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Nov 22, 2010 11:17 PM

Defeated by the Marshmallow Recipe...AGAIN!

Typically when I encounter an issue baking or cooking, I can search these boards and find a solution. Tonight, after a third unsuccessful attempt at making my own marshmallows, I have been driven to write this post, a plea for help to any veteran marshmallow makers.

With each attempt -- Alton Brown's recipe, Martha Stewart's recipe, and Eileen Talanian's recipe, all for vanilla marshmallows -- my marshmallows end up with an absolutely wretched flavor. It's hard for me to describe; it's almost like the smell of hay? (I admit, I'm pretty terrible at identifying and describing scents and tastes.) Sometimes, as with the marshmallows I made tonight, the flavor is subtle, then it hits your tastebuds with the aftertaste.

Has anyone else experienced this or know what the heck I'm doing wrong? I thought it might be the corn syrup that I disliked, but Eileen Talanian's recipe calls for a cane sugar syrup instead. Now I'm thinking that it may be the gelatin, but that alone doesn't seem like a good enough answer. After all, most marshmallows contain gelatin and they certainly don't taste like mine do.

If anyone has any ideas, I'd be incredibly grateful. I am determined to master this damn confection!

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  1. Of the short list of ingredients that make marshmallows, I cannot think of one ingredient that would impart a hay like smell or especially a wretched flavor. Perhaps you're thinking that they smell sweet, of sugar and corn syrup, like the slight aroma of new mown hay or more like cotton candy? Or is it hay like, as in old culinary herbs that have lost heir oomph? Sometimes that very sweet sugar aroma is overwhelming for some people and becomes almost bitter like to their taste.

    Gelatin is basically tasteless and odorless, I doubt whether that's the issue. I've looked at all three recipes, including Eileen's sugar syrup base, and I can't think of what it could be off flavor to you, unless you don't like the vanilla aspect or maybe the taste of corn syrup so much. In tasting the ingredients separately, do you have any off flavor response to anything?

    I have to say that homemade marshmallows are much tastier than the store bought, which I find quite insipid and lacking in flavor, straight from the bag. Toasted or burnt, store bought are great, but if you haven't had real homemade marshmallows before, maybe it's just that you're tasting the real deal for the first time. Try making them again, maybe cut back on the vanilla a bit if you want. Are you using real vanilla extract? Sometimes vanilla can add a slight bitter aspect, but usually in much larger quantity than called for in any of the recipes you're tried.

    I wish there was an easy answer here for you, but this is odd.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bushwickgirl

      It seems more like the aroma of new mown hay. It's odd, but the flavor seems less pronounced today, but it is definitely still present.

      I'd think I was crazy if it weren't for my family members, who tasted the marshmallows and agreed they had a strange taste. Then again, it doesn't seem to bother them as much as it does me, so it might be a subjective matter of taste. I tested the cane sugar syrup and thought it very sweet (but delicious!), but I did not taste the sugar/syrup combo as it cooked. Neither did I taste the gelatin/vanilla mixture, but I used my go-to Nieley Massey vanilla, so I don't think it's the vanilla. Could it be they way I cooked my sugar/syrup mixture? I was overwhelmed by the smell when I added the bloomed gelatin to the syrup and steam billowed up from the pot.

      One of my favorite treats are homemade marshmallows from a nearby bakery; they are delicious. They're actually what inspired me to try to make my own.

      Thank you for such a detailed response. I'm going to try again, perhaps cutting back on the vanilla and tasting the individual components as I cook. Hopefully, fourth time's the charm!

    2. confectioners' sugar (for dusting) can pick up odors and get "old"
      and I use a good deal of it for preparing the tray and dusting the batch, dusting the knife, dusting the individual pieces.

      Could the conf. sugar be the culprit?

      5 Replies
      1. re: HillJ

        I didn't realized that powdered sugar picked up odors. I'm going to have to change my storage arrangement. In this case, however, I opened up a brand new bag .

        1. re: yenna

          I'm stumped. It's an odd experience and an odd odor.

          1. re: HillJ

            Odd, that it is.

            yenna, what type/brand of gelatin are you using? I can't think it would be that, but by process of elimination...Sounds liike you're making the marshmallows in the proper manner.

            1. re: bushwickgirl

              found this interesting article regarding the "musty" marshmallow

              1. re: HillJ

                Yes, interesting, I was aware of marshmallow root being used as a gelling agent and for it's medicinal properties back in the day. Not going to go rooting around in swampy areas for it, though.;-)

      2. Reading through this thread, a question popped into my head: have you tried using a different pot?

        Some metals can flavor the food in them, and while that usually happens only with acidic food, it may be that your favorite candy-making pot is shedding just enough metal (or other substance) to register as an odd flavor. Try switching pots, and spoons too, and see whether you still have the same issue. If so, examine all the other surfaces your ingredients come in contact with.

        I would have questioned the pan you pour it into, except for your comment that the odor hits you as you add the gelatin in the pot... it must be picked up while cooking, or earlier.

        1. We were testing a marshmallow recipe the other night. We ended up with way more marshmallow creme than expected and instead of using our normal marshmallow pan I grabbed a small loaf pan. All of the mallows cured in that smaller loaf pan had a really strange taste, we think because of what we've previously cooked in that pan.

          Perhaps that's what your experiencing - it would certainly make sense given you said the taste reduced from one session to the next. Try either a glass bowl or use a few different curing containers to see if that changes the taste.

          1. yenna, i know EXACTLY what you are talking about.

            i make marshmallows when we are going camping or going to be around a campfire because those homemade marshmallows are seriously a gift from God when they are roasted over a fire. however, i find them completely off-putting before we roast them. i would even describe them as disgusting. but roasted... heaven!!!