Saturday, May 31, 2008

Guimauve Part Deux: Some Kosher Fluff

My foray into the world of guimauve became a lesson in gelling agents when Passover hit this spring, and I had the opportunity to contribute to a Syrian seder meal. The Mediterranean nature of the meal brought to mind the rose water-flavored marshmallows I had read about, and I thought that rose and mint guimauves would be a fun touch to the dessert tray.

I was previously aware that most gelatin (think Jello and Knox gelatin) was made from animal products, but the idea of cooking kosher for this one meal brought me to the point of looking at other gelling options. I learned that agar agar, a gelling agent derived from sea vegetables (seaweed, etc.), was a vegetarian possibility, and therefore a kosher choice. It was difficult to determine through online searches exactly how agar agar might be substituted for Knox gelatin, so I decided to just give it a try and plan back up desserts in case it didn't work out.

My first attempt was not a success (thank goodness for the back up desserts!); I used the amount of water suggested on the agar agar packet to soak the flakes, which ended up being such a large amount of water that it took a long time for the syrup solution to incorporate with the egg whites, and when it finally did, it was a foamy mass in the Kitchen Aid. Needless to say, this concoction did not solidify and ended up in the trash.

I was determined to make the agar agar work, so I went for it again the next week. This time I reduced the water to just enough to cover the flakes in a small bowl, and then heated the flakes and water for 30 seconds at a time in the microwave. After stirring and reheating the flakes and water until the flakes dissolved completely, I subbed them into the recipe I used before, and the result was much better than the fluff I got the first time.

When it came time to divide the mallow into individual servings, it was still quite delicate - it crushed to the touch and was rather wet. I decided to divide it up, but then roll it in a stiffer coating than the non-kosher marshmallows. Half of the recipe was rose, colored lightly with red food coloring, so I rolled these in a combination of powdered sugar, ground almonds, and sliced roasted almonds. The mint half of of the recipe, tinted with blue and green food coloring, I rolled in unsweetened cocoa powder and powdered sugar. The results at this point are pictured above.

I let this form of the marshmallows dry for a day or so, but they weren't firm enough to pick them up and eat them without them falling apart or sticking madly to the fingers, even though they tasted good. After some brainstorming, I decided to give them feet of chocolate: white chocolate for the rose, dark chocolate for the mint. I melted chocolate chips in the microwave (I know this is not considered the best method for melting chocolate, but I find it satisfactory for my purposes) and plopped 1 1/2 inch circles of it on parchment paper, which I topped immediately with the delicate fluff. And voilà, now I had airy bites of sweet delight!

So, agar agar can work, but it does not result in a chewy marshmallow. Instead, it makes a light, fluffy marshmallow that could almost pass as meringue. I would perhaps make it again this way, but I still am on a quest for a chewy kosher marshmallow.

Next step in the guimauve saga: putting into play the gelatin sheets I bought in Paris and the 2 kinds of kosher gelatin powder (fish & bovine) I purchased in Israel.

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