I had another baking spree yesterday. My recipes and tests went from pretty good to not very good as the day progressed.
I started out with Homemade Marshmallows as found on Cooking for Engineers. I followed their recipe and instructions exactly. Here's how it went for me:
I oiled a 9x13 pan and dusted with powdered sugar.
Dissolved 3 envelopes Knox gelatin in 1/2 cup cold water in the Kitchen Aid bowl while I boiled the sugar syrup.
In a small sauce pan I mixed 2 cups sugar, 2/3 cup light corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water and washed down the sides of the pan with a bit of water to keep any sugar crystals from forming in the syrup. I boiled this to a temperature of 260 degrees (the 'hard ball' stage) on a candy thermometer. I did not stir the syrup mixture as it cooked to also keep sugar crystals from forming.
After the syrup reached the 260 degree mark, I turned on the mixer to low speed and carefully poured the sugar syrup into the gelatin and added 1/4 tsp. salt. As the mixture began to increase in volume, I turned up the mixer until it was at high speed. About mid-way to high speed, I turned off the mixer and scraped down the sides of the bowl and added 1 Tablespoon clear vanilla.
I'm not sure why I thought this hot marshmallow mixture would not be sticky, as I've made Rice Krispy treats a billion times, but the stickiness came as a surprise anyway.
I did the best I could to scrape the mixing bowl and pour the sticky mess into the prepared pan, then I used cooking spray to coat a piece of cling wrap and used this to smooth out the marshmallow and get it fairly evenly distributed in the pan. I found that areas of the cling wrap that I missed in spraying stuck really well to the marshmallow and any cooking spray that remained on the top of the marshmallow was noticably yellow. Next time I would simply spray a small amount on my fingers and press it into place.
I ended up with some fairly large bubbles, some of which I was able to pop and gently smooth out.
I let the mixture set overnight as per the directions, but I would think once it's completely cool, it would come out of the pan and remain in form. I removed the mass from the pan onto a board I had sprinkled with powdered sugar, cut it into squares with a new pizza cutter (bought specifically for something like this because I rarely make pizza at home) and lightly dusted each of the cut sides with powdered sugar until the side were no longer sticky.
The flavor was awesome. The texture was a little more dense than store-bought marshmallows and after some research, I would reduce the gelatin from 3 packets to 2 packets and I think it would be closer to that lighter, more familiar marshmallow texture. The next time I plan to make Rice Krispy treats, I'll definitely use these homemade marshmallows. It's a bit more work but I'm guessing the end result will take Rice Krispy Treats to the next level.
3 envelopes Knox unflavored gelatin (2 env. for lighter texture)
1/2 Cup cold water
2 Cups granulated sugar
2/3 Cup light corn syrup
1/4 Cup water
1/4 tsp. salt
1 TB clear vanilla
Powdered sugar for dusting
The next recipe I made was Paula Deen's Loaded Oatmeal Cookies (with minor alterations).
1/2 Cup salted butter, softened
1/2 Cup veg. shortening
1-1/2 Cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 Cup buttermilk (I used a scant half cup 2% milk with a few drops of white vinegar mixed in, which works the same)
1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. allspice
2-1/2 Cups quick-cooking oatmeal
1 Cup raisins (I used 1/2 cup dried cranberries and 1/2 cup dried apricots but would use all cranberries next time as the apricots were unimpressive)
1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts (I used toasted blanched hazelnuts and the flavor was nice but not worth the extra price of blanched hazelnuts)
1 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease (or use cooking spray) cookie sheets.
In electric mixer: cream together butter, shortening, and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and beat until mixture is light in color. Add buttermilk. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder and spices; stir into creamed mixture. Fold in oatmeal, raisins, nuts and vanilla, blending well. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto cookie sheets and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
I'm not a big fan of cloves but there was only a small amount of them in this recipe but they were still pretty powerful. I also felt there was not enough cinnamon in this recipe, however I tried half of this recipe again with more changes: I took out some of the brown sugar and added honey (attempting to get a chewier cookie), took out the cloves, added more cinnamon and vanilla and used toasted slivered almonds but no fruit. This last recipe was very bland, not at all chewy, and I don't recommend it.