I had such a great time at the South OKC Sisters event last night! I had a ton of information prepared but time quickly got away from me and I shared about 1/3 of it. I thought I’d sum everything up here.

The recipe for the marshmallows will be at the end of this post and I have a few more recipes I wanted to share that I’ll post tomorrow. One thing to keep in mind with marshmallows… I tested two different recipes in one day; one that called for egg whites and another that didn’t. The one without egg whites won by a landslide among taste testers (a.k.a., my family). So if you’re going to branch out and try other recipes, mine is a slightly altered version of Alton Brown’s and it’s the best I’ve tried.

I only got to number 3 of my Top 10 Tips for Home Cooks last night so here is the list in its entirety:

1. Use salt properly

I’ll go into detail about using salt in a future post so if you stick around long enough, you’ll be an expert. The best advice I can give you for now is to salt then taste, salt a little more, and taste again. I think you’ll be surprised how much better your food is with a little more salt. Keep in mind… this only applies to foods cooked from scratch. Canned, bottled, and packaged foods (including meats already in a marinade) have crazy amounts of sodium and definitely don’t need more. 

2.  Plan ahead

It doesn’t take much effort to double a batch of whatever you’re making for future use. And cookie recipes typically produce several dozen so cook off just what you need, portion out the rest on a sheet pan, cover, and pop it in the freezer. It’ll take 1-2 hours to set then you can transfer your dough balls to a freezer bag. Same goes for your main courses; bake a large meatloaf or lasagna, eat what you want, refrigerate some for leftovers (yum!), then cut the rest into individual portions. Wrap each in plastic and freeze on a flat pan. Once frozen, toss into a labeled freezer bag and you have a ready made dinner on a night when you don’t have time to cook. Tips like this are my favorite and I have lots of ideas so I’ll share more in future posts.

3.  Use a thermometer

Who among us hasn’t prepared a nice chicken dish for guests and upon sitting the masterpiece on the table, silently prayed to baby Jesus that it was cooked through? Guilty as charged. Take the guesswork out and get yourself a meat thermometer. Whether it has a dial or, even better, a digital face, this will save you some sweat. When you think your food might be ready, stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat and temp it (find a temp chart here). Temp it as few times as possible because the more you poke it, the more holes you create and the more opportunities for the juices to seep out, making your meat dry. A candy thermometer is also great to make sure your oil is the right temperature for deep frying. I’ve found that 325º is the best temp for frying chicken; a lower temperature means it takes longer and more oil will saturate the crust and higher means you’ll burn the outside before the inside is done.

4.  Let meat come to room temp before cooking

Most people are afraid of letting any kind of meat sit out on their counter for a period of time. We’ll go into food safety in the next post but for now I’ll tell you that your food is safe at room temperature for up to 4 hours before you run the risk of harmful bacteria forming. Letting your meat come to room temperature will guarantee more even cooking and will produce much better results. 

5.  Let food cook

When searing or grilling any kind of food, let it cook without interruption. Constantly turning it means your food won’t have enough contact with your pan or grill to create caramelization, which is the goal of of these two forms of cooking. Chill a bit (in a rasta way, not actual refrigeration) and only turn when necessary. 

If you often have problems with food sticking, it could be your pan, but often it’s because you’re trying to move your food before it’s ready. Meats especially will stick to the pan when they first start to cook but when they’re ready to be turned, they’ll release themselves. Give your food a chance to cook and you’ll see more success.

6.  Taste as you go

I’ve seen people scurrying to fix a sauce they’re not happy with while the family is sitting at the table, begging for food. If you taste as you go, you’re more likely to fix a problem before your dish gets to the final stage. Also, you’re more likely to correct the problem early in the cooking stages as opposed to after everything is tossed together. That doesn’t mean you won’t have to adjust seasonings at the end, but don’t skip tasting throughout the process.

7.  Don’t take shortcuts 

I love reading online recipe reviews. My favorite is when somebody gives a good recipe a negative review and I can tell by reading their comment what they did wrong. The most common offense: butter. People love to stick butter in the microwave for 10-15 seconds instead of letting it naturally come to room temperature, as the recipe says. The result: flat cookies and dense cakes and breads. Every. Single. Time. There’s a reason why recipes are specific. Follow them exactly as they’re written for best results. (Of, course there are plenty of badly written recipes out there but that’s a whole ‘nother post.)

8.  Don’t make substitutions

I love Pinterest. I also loathe Pinterest. It’s great for getting new ideas but I constantly see bad advice and it makes me cringe. The worst lately is a pin with a whole list of cooking substitutions. Some work but most don’t. Experiment all you want with your tried and true recipes but don’t substitute a banana for butter in something you’ve never made before. Chances are it’s not gonna work and you’ll waste a bunch of time and ingredients in the process. Also, don’t put your ATM PIN in backwards to alert the police. Just sayin. 

9.  Don’t over-beat your dough

I’ve had some surprising epiphanies first thing in the morning lately, before I’m fully awake. A recent one involves dough and someone, somewhere may have said it before but I’ve never heard it told like this and it simplifies a lot of baking theories. Are you ready? When your recipe calls for flour and yeast, it generally requires a lot of movement (i.e., kneading) for best results. When your recipe calls for flour and no yeast, stir it just until the flour is combined… the less you move it after adding the flour, the better. I have no science to back up this idea, just experience. And I apologize in advance if I heard this from someone else and subconsciously stored it as my own information. Also, feel free to correct me if you find an instance which disproves this idea. 🙂

10.  Don’t believe everything you read/hear 

There are a limited number of sources I fully trust for culinary information.  One is my first chef instructor in culinary school, Chef Brad Baych. I speak for my entire class (except Carlos) when I say that we learned an incredible amount from him. He has since moved halfway across the country and is no longer teaching, which is really a shame because he’s a walking culinary encyclopedia. While there are few people I trust, there are tons who will steer you in the wrong direction. That’s why I research everything before I try a new recipe or technique. Just because someone with their own cooking segment on a local news show says it, it doesn’t make it true. No knocks on the local guys, there are also plenty of people with national cooking shows who spew bad information. Most of the time it’s because they don’t know any better and don’t think twice about it. I refuse to be one of them so I promise you that you’ll never read anything here that hasn’t been fully researched.

Now for the marshmallows. You can easily make this recipe with a handheld mixer, it’s just a little more work. Have fun and make it your own! I included a couple variations but if you want to try even more flavors, I highly recommend the LorAnn brand flavorings. You can find them in specialty stores (International Pantry in Norman or Midwest Baking in OKC). They make these tiny little bottles of extracts and oils; they’re only 3.7 mL but they are very potent. I made peppermint last night and I used the whole bottle but half would have been plenty. Use half the bottle to start with, taste it, and add more if you like. Just use these bottles in place of the vanilla extract. Enjoy!!!

Homemade Marshmallows

Printable Recipe



YIELD:  varies by size
TOTAL TIME:  4 hours, 47 minutes
PREP TIME:  35 minutes
INACTIVE TIME:  4 hours
COOK TIME:   12 minutes


INGREDIENTS

3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 cup  ice cold water, divided
1 1/2 cups  granulated sugar
1  cup light corn syrup
1/4  tsp  salt
2  tsp  vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered or cofectioners’ sugar
Nonstick spray

INSTRUCTIONS
1.   Mix 1/2 cup cold water and gelatin in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. 
2.   Stir gently until the gelatin is no longer dry and resembles applesauce.
3.   In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup, and salt.
4.   Place over medium-high heat. Cover and cook 4 minutes.
5.   Uncover and clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Cook until the mixture reaches 240ºF, about 7 minutes.
6.   When the mixture comes to temperature, immediately remove from heat.  
7.   Turn the mixer on low speed to break up the hardened gelatin mixture. Slowly pour the sugar mixture down the side of   
       the mixer bowl.
8.   Once the sugar mixture is incorporated into the gelatin, add the vanilla and turn the mixer to high speed.
9.   Continue to whip until the mixture is very thick (anywhere from 6 to 12 minutes).
10. Meanwhile, prepare the a 9”x13” pan by spraying with cooking spray. Add the powdered sugar and shake around until 
       it completely coats the bottom and all sides of the pan. Save the remaining powdered sugar in a bowl.

11. When marshmallow mixture is ready, spread into the prepared pan.

12. Sprinkle with some of the reserved powdered sugar and allow the marshmallows to sit for at least 4 hours.
13. When marshmallows have set, turn onto a cutting board. 
14. Cut the marshmallows into desired size with a pizza cutter or knife. 
15. Lightly dust all sides of marshmallows with reserved powdered sugar.
16. Store in an airtight container up to 3 weeks.

FOR MINI MARSHMALLOWS:
1.-9. Complete steps 1-9 as instructed above. 
10. Spray two half sheet pans (18”x13”) with cooking spray and dush with powdered sugar.
11. Fit a piping bag with a 1/2” round tip. 
12. Scoop in the marshmallow mixture and pipe onto the prepared pans. Leave about 1” between strips.
13. Sprinkle the strips with the remaining powdered sugar.
14. Let strips sit for at least 3 hours. 
15. Cut strips into 1/2” pieces using kitchen shears dusted with powdered sugar.
16. Once cut, dust all sides of each marshmallow with powdered sugar. 
17. Store into an airtight container up to 3 weeks.

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