The sweet history and recipes of marshmallows

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The sweet history and recipes of marshmallows

The Greeks used marshmallows to heal wounds and soothe sore throats

The sweet history and recipes of marshmallows

Springy, sweet, and puffed with air, marshmallows. as we know them, are our go-to snacks. It turns out, though, that the campfire-friendly confections originated thousands of years ago from the basics of ingredients.

Start with the fact that the marshmallow is actually a plant. Found mostly in Europe and western Asia, Althaea Officinalis grows as high as six feet tall and sprouts light pink flowers. A member of the mallow family, it grows mainly in wet or marshy areas and thus, "marsh" meets "mallow".

At the beginning of the 9th century BCE, the Greeks used marshmallows to heal wounds and soothe sore throats. A balm made from the plant’s sap was often applied to toothaches and bee stings. The plant’s medicinal uses grew more varied in the centuries that followed. 

Arab physicians made a poultice from ground-up marshmallow leaves and used it as an anti-inflammatory. The Romans found that marshmallows worked well as a laxative, while numerous other civilizations found it had the opposite effect on one’s libido. By the Middle Age, marshmallows served as a treatment for everything, from upset stomachs to chest cold and insomnia.

Credit: CitySpidey

Ancient Egyptians were the first ones to make a sweet treat from the plant when they combined marshmallow sap with nuts and honey. For centuries afterwards, the plant served as a food source only in times of famine. In contrast to the marshmallow candy, the marshmallow plant is tough and very bitter. 

In 9th century France, confectioners married the plant’s medicinal side with the indulgent qualities revealed by the Egyptians. Pâté de guimauve was a spongy-soft dessert made from whipping dried marshmallow roots with sugar, water, and egg whites. Sold as a healthful treat in lozenge and bar form, the guimauve, as it was known, quickly became a hit. 

There was just one problem: drying and preparing the marshmallow stretched production to a day or two. To cut down the time, confectioners substituted gelatin for the plant extract.

With production streamlined, marshmallows made their way to the US in the late 1800s. Soon after arriving, the recipe was tweaked to make marshmallow crème (which, keeping in line with marshmallow's health food origins, was once advertised as a wrinkle cream).

In 1927, the Girl Scouts Handbook published a recipe for "Some More". It instructed readers to "toast two marshmallows over the coals to a crisp gooey state and then put them inside a graham cracker and chocolate bar sandwich". The name was soon shortened, and s'mores have been an American campfire tradition ever since.

The next leap for marshmallows came in the 1950s when manufacturer Alex Doumak developed a process called extrusion that forced marshmallow mixture through metal tubes, shaping it into long ropes that were then cut in uniform size. The process gave marshmallows their cylindrical shape and it pumped even more air into them, giving them the soft-but-firm quality that we associate with the treat today. 

Kraft’s "Jet Puffed" tagline rebranded this process, which subjects the marshmallow mixture to gas blasts at 200 pounds per square inch.

Whether mini or giant, marshmallows are an everyday sweet treat and a staple for favourite family recipes! From roasting over a campfire or cereal treats to snacking and crafts, Campfire Marshmallows add a little fun to everyday life!

Credit: CitySpidey

Recipe:

Take a greased baking tray and sprinkle ½ of icing sugar on it. Dissolve gelatin in a cup of water and keep it aside.

In a pan, add water, corn syrup and sugar and cook on low flame till the sugar doesn’t dissolve and the mixture comes to a boil. Keep stirring in between.

Now cook the mixture without covering it to form a hard consistency. You can drop a little syrup in cold water and check whether it has become firm or not.

In a large bowl, add the sugar mixture and the gelatin and beat until fluffy. Pour the mixture into the greased tray with icing sugar and refrigerate overnight.

After refrigerating, sprinkle the remaining icing sugar and cut the marshmallows into cubes and store.