Question: What says, “Soft Ball, Hard Ball, Soft Crack, Hard Crack, Chicken”?
Answer: My candy thermometer, which as it turns out is a total mystery in every way. I believe those first four descriptions relate to stages of candy as you cook it on a hot stove and reference what would happen if you dropped a blob of the boiling mixture into water – who would do such a thing, I ask you? It’s fucking LAVA! – but as it turns out these descriptions are pretty goddamn important if you don’t want to end up covered in sticky sugary confection along with anything in your kitchen or family that you hold dear.
So I’ve made these damn marshmallows twice now. Or should I say four times? Four times I have made the effort and twice I have ended up with actual marshmallows. The thing of it is, the first time everything went off easy so I guess I got cocky and that’s where it’s gone wrong twice since. I mean, I have a degree in chemical engineering but the process here is a mystery.
Do you know what happens when you allow your marshmallows to go one degree past the “soft ball” stage? If you’re me, you continue glibly on and then end up with something I christened “Assy Taffy” and probably tastes delicious – if I can ever pry it out of my pyrex pan. How about the second time this happens, where you wisely do not even bother combining the sugar molten lava with the cold gelatin mix awaiting in the KitchenAid, and just start over again? Well then in your pot that lay fallow on the stove percolates a brown sugar molten mess that even when cooled will still stick to your sink when you pour it down the drain. Which I did, because I was too scared to flush it in the toilet and not cruel enough to throw it in my lawn. It also makes a good depilatory agent as well, as I found out.
And yes, this week’s third attempt did in fact result in beautiful, tasty marshmallows that – should you be given some (email me your address and I’ll mail ’em) – I hope you at least realize the pain and suffering I went through to provide them.
Speaking on the issue it occurs to me that I am risking my life or at least limb in the kitchen often while I’m preparing our meals. Today for lunch I cut up a delicata squash (about a 4 on the hazard scale) which threw me into a cold sweat, remembering the last pumpkin I dismembered – carefully – to roast. I either need a sharper knife or a chopping block before I try that again. It would be really awkward for my kids to wake from their afternoon nap to find me on the kitchen floor exsanguinated.
Oh yeah, and I voted today. Hope you did too.