Daring Bakers July: Culinary insubordination with marshmallow

I was feeling rebellious this month. One thing I’ve learned about Daring Bakers over the past few months is that experimentation is not only tolerated, but encouraged. Want to replace an apple pastry filling with cherry? Go for it! Thinking of turning a sweet challenge savoury? Do it! Usually though, I stick very close to the proffered recipe. Not only do I like the challenge of baking the specific recipe given, but I’m also kind of lazy. Whatever’s handed to me will do perfectly nicely, thank you very much.

But this month’s challenge – chocolate marshmallow cookies, a childhood favourite of mine (though we call them Viva Puffs where I come from, thanks to their most common brand name) – was crying out for a little alteration. As soon as I saw a Viva Puff cupcake from the School Bakery and Cafe in Toronto in this post at The Shapes of Things (scroll down the post to see the photo), I knew the cookie idea was out the window. I had to make cupcakes!

Since this challenge was really about learning to make marshmallow, I figured this small substitution would be acceptable. I also figured my marshmallow would be a total disaster, as most of my ventures including egg whites are. But it actually went fine. The part I was most worried about – cooking the sugar mixture to just the right stage – was remarkably simple. I don’t own a candy thermometer so I was relying on cooking the mixture until the 'soft ball' stage – that is, until a teensy bit of syrup dropped into cool water will come together to form a very soft, loose ball between your fingers. The test worked – relief.

After that, it was a case of letting my stand mixer do all the work. And work, it did. With the whisk attachment on, I left my machine running for at least ten minutes on full power before I had a stiff, pipeable marshmallow. My top marshmallow tip would be not to worry about how runny the mixture seems once you fold the syrup into the egg whites. Providing you’ve already got the syrup and egg whites at the right consistency, if you leave the mixer alone to do its job you will eventually get marshmallow.

These marshmallow-topped cupcakes were so much fun to make and eat! But because the rebel label doesn’t really suit me, I did make one little mallow cookie:

Isn’t he cute? A little lonely, but cute.

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

Marshmallow-covered Chocolate Cupcakes
Based on All-in-the-pan Chewy Chocolate Cake

Makes 12

1 1/2 cups all purpose or plain flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar (I have used other vinegars in a pinch with no problem)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup cool water

Preheat oven to 350F/176C. Fill a 12-cup pan with paper muffin cups.

Sift flour into a large bowl and whisk in cocoa, sugar, baking soda and salt until well combined.

With the back of a teaspoon make three indentations in the dry mixture – one small, one medium and one large. Pour the vanilla into the small one, the vinegar into the medium one and the oil into the large one. Pour the water over everything. With a fork or whisk, stir the mixture until it is well blended. Mix until most of the lumps are smoothed out and the consistency of the batter is pretty much even throughout. There will be small lumps left – don’t worry about this. Don’t overbeat the batter!

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups. Bake for about 18 to 20 minutes, until the cupcake springs back when touched and a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool.

Once completely cool, pipe a large spiral swirl of marshmallow (recipe below) onto the top of each cupcake. Leave to set for 2 hours.

Once the marshmallow has firmed up, pour the chocolate glaze (recipe below) into a small, shallow bowl. Dip each cupcake into the glaze until it completely covers the marshmallow topping. Place each cupcake back down on the wire rack to let the glaze harden. It will take a couple of hours to harden at room temperature; to speed up the process place the cupcakes in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Marshmallow

Makes enough for 24 cupcakes

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup or liquid glucose
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp powdered gelatin
2 Tbsp cold water
2 egg whites at room temperature
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve. Set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup and sugar. Bring to a boil until the temperature reaches 235 degrees on a candy thermometer, or the 'soft ball' stage – when a little bit of syrup is poured into cool water, it will come together between your fingers to form a very loose, soft ball.

Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix well.

Now in the bowl of a stand mixer or with an electric hand mixer, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form – don’t overbeat and allow the whites to go dull. With the mixer still running, pour the syrup into the whites. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until the mixture is stiff: this can take up to ten minutes with the machine on full power. The marshmallow is ready when it stands up in stiff peaks.

Transfer the marshmallow to a pastry bag.

Chocolate Glaze

Makes enough for 24 cupcakes

170 grams (6 ounces) good quality chocolate, whichever type you prefer
2 Tbsp vegetable or other flavourless oil

In a double boiler over low heat, melt together the chocolate and oil until smooth. Transfer to a small, shallow bowl.