|Vanilla Marshmallows with festive swirl|
When I was traveling in Europe in 1996, I purchased a book called “Snow Falling on Cedars” by David Guterson published the year before. It was an excellent book as it turned out, winner of the PEN/Faulkner award, but I didn’t buy it because I was certain the writing would be any good, but because I know what snow falling on cedars looks like and the name reminded me of home. (The book is set in the Puget Sound, near Seattle).
Growing up in Washington State, my favorite tree was (and still is) the majestic cedar tree. On the rare winter days when snow fell in the Seattle area and the weather was cold enough to make it stick around for a while, the snow-covered cedars and fir created a winter wonderland. The snow made everything brighter, cleaner – the sounds muffled, the lights glowing slightly fuzzy and dim, through the falling snow – making the world a cozy, magical, slightly mysterious place, especially to a kid.
There’s another part of winter that played a large role during my childhood. On cold days, with or without the snow, we’d warm ourselves up with a cup of hot chocolate after hours spent outside. Usually it was Nestle’s Quik: a big yellow foil-lined, cardboard package with a large-toothed, big-cheeked, rabbit on the front and a plastic lid, if I remember correctly – mixed with hot boiling water, a little cold milk to cool it to a drinkable temperature, and, if we were lucky, topped with a few marshmallows that would bob up and down until they melted into the chocolate liquid or were spooned up by us to be eaten right away.
And now here I am, many years later, sitting in my apartment in Helsinki with snow falling softly outside my window and covering the birch and pine trees with a light, bright coat. I’m reminded of the old Dean Martin Christmas song: “It’s a marshmallow world in the winter, when the snow comes to cover the ground…” It calls for a cup of hot chocolate and something really easy and really special: Homemade Marshmallows.
You’ve probably seen these on sale during Christmas time at Williams & Sonoma, but trust me, once you realize how cheap and easy they are to make, you won’t be shelling out for the expensive handmade ones at specialty food shops, and you won’t be happy settling for the ones that come in plastic bags at the grocery store and are shaped like and look like the plastic covered hay bales seen off in the fields on the side of I-90 or any other freeway either.
Whip up a batch and bring them to or serve them at your next party. People, even the ones who proclaim to hate marshmallows, will love them. You can use them in baking (Rice Crispies or Rocky Road Bars, anyone?), plain out of your hand, or topping a lovely, steaming mug of simply perfect hot chocolate.
adapted from recipe by Greg Atkinson, Seattle Times Pacific Northwest Magazine, 2005
1. In the bowl of an upright mixter, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let the mixture stand while you make the syrup:
2 packets / 2 tablespoons unflavored powdered gelatine
1/2 cup / 1 dl cold water