Homemade Marshmallows Are S'more Delicious

Commentator and cookbook author Nancy Baggett says it's really not so hard to make marshmallows from scratch. More moist, more tender, and more flavorful than store-bought marshmallows, your S'mores, hot chocolate and Heavenly Hash will never be the same again.

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

Commentator and cookbook author Nancy Baggett is perfectly willing to brave the mosquito hordes, as long as she gets to that pot of melted gold at the end of her Labor Day weekend picnic.

Ms. NANCY BAGGETT (Commentator, Cookbook Author): My family's gathering for a cookout. I'm all set. My sticks are whittled and a sack of marshmallows, grahams and chocolate bars waits by the door. I wouldn't want to miss this last chance of the season for the sanctioned overindulgence called eating s'mores.

I'm already mentally fast forwarding through the steak grilling and corn roasting and chitchatting and I'm on to the main event. Never mind that we cook over a backyard grill instead of a crackling campfire. No matter that lawn chairs and landscaping and gas lamps stand in for a deep, still forest or that the odor of charcoal supplants the purifying scent of smoldering (unintelligible) and tall pines.

In my mind's eye, my grandchildren merge with the kids I recall from my camp counseling days - eager but callow and in dire need of improved marshmallow roasting technique. If you don't get them hot, they won't melt the chocolate and glue the grahams together, I want to warn them. But I respect that it's an art requiring practice that youngsters need to find their own personal s'mores style.

Maybe my grandkids will mimic my daughter-in-law, whose technique is sensible and refined but a touch persnickety. She calculates the proper distance for holiding her white puffs from the heat, then slowly, methodically rotates them until golden brown. My son's approach is shocking and utterly incomprehensible to his mother. He pushes the marshmallows and graham crackers aside and simple eats the chocolate bar. This peculiar predilection, which I hope his children never witness, must be inherited from the other side of the family.

Other than upgrading to premium chocolate and sometimes to homemade marshmallows, my own s'mores method hasn't changed much in decades. The puffy confections stay by the glowing embers until they sizzle and singe and suddenly ignite. I let the fireballs char on the outside until mostly carbonized then, poof, I blow out the flames.

Yes, this occasionally results in something resembling ashes and lumps of coals, but when I'm on, it yields an amazing amalgam of fragrant, partly-molten, partly-crispy, chewy burnt sugar of goo that fully melts the chocolate and plays beautifully off the graham cracker crunch.

No wonder these goodies are called s'mores. With the plaintive sound of the folk tune "Kumbaya" suddenly playing in my head, I'm more on the fast approaching end of grilling season and contemplate the cold, s'mores-less months ahead. Perhaps I can put my cookbook author skills to work and create some clever indoor s'mores recipes to carry me through.

How about a batch of oven-baked cinnamon graham and cranberry studded s'mores bars for Thanksgiving? Or maybe a chocolate peppermint s'mores pie topped with broiled marshmallows and red and green sprinkles for Christmas.

I'm sure my son will pronounce them ghastly but they will drive my grandchildren absolutely wild.

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LYDEN: Commentator Nancy Baggett actually makes her marshmallows from scratch -imagine that. You can find the recipe on our Web site, NPR.org.

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LYDEN: And "The Song of Hiawatha" that we spoke of just a few minutes ago inspired our parting words tonight. They come from another poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The songbirds leaveth at summer's close. Only the empty nests are left behind, and pipings of the quail among the sheaves.

That's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

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Recipe: 'The All-American Dessert Book'

Homemade Honey Marshmellows

Homemade Honey Marshmallows

Makes 96 generous 1-inch marshmallows

Considering how easy it is to make marshmallows and how appealing they are, it's surprising that they are so infrequently made at home. They are moister, tenderer, and more flavorful than the store-bought kind, especially when a little honey is incorporated to round out the taste. Use them to make Indoor S'mores or Heavenly Hash Faux Fudge, toast them in the fireplace, or float them on mugs of steaming hot chocolate.

It's easy to produce a variety of marshmallow flavors and colors simply by adding some citrus, mint, or other flavoring oils (not extracts) and an appropriate food color to the basic recipe. You can also turn out eye-catching "gourmet-shaped" marshmallows using whatever cookie cutters you desire (see the variation). Homemade marshmallows are wonderful dipped in chocolate.

2 ½ tablespoons unflavored gelatin (3-4 packets)

½ cup plus 3 tablespoons water (divided)

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

¼ cup honey

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

3-4 drops almond extract, to taste (optional)

3-5 drops candy flavoring oil, to taste (such as oil of lemon, lime peppermint or crème de menthe)

2-4 drops liquid food color, as desired

¾ cup powdered sugar for dusting marshmallows.

Line a 9x13-inch baking dish with wax paper, allowing the paper to overhang the ends by about 1 inch. Evenly coat the paper with nonstick spray.

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the ½ cup cold water. Let stand, stirring once or twice, until the gelatin softens, about 6 minutes.

In a heavy 3- to 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together the granulated sugar, corn syrup, honey, salt and the remaining 3 tablespoons warm water until well blended. When the sugar dissolves, raise the heat and bring the mixture to a full boil, stirring. Boil for 20 seconds. Stir in the gelatin mixture, vanilla and almond extract (if using), and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds longer. Remove from the heat and continue stirring until the gelatin completely dissolves.

Pour the mixture into a large bowl. Add the flavoring oil and/or food color, if desired. Using a mixer (with a whisk-shaped attachment, if available) and gradually raising the mixer speed from low to high, beat until the mixture is stiffened, lightened and very fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes.

Coat a rubber spatula with nonstick spray, and use it to scrape out the marshmallow mixture into the baking dish, spreading it evenly to the edges. Very evenly coat a sheet of wax paper with nonstick spray, then pat it down on the marshmallow surface. Let the mixture cool and firm up, at least 6 hours and preferably 24 hours. (The mixture will become firmer and easier to handle if left for the full 24 hours.)

To cut the marshmallows: Sift about one third of the powdered sugar onto a cutting board. Lift the marshmallow slab out of the baking dish. Peel off the top sheet of wax paper. Invert the slab onto the powdered sugar and peel off the other sheet of wax paper. Sift about a third of the remaining powdered sugar over the top of the slab. Using lightly greased kitchen shears or a lightly greased, large sharp knife, cut the slab crosswise into 12ths and lengthwise into 8ths to form 1-inch marshmallow cubes. Dust all the cut surfaces with powdered sugar to reduce their stickiness. As necessary, clean off and regrease the knife.

The marshmallows will keep, stored loosely packed in an airtight container (with wax paper between the layers) in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Let come to room temperature before serving.

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