Monday, January 2, 2012

If at First You don't Succeed...

The Setting: My mom's exquisite kitchen. I'm so jealous.

The Soundtrack: Harry Connick, Jr. When my Heart Finds Christmas.

On the Stove-top: A mixture of corn syrup, water, and sugar, destined to become homemade marshmallows.

The Scenario: It's days before Christmas, and this year the cake will be perfect.

It's my first time making homemade marshmallows. It's been on the to-do list for a while now, but today the stars will align, the sugar will boil, and the gelatin will set. It's going to happen.

I find the right-sized saucepan, fit it with a candy thermometer, and watch closely for the magic moment when the screen reads 234 degrees.

It's taking longer than expected.

I step waveringly over to the sink, where I figure I can be productive with my waiting time, doing dishes while keeping an eye on the thermometer.

It sure is taking a while....

Suddenly, I feel compelled to rush to the stove. As I peer into the saucepan, my face is smacked with smoke, and my eyes meet a molten, black, cavernous wasteland of what used to be sugar, now shellacked to the stainless steel in a way that says my mom will now have one more miscellaneous saucepan lid hanging out in the cupboard.

Is my thermometer broken? Is there a typo in the recipe? The temperature isn't even close to 234!

I pick up my dud of a thermometer, thinking that's what I get for buying the cheaper one, when I see a little C on the screen, sticking out its tongue and making an L over its forehead at me.

That's right, it is set to Celsius.

Good show, old gal.

Now some days this giant, rusty nail in my foot might cause me to sit one out.

But these marshmallows are for my Christmas cake, and not just any Christmas cake, but the second attempt at the near-epic-failure Hot Chocolate Layer Cake of 2009 that inspired one of my very first posts.

That cake, while delicious by the grace of God, was a dilapidated, marshmallow-less, structural nightmare.

And while this year's cake will have every opportunity to cave in and/or crumble, it certainly will have marshmallows.

I take the thermometer and fiddle with the buttons till the C is replaced with an F and attach it to a clean saucepan.

Holding my breath, I place the pan over a med-high flame, glance at its snow-white contents, and recall wistfully the crystallized-tar situation I just had on my hands. Please, Lord, don't let this lovely, innocent sugar meet the same fate.

I watch the mixture closely as ten minutes last! 234!

It looks perfect.

I turn on my mom's electric mixer and slowly stream the glossy syrup into the gelatin that's been blooming and waiting like a woman for her wedding day, and I beat the mixture till it's voluminous, white, and fluffy (like her dress).

I pour the mixture into a parchment-lined and powdered-sugar-dusted sheet pan, dust a little more sugar over the top, cover, and call it day.

It's gonna be a good Christmas.

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