Bubble Gum Marshmallows

With the New Year upon us, lately I've been asking myself lots of deep, Oprah-esque life questions. For instance, should I give in to the urge to get a practical haircut? How can I watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills without my husband knowing? How many toddler-hidden raisins will I find in my sofa cushions this week? And most importantly, do Bubble Gum Marshmallows actually count as food if one is over the age of twelve?

I may never truly discover the answers to any of the above questions, and as far as the last one goes about the Bubble Gum Marshmallows, I may not really want to know. I suppose that with their delightful candy-pink coloring and less-than-natural flavoring, these happy little confections might be considered more of an edible craft than actual food. But they're so divine in their whimsical deliciousness, who the heck cares if I might be judged for whipping up such insanity? Add to their decidedly "pink" flavor the high that comes from doing some serious mad scientist work in the kitchen, and you've got yourself some good times in my book.

Speaking of playing mad scientist, have you ever picked up any candy oils? They're like super-powered extracts that come in teeny tiny little bottles. There's some pretty insane flavors out there--definitely the kind of thing that gets your wacky culinary wheels turning. I don't do a whole lot with flavorings like these, but I have a handful of them in my bag of baking tricks that are fun to play with every once in a while when I feel like upping the crazy around here. Like say, creating a confection that gives you the sense that you've just put a fresh piece of bubble gum in your mouth, but instead of merely chewing it for a while until the flavor disappears, you get the awesome experience of actually eating the flavor at its height without it petering out on you.

And if that last sentence makes any sense to you at all, let me know, because we could probably be best friends. And like all good BFFs, I would totally share my stash of bubble gum marshmallows with you, and maybe even my Hello Kitty pencils and Justin Bieber poster collection.

Bubble Gum Marshmallows

The color and flavor of these marshmallows will be completely dependent upon your personal taste and the brands of food coloring and flavoring you use. I tested this recipe using Americolor Soft Pink gel food coloring and LorAnn Bubble Gum flavored candy oil.

Normally, I make this amount of marshmallow in an 8x8-inch pan for nice chunky blocks suitable for hot cocoa. But since these are more of a confection to be eaten straight up, I made them thinner by using a rimmed quarter sheet pan that measured 8x12 inches.

Makes about 2 dozen marshmallows (depending on how you cut them)

2 tablespoons unflavored powdered gelatin (a little over 2 packets)
1/3 cup cold water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
Pinch of kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6-7 drops bubble gum flavoring
2-3 drops soft pink gel food coloring
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted, plus more for dusting

Grease a quarter-sheet pan (or similar baking pan that measures about 8x12 inches) with a small amount of shortening, using a paper towel to rub it lightly and evenly onto the bottom, sides and edges of the pan. Set aside.

Combine the gelatin and 1/3 cup cold water in a small bowl and let the gelatin soften for 5 minutes.

Place the sugar, 1/4 cup corn syrup, 1/4 cup water and pinch of salt in a medium saucepan and stir gently. Clip a candy thermometer onto the pan, and place it over medium-high heat. Bring it to a boil, checking it occasionally--you are looking for it to eventually hit a temperature of 235-240 degrees (soft ball stage).

Meanwhile, pour the remaining 1/4 cup corn syrup into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Microwave the gelatin on high until it is completely melted, about 30 seconds. Turn the mixer on low, and very slowly pour the melted gelatin into the corn syrup. Keep the mixer running while you check the sugar syrup.

Once the syrup reaches 235-240 degrees, pull it from the heat. Carefully transfer the syrup to a large, heatproof measuring cup or a similar vessel with a spout for easy pouring. Turn the mixer up to medium speed and slowly pour the sugar syrup into the gelatin mixture. When all the syrup has been added, crank the speed up to medium-high and let it go for about 6 to 7 minutes--the candy will turn white and fluffy during this time. Beat in the vanilla. Beat in the bubble gum flavoring, just a couple drops at a time, stopping the mixer to taste the marshmallow, adding more drops until you reach the desired intensity of bubble gum flavor. Beat in the food coloring, drop by drop, until you get the color you're looking for.

Pour the marshmallow into the prepared pan and use an offset spatula spritzed with a bit of cooking spray to nudge it into the corners and smooth the top. Sift confectioners' sugar evenly and generously over the top. Let sit for about 6 hours.

Use a knife to loosen the marshmallow from the edges of the pan and invert it onto a confectioners' sugar-dusted work surface. Dust the marshmallow slab with more confectioners' sugar and cut into whatever size pieces you wish (a pizza cutter works great here for squares). Dip the sticky edges of the marshmallows in more confectioners' sugar, patting off the excess. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

CandyShauna Sever