Homemade Halloween: Marshmallow Ghosts

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a newly-married woman in possession of a good kitchen must be in want of a KitchenAid.

Actually the newly married has nothing to do with it but we finally moved to a house where appliances don’t have to prove their worth by multi-tasking to earn valuable counter space (therefore hello enormo coffee grinder…) and my mother in law brilliantly ordered this for us.

This immediately made me want to make ridiculous things, preferably involving hot sugar.  I’m trying to not eat the entire world after being on a hardcore pre-wedding diet, but [serious case of “justification” coming] I’ve had this particular recipe in mind for ages and Halloween was coming…

Marshmallow Ghosts

I worked from the recipe in Matt Lewis and Rene Poliafito‘s Baked book, after seeing them float Titanic-capsizing chunks of fresh vanilla marshmallow into the hot chocolate they serve at their Red Hook bakery last year and being unable to forget them!

Make sure to be particularly pernickety about your mise-en-place for this. Even attempting to be rigorous, I had a few things that I needed to dash and find. Line the tin generously with parchment and clingfilm as you’ll need to grasp it to lever the glorious slab out when it’s set.

Equipment

  • deep 32.5 x 23-centimeter baking pan – I used a roasting tray
  • clingfilm and parchment for lining it
  • Either spray oil or oil plus a pastry brush – which I used instead of the suggested vegetable shortening in the original recipe
  • a medium heatproof bowl for the gelatin, which fits on Saucepan B as below
  • 1st small saucepan to melt the sugars mixture – Saucepan A
  • 2nd small saucepan to act as a bain marie – Saucepan B
  • measuring cups  (two sets might be useful)
  • stand mixer with whisk attachment fitted
  • heatproof spatulas – I like these as they fit in small size measuring cups
  • sugar thermometer
  • offset spatula
  • sieve or sifter
  • sharp knife, or for ghosts –
  • shaped cookie cutters, toothpicks, black food colouring

Ingredients

  • 8 sheets of gelatin
  • 2 cups of granulated sugar
  • 2 x ½ cups of light corn syrup (which I got in Selfridges but you could use Golden Syrup)
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • icing sugar and cornflour mixed together 2:1 for dusting

Method 

  1. Generously line the tin with clingfilm, followed by parchment and either use spray oil to grease, or brush the parchment with oil using a pastry brush.
  2. Leave the gelatin in a bowl of cold water to soften (make sure the bowl you use will fit snugly on top of Saucepan B in double-boiler fashion for later).
  3. In Saucepan A, stir together ½ cup of corn syrup, ½ cup of water and all the sugar. Don’t splash it up the sides and make the pan is deep enough to accommodate your sugar thermometer’s bulb! (I had to change pans).
  4. Put the other ½ cup of corn syrup in the stand mixer.
  5. When Saucepan B’s water is boiling: get the bowl and drain and wring out the gelatin sheets, then put them back in the bowl and place it on top of Saucepan B. Stir with the spatula til completely melted (it looks quite odd and just when you think it will never melt…)
  6. Pour that gelatin into the stand mixer with the corn syrup and start whisking on low.
  7. Skip promptly back to Saucepan A and take it off the heat at “Soft Ball” stage, about 235F. Bring to the mixer, turn the speed to medium then very carefully pour the contents of Saucepan A into the mixer bowl. Then turn the speed to medium/high for five minutes until you see it majestically fluff and expand.
  8. Quickly add the vanilla and salt, then give it another minute on high.
  9. Make sure your pan is ready beside you and pour the marshmallow in and spread out. Use the spatula if you must but gently tilting the tin works too.
  10. Sprinkle the top with sugar.  Leave for at least six hours or overnight before attempting to cut it.

  11. Lift it out of the tin by grabbing the parchment. Flip it over using another board so you can also sugar the bottom. Either cut into large squares or use cookie cutters to cut specific shapes if you like. Toss them in the sugar and cornflour mix to coat them and minimize sticky fingers!
  12. If using ghost cutters, Draw on their expressions using a toothpick dipped in black food colouring. Then chop the remaining marshmallow into small mini pieces to use as a baking ingredient or scatter over icecream.  Store in an airtight tin, good for a week. Or get the hot chocolate ready…

I would say that while it’s not complex to make marshmallows, a stand mixer does make it easier and you have a lot of steps to get through at once, around the critical sugar-boiling stage. Also – hell of a lot of washing up, of sticky gloopy things. But I do think it’s worth it.


Top Hat Cake

The most enduring memory of the annual Sunday School picnic of my childhood revolves, unsurprisingly, around the food. I couldn’t tell you precisely what my mother used to bake but someone, possibly my great aunt, used to make what we called ‘Top Hats’. The level of culinary skill involved wasn’t – well, there wasn’t any skill, to be honest.

Top Hats consisted of cooking chocolate, melted and poured into bun cakes to a depth of about half a centimtre, with a Princess marshmallow plonked in the middle. Perhaps they weren’t top hats but toadstools. They were the sort of thing that children lusted after and made a beeline for. You’d manage one no problem and then generally find your teeth started to melt halfway through the second one. The cooking chocolate had that fatty fudgyness, without much flavour. It coated your tongue and cemented the marshmallow sweetness right on your tastebuds.

But I love marshmallows (and as soon I get a stand mixer – and, um, a new kitchen to fit it in, I’ll be making them at home) and they also make me think of the Devil’s Food Cake recipe in the 70s Hamlyn cook book I grew up with. I love cheesecake, or the base at least. This is what I came up with…

I used a springform tin – then also used paper liner just to be on the safe side.  A non-stick pan is essential for the marshmallow melting – don’t say I didn’t warn you. Preheat oven to Gas Mark 5/375.

Ingredients:

  • 250g digestive biscuits
  • 60g butter
  • 170g marshmallows
  • 2 tbsp whole milk
  • 100g dried sour cherries or sour berries
  • 3 tbsp Morgan’s Spiced Rum
  • 100g Dark 70% chocolate
  • 2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
  • 100g unsalted butter

Method:

  1. Soak the fruits in the rum.
  2. Crush the biscuits in a plastic bag. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the biscuit crumbs, mix well. Pour the mix into the lined tin. Turn the plastic bag inside out, use it to cover your hand and press the mixture down very firmly. Pop in the oven for 8-10 minutes.
  3. Melt the marshmallows in the milk, stirring well til it all melts and set aside for at least ten minutes.
  4. Pour the marshmallow sauce over the completely cooled biscuit base. Drain the fruits and dot them all over.
  5. Melt the chocolate, peanut butter and butter together. Once it’s cooled sufficiently,  pour onto the marshmallow layer and swirl together a little. Refrigerate.

The sweet from the chocolate and marshmallow is cut by the booze and sour fruits, as well as the saltiness from the peanut butter.

I’ve upped the fruit quantities in the recipe compared to the first time I made it, hence the scarcity in the photos.  Use milk chocolate, or omit the fruits, at your peril. Or have the original Top Hat experience all over again.