Sunday, July 19, 2009

Marshmallow Madness

What the FORK is wrong with you, O manufacturers of marshmallowy goodness? Have you lost your senses? Are you simply deranged, or is there a deeper, more sinister plan at work here?

Um. Wait. Slow down.


I quite like vanilla. The flavour is subtle and strong and elegant, and the scent is — well, I knew this woman once... she didn’t wear perfume. Just a dab of vanilla essence on her wrists, and behind her ears. And oh, my: I could have, would have eaten her alive if the opportunity had presented itself.

Vanilla smells good.

Now, coming into this from another angle here: it’s winter. And in Tasmania, at least, winter is worth celebrating, particularly on a dim, dark, dreary day of rain and fog and icy mist. It’s a fine, fine thing in its own right, and it only gets better when you crank up a wood fire and make yourself a dose of deliciously decadent hot chocolate — with real dark chocolate melted into cream and hot milk and brandy, all perfused with cinnamon, with whipped cream on top and shaved chocolate and nutmeg and one, just one, lovely, soft, tasty-sweet gooey marshmallow melting gently amongst the creamy goodness of it all.

A goddam VANILLA marshmallow. Not one of those pink cancerous-looking globs that tastes horribly like eau de toilette. Not — and this is an adamant absolute — one of those piss-yellow hunks of phlegm that smells like something a Barbie doll would shit, if they ever manufactured Shitting Barbie. (Barnes! Are you reading this? You’re a chemist, you bastard. Go into your lab and INVENT A BETTER ARTIFICIAL BANANA FLAVOUR! The one they’ve got tastes and smells like the Nazis won the war and made Ersatz into a mother-humping RELIGION. I’m sure you can do better: I mean, you could hardly do worse without Homeland Security arresting you for the manufacture of WMD, so go for it, baby. If you can create anything that tastes more banana-oid, there’s bound to be a fortune in it.)

So why not just go and buy some vanilla marshmallows? Because I FARKING CAN’T, that’s why. All they sell any more are those packets of stomach-churning Mixed Nasty. You can get packets full of vanilla and tumour-pink. You can get packets of vanilla and tumour and pus-yellow. (I assure you, those are the proper IUPAC names for artificial strawberry and artificial banana.) You can even get packets of vanilla and tumour and pus and Bile-Vomit Orange (which is meant to be some kind of artificial orange flavour, I think. But you really, really don’t want to know what I think of their efforts at synthesising an orange flavour. How can anything be so completely unlike oranges without actually BEING a combination of axle grease and S-bend?). But you know what you can’t buy around here?

A single goddam packet of plain, wonderful, ordinarily delicious VANILLA GODDAM MARSHMALLOWS!

Can’t you just eat the white ones and give the coloured crap to the kiddies? I hear you ask.

No. No I can’t. Aside from the fact that I’m constitutionally opposed to poisoning my children even when they’ve been bad, the fact remains that they, too have palates. They won’t eat the marshmallows that taste of tumour, pus and bile. They just look at me with their big, tear-filled eyes and beg: not the coloured ones, dad! Please, no! Anything but the coloured ones. (Anyone overhearing the conversation would swear they were little KKK Dragons in the making.) Even the Mau-Mau, who will eat or wear almost ANYTHING that is vaguely pink in colour, spits out those tumorous globules with a look of venomous hatred.

Worse: vanilla is, as I said, a subtle and lovely thing. Artificial strawb, banana and orange — these things are not at all subtle. They are pungent. They are penetrating. They are hideously putrescent. The poor little vanilla bastards, left in a sealed packet with all that creeping, Lovecraftian evil, become... contaminated. Unclean. Vile! They become zombie marshmallows, doomed to reek eternally of the unholy chemistry with which they have been imprisoned. Eating them is like eating all those other version of nasty at once: disgusting beyond my meagre powers of description.

Of course, I can make marshmallow. It’s easy: bit of gelatine, bit of sugar, bit of vanilla, some water, maybe some powdered sugar and cornstarch, and off you go. Thing is, even though it’s easy, it takes time. And it’s sticky, and messy, and the cleanup sucks. And I don’t want to have to manufacture a half-kilo of marshmallow every time I want a cup of hot chocolate — but every time I do make real marshmallow, there’s no hope of saving it because my poor marshmallow-deprived children hoover it up and scream for more.

The situation is intolerable, I tell you. Something MUST be done. Bring back the good old days: practice Marshmallow Apartheid once more!

Mister Flinthart’s Unspeakably Decadent Hot Chocolate:

This recipe makes enough for two, because it’s too hard to combine all these ingredients in one small serving. Beware: contains calories.

  • Three cups whole milk. (There is no place for low-fat, skim, soy, or any other such bullshit in hot chocolate. If you imagine for an instant you can do this recipe with any of that watery crap, go and hit yourself over the head with one of those giant-size souvenir blocks of Toblerone until you recover your senses.)
  • One cup whole cream: half to help with melting the chocolate, half for whipping.
  • One pinhead-size drop of purest cinnamon oil
  • One teaspoon of vanilla-seed gel, or one vanilla pod.
  • One dessertspoon brown sugar
  • One half cup of decent brandy
  • Whole nutmeg for grating
  • 100gm dark chocolate for melting
  • 50 gm or so dark chocolate for grating
  • One plain VANILLA marshmallow.

1) Divide the cream into two parts. In a small clean saucepan or double boiler, put half the cream along with your melting chocolate, properly smashed up. Put them over a low heat, and turn to the next task

2) Whip the other half the cream with some brown sugar, and half a teaspoon of vanilla gel. (Or the seeds, scraped from the vanilla pod. And save the pod.)

3) In another saucepan, gently warm your milk and brandy, and add your tiny drop of cinnamon oil. Plus the rest of your vanilla gel. Or the vanilla pod, if you’re doing it that way.

Now: when the chocolate has started to melt in the cream, stir the stuff until all the chocolate is combined with the cream to make a rich, dark chocolate ganache. Keep it over a low heat — NOT TO BOIL! — until the milk and brandy have reached your optimum drinking temperature. Gently pour the ganache into the hot milk, whisking all the while. As soon as the mixture is an even colour and texture, decant it into your drinking mugs.

Put a marshmallow into each mug, and top with a dollop of whipped cream. Grate chocolate and nutmeg over the top. Drink. Exclaim over the wondrousness of a universe in which such diverse substances can come together into a marriage of elements surely fore-ordained by some kind of beneficient uber-chef on high -- a sort of Celestial Jamie Oliver sans appalling Cockney accent, or maybe a Heavenly Nigella, except with better hooters and the ability to remain very, very quiet when not in use...

  1. Can’t get cinnamon oil? Meh. You should. One tiny drop will perfuse the entire creation with cinnamonly glory. But if you can’t then just... I dunno... sprinkle cinnamon powder over the top, with the nutmeg and the chocolate. Don’t bother putting cinnamon quills in the milk while you warm it up — the milk won’t get hot enough, and the quills won’t be there long enough.
  2. Can’t get vanilla gel? Don’t care to spend the bucks on a vanilla pod? Yeah, okay. Substitute a little vanilla extract, then. But use the alcoholic kind. The other kind sucks.
  3. Not chocolatey enough? Okay, fine. Increase the amount of dark chocolate you melt with the cream. But it’ll take a bit longer to melt, so be careful with your timing. You really don’t want to boil the hot milk/brandy mix.


  1. Very, very, VERY much with you on the utter wrongness of non-white marshmallows. As for the chemical skank of artificial 'fruit' flavourings - urrrghhh.

  2. I lived in Tasmania, where I would have to have one of those marvelous sounding creations, I fear my fitness push would not go well. Still I will be buying some dark choclate this week, all the better.