graham cracker pecan toffee crunch + peppermint marshmallows

graham cracker pecan toffee crunchclose-upCandy time! During the holidays, I love to play candy maker. Super-easy, super-delicious graham cracker toffee and some festive peppermint marshmallows went into Christmas goodie bags I gave to my friends. (Other contents included these gingerbread cookies and these roll-out sugar cookies.)
stack of graham crackersingredientsgraham crackers, spread outchopped toasted pecanslayered graham crackers, pecans, and toffeelots of butter + sugarpour the butter-sugar mixture overThis graham cracker toffee (or omit the “graham” “er” and “toffee” if you will) is a delight. It is so simple to make. Can you melt butter and arrange graham crackers? If so, you’re good to go. It’s crispy and crunchy, buttery and very sweet.powdered sugar-ed baking pancook for a whilethick and fluffymarshmallows, ready to be cutslicedspringy marshmallowsmarshmallows, close-upNext is the ineffable marshmallow. If you’ve ever wondered how those hot-chocolate soul mates are created, it’s your lucky day. Sugar. Lots of it. Also gelatin, egg whites, water, and flavoring. It sounds like a bizarre combination but it creates the fluffiest little bundles. I flavored mine with peppermint and made them pretty-in-pink.
graham cracker pecan toffee crunch, overheadpeppermint marshmallows, overheadIf you still need a Christmas treat, these goodies certainly fit the bill. The graham cracker toffee is a breeze, while the marshmallows require a bit more love. However, both options are fit for the most wonderful time of the year. Merry Christmas!
close-uppeppermint marshmallows

Graham Cracker Pecan Toffee Crunch
adapted from Pastry Queen Parties

Makes about 4 1/2 dozen 2-inch squares

15 double graham crackers
1 1/2 cups chopped toasted pecans
1 (8-ounce) package toffee bits (or sub 6 (1.4 ounce) chopped chocolate-covered toffee bars)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a half-sheet (13 x 18-inch) pan with aluminum foil. Arrange graham crackers side by side to cover the pan in a single, close-fitting layer.

Sprinkle pecans and toffee bits evenly over the graham crackers.

In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and sugar and bring to a boil. Continue boiling for 2 1/2 minutes. Immediately (the mixture will begin to harden) evenly pour over the cracker-pecan-toffee layer. If you don’t think you can evenly pour the mixture (too many times I’ve ended up drenching some parts while some aren’t covered, whoops), then use a large metal spoon to disperse the mixture. Whatever method you choose, be sure to work very quickly.

Bake for about 12 minutes, or until it looks set and the graham crackers look lightly browned around the edges. While the bars are still hot, use a pizza cutter to slice the bars into squares, diagonally into diamonds, or whatever other shape you want. Cool the bars in the pan, then lift out using the foil lining, and arrange on a serving platter. Or eat rapidly.

These can be made up to 3 days ahead. Keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature. Humid weather will make them sticky and lose their crunch. If the humidity is a problem, pop them in the fridge. They can also be frozen for up to 3 weeks.

Variations: add chocolate chips, sub almonds for the pecans, use flavored graham crackers like cinnamon or chocolate, add a sprinkle of sea salt/fleur de sel…

Peppermint Marshmallows 
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Gourmet, December 1998

These marshmallows are perfect in hot chocolate (they become melty and give the hot chocolate a creamy, foamy accent), but I like them just on their own too. If you want to get fancy, dip them in bittersweet chocolate.

About the peppermint: My initial plan was to do half vanilla and half peppermint. However, I was a little heavy-handed with the peppermint extract, so I had to use some of my reserved vanilla base to salvage the marshmallows from falling into a mouthwash-flavored fate. (In the photos, the vanilla ones are white, and the peppermint are clothed in a  light pink.) So, add about a teaspoon peppermint extract if you want to flavor the whole batch. You can always add more to taste. The flavor also mellows out as they set and age.

Makes about 96 1-inch cubed marshmallows

About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites (or reconstituted powdered egg whites)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoons pure peppermint extract (or more to taste)
red food coloring, optional

Grease bottom and sides of a 13 x 9 x 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan with oil or cooking spray and sprinkle bottom and sides with sifted confectioners’  sugar. Tap out any excess.

In bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl, evenly sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup  cold water, and let stand to soften.

In a 3-quart heavy saucepan, cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, the remaining 1/2 cup of cold water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until all the gelatin is dissolved.

With standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about six minutes if using stand mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer.

In separate medium bowl with cleaned beaters, beat egg whites (or reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks. Mix egg whites, vanilla, peppermint extract, and red food coloring, if using, into sugar mixture until just combined. Add more food coloring if necessary, and mix throughly. Pour mixture into baking pan. Don’t be too concerned if you can’t scrape every last sticky bit from the bowl. Sift 1/4 cup confectioners sugar evenly over top of the marshmallows. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least three hours, and up to one day.

Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of inverted pan, with your fingers, loosen marshmallow and ease onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow (snacking bits! yum) and cut marshmallow into roughly one-inch cubes with a sharp knife or pizza cutter, oiled if necessary.  Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar back into your now-empty baking pan, and roll the marshmallows through it, on all six sides, before shaking off the excess and packing them away.

Marshmallows keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature 1 week.

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