats fresh.

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