May 27, 2012

Whoopsie Daisy! Mistake with Marshmallows Makes for Mighty Tasty Treat

I've been making marshmallows since pastry school, and I'm quite proud to say they've always turned out... until last week. When embarking on a new recipe, I used to need to make it as-is the first time through. But I've learned enough about method and ingredients after all this time to futz around with an original recipe and still have it turn out right. Alas, this particular attempt got the better of me when I decided to substitute water for whiskey in making a spiked version of candied bacon marshmallows. I didn't really think alcohol would affect structure and figured it could be substituted wherever water was needed in the process. Unfortunately, I was wrong!

Making marshmallows requires blooming unflavored gelatin in water. Most recipes require water divided, with portion used to bloom the gelatin and another smaller amount later with the simple syrup you make on the stove. I tried it with whiskey in the bloom and water in the simple syrup, and I ended up with a runny, sticky mess I pitched down the garbage disposal. I tried the reverse the second time (saves a bit on whiskey too), and I ended up with more of a marshmallow fluff--usable but not really firm enough to be marshmallows.

Some research on the subject brought me to this site, Gelatin Food Science, which is the ultimate food nerd's answer to all things gelatin. The following statement described my problem to a T: "Competition between gelatin and glucose polymers for water in low water content products can result in, at worst, precipitation of the gelatin and at best a marked loss in gelling properties or hardness of the product."

So I'd robbed my marshmallows of vital water by subbing water for alcohol, which limited the gelling capabilities overall. Bummer! A quick Google search on "marshmallows with alcohol" renders a lot of recipes where the alcohol is just added as a flavor with the vanilla in the end. Point to remember!

Nonetheless, I ended up with a fine batch of marshmallow fluff for making frosting, and the following recipe was born: French Toast Whoopie Pies with Candied Bacon Whiskey Marshmallow Filling. Go ahead... Eat them for breakfast. They were already born from a mistake, so eating dessert first shouldn't really matter!

French Toast Whoopie Pies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture in three intervals, alternating with the buttermilk and mix just until combine. Add the vanilla and beat on medium for 2 minutes, until completely combined. Using a small 1-inch cookie scoop, drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of space between cookies. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 8-10 minutes, or until they are set and just beginning to brown. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Sandwich together with Candied Bacon Whiskey Marshmallow Filling. Makes 12-15 whoopie pies.

Candied Bacon Whiskey Marshmallow Filling for Whoopie Pies (adapted from Kitchen Konfidence)

Cooking spray
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, divided (1/4 for bacon, 1/4 for marshmallows)
6 strips all-natural thick-cut bacon
4 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup real maple syrup (not Log Cabin!)
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup bourbon or rye whiskey
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat your oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment and place an oven-proof baking rack inside it. Coat the rack with cooking spray and set aside.

Stir together light brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon on a plate. Rub each slice of bacon on both sides with cinnamon sugar until evenly coated. Lay strips of bacon on rack on baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until deeply caramelized. Let cool then finely chop.

Combine gelatin and cold water in a small bowl, whisking to combine. Let stand for at least 5 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, combine granulated sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup, whiskey, and sea salt, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Clip a candy thermometer or insert a metal probe thermometer into the mixture and continue to boil until it reaches 240°F. (If the mixture starts to bubble up too much, lower the heat.) Remove from heat once the mixture reaches 240°F.

Microwave the gelatin on high for 30 seconds. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on low for a moment then slowly pour in the hot syrup mixture. Beat on high for 10 minutes. Fold in 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and scoop mixture into plastic container. Seal tightly and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

To make filling for whoopie pies, cream together 1 cup candied bacon whiskey marshmallow fluff and 1/2 stick unsalted butter. Add 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and mix until stiff and spreadable. Pipe onto whoopie cookies or scoop using 1-inch cookie scoop.