Valentine's Day is almost here, and I for one am loving this sweet season! There are so many good ways to celebrate, and I am excited to share one with you today through a special treat!
For those of you who have been visiting The LovingKind for a while, you may recall that I am a cook-in-training. I choose not to claim that I am "not a cook" or a "bad cook" so "in training" seems to fit the bill! This is why I decided to team up with my fearless, cooking friend, Callie of Luv Cooks for a series of collaborated posts (see posts one and two on The LovingKind, and one and two on Luv Cooks)!
I love the way Callie cooks because she is brave to constantly try new things, and she always includes the most important ingredient in any recipe—love for those she is serving. I've seen this shine through in her "honeymoon inspired" chocolate pomegranate cookies she brought to our cookie swap, the handmade caramels she gave as favors at her NYE/wedding celebration party, and the skillet-baked cornbread she made for a weeknight dinner with friends.
Not to mention, Callie loves Valentine's Day just like I do, so the focus of our third installment was obvious—a Valentine-worthy celebratory treat! I hope you will feel Callie's heart and sparkle come straight through the screen, and also check out my post for Luv Cooks!
Essential cooking tool: wooden spoon
recipe: Strawberry Swirl Marshamallows
True love, they say, is a "many splendored thing" (cue Andy Williams). Love in the kitchen, I say, comes in many splendored, shapes and sizes.
It looks like slow-simmered, homemade chicken broth, carefully watched into the wee hours until bones and onion are discarded, then stirred into carrots and celery; noodles boiled al dente, chicken shredded and topped; served steaming to the one who needs to be soothed. It looks like a crazy day, schedule full to the brim, halted when the one who makes your heart skip a beat walks in the door with just the spice you needed. It looks like early morning scrambled eggs, whisked with gusto, while French press coffee fills the cool morning air with velvety richness.
To me, love also looks like a wooden spoon. Ironically, and of all of my kitchen tools, they are the first to show the stains of recipes gone by- smudges of sauce, caramelly burnt sugars, lowly hot water spots. But they are by far essential for oh-so-many kitchen tasks—sautéing vegetables; guarding a boiling water pot so it doesn’t overflow; scraping browned bits off the bottom of a braised pan.
My beautiful sister Caroline actually gave me my current favorite wooden spoon that she had monogrammed just for me. It’s luv cooks logo reminds me of the intention and care she put into buying it for me every time I stir. But for those of you looking to purchase your own wooden spoon, I adore sturdy, well handled varieties that stand the test of time. This olive wood version at Williams Sonoma is spot-on, but bamboo is also a solid option, as these tools tend to be lightweight and more flexible. Birch wood can be an excellent choice too!
In this recipe for marshmallows, a well built wooden spoon is key to the best marshmallow experience you can have. Make sure you watch your sugar mixture and stir it frequently so the sugar dissolves. Then, stifle your desire to stir as your mixture reaches the perfect boiling point (240 degrees). Finally, the stirring comes full circle as you fold in your egg whites. Its a beautiful, stirring process (wink wink).
All in all, the wooden spoon may be the most loved kitchen tool I own. Yet, it really is the one that shows wear the most. It hit me a few days ago that maybe that’s how real love actually is- messy sometimes; but always steady; always helpful; always solid; always beckoning us to stir more deeply into the good that awaits.
May you enjoy this sweet treat, and this sweet week, with the ones you luv.
Strawberry Swirl Marshmallows
What you will need:
For the marshmallows:
1/2 to 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup cold filtered water, divided
2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
For the strawberry swirl:
1 pint fresh strawberries, halved and tops removed
1 tablespoon sugar
What You Will Do:
- Spray the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch baking pan well with cooking spray. Scoop about ¼ to ½ cup confectioners’ sugar into the pan and toss the sugar around to coat the top and sides of the pan, discarding extra sugar.
- In a large bowl, pour ½ cup cold water over the gelatin. Let it sit for a few minutes to soften.
- Put halved strawberries and sugar into a blender to sit while you prepare the marshmallows.
- In a heavy saucepan, cook the granulated sugar, corn syrup, remaining ½ cup water, and salt over low heat. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until all of the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium, and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook without stirring the mixture until it reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove pan from heat, and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture (don’t worry if you now have a gelatin dome- just keep blending), stirring until dissolved.
- Beat mixture with a mixer on high speed until fluffy and tripled in size, about seven to ten minutes. Once it gets so sticky that your beaters aren’t really working anymore- stop there!
- In the bowl of a separate stand mixer, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Beat in vanilla and almond extract.
- Add egg white mixture gently into the sugar mixture with your wooden spoon until combined and still fluffy.
- Pour the mixture into prepared pan, using an oiled spatula (or spoon) to spread the mixture evenly.
- Make the strawberry puree: Blend the strawberries in blender until smooth.
- Use a wooden spoon to dallop strawberry puree in center, then corners of pan. Using a toothpick, make a pretty swirl pattern, gently combining the strawberry puree with the marshmallows.
- Chill in the fridge for a few hours and up to a day. I found it helpful to spray a piece of plastic wrap with cooking spray, then stretch it over the top of the marshmallows.
- To remove the marshmallows, run a knife around the edges of the pan. Cut marshmallows in to a grid of your desired size. Use a spatula or knife to remove. Enjoy!
As you can see, Mattye and I fully embraced the celebratory nature of Valentine's Day treats with a fun white and dark chocolate dipping station! All you need is some melted chocolate; we melted Divine 70% ginger chocolate bar and white baking chocolate. Once dipped, sprinkle the mallows to your heart's content (we loved the Valentine-themed sprinkles from Sur La Table)! This is the one case where double-dipping is officially allowed!
Also, if you have extra strawberries from the puree, they are great for chocolate and sprinkle dipping too!
Happy early Valentine's Day!