Thursday, October 10, 2013


Marshmallows are easy and fun to make and require just a few ingredients that can hang around your cabinets more or less indefinitely. I first made these confections in 2003, when I hosted my very first Christmas party.  We had an ornament exchange.  I made brie en croute, a rustic pate from chicken livers, cream and cognac, real eggnog, and Modjeskas.

What is a modjeska?  It is a wonderful caramel wrapped marshmallow named for the Polish Shakespearean actress, Helena Modjeska.  She was so captivating that Willa Cather, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Susan Sontag all wrote about her.  Helena's goddaughter Ethel Barrymore is Drew Barrymore's great aunt.

At one point during the party, an old mentor pulled me aside to express how dull it must be to be a homemaker.  Having nothing else to say, I unwrapped the candies as he spoke in increasing bewilderment and alarm regarding the state of affairs of my life (wed to a gainfully employed, doting husband with two children and one on the way).  When he paused to take a breath I popped the candy into his mouth.  I don't remember much about what passed next, but I do remember this guest ate every single candy in the cut glass bowl on the buffet table after his first taste.

This is a fun recipe to do with children.  It's science and a craft project rolled into one.  To celebrate a decade of my making these treats, I wanted to give you my recipe for Modjeskas.

Modjeskas take two recipes, requiring about 30 minutes apiece.  The marshmallows need time to cure so we will start with those first.

The Marshmallows

In the bowl of a stand mixer (fitted with a balloon whisk):

1/2 cup of cold water + 3 tablespoons of gelatin 
Do not mix. Allow the gelatin to bloom.

In a large sauce pan:
3/4 cups of light corn syrup + 2 cups sugar + 1/2 cup of water
Put together in a large sauce pan. Do not stir. Turn on medium high heat and cook until 238℉-240℉ on a candy thermometer.  
With your mixer running on low, carefully pour in the sugar syrup. Let it run for a minute and then gradually raise the speed of the mixer until it is on high. 
1 tablespoon of your best vanilla 
Beat the marshmallow until the bowl is barely warm to the touchand the marshmallow is shiny.  Pour into a oiled Pyrex dish.  Let stand for at least 3 hours.  Cut into squares and dust with confectioner's sugar.  Store in an airtight container.  They will keep for about 3 days.
The Caramel

In a large heavy bottom pot place:
2 cups of sugar + 1 cup of light corn syrup 
Without stirring, boil the sugar and syrup until it reaches 254℉ on a candy thermometer.  
2 sticks of unsalted sweet butter
Keep the syrup boiling as you stir in the butter until it is completely melted.
Add a little bit at a time:
2 cups + 2 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream
Keep the syrup at a rolling boil and just keep stirring. 
a pinch of baking soda + 1 tablespoon of good vanilla
The syrup will foam mightily at the point.  Keep the syrup boiling until it reaches 237℉ on a candy thermometer.  Pour into a buttered pan without scraping the sides of the pot.
Allow to cool until you can handle it.  Cut it into 1 inch squares and wrap around marshmallows.  Wrap the individual candies in parchment or wax paper.

These are a crowd pleaser.  Your family will love them and they make wonderful lagniappes and gifts for anyone who happens by.  Please enjoy!