If you’ve never been to San Francisco on July 4th, let me break it down for you: It’s freaking depressing. Cold, windy, and so foggy that we’ve never even bothered to go see fireworks in the 4 1/2 years we’ve lived here. But from the warm cocoon of our living room, they sound awfully festive! At any rate, the wintry conditions don’t hold me back from making treats suitable for the holiday, adding the perfect note to an afternoon spent grilling in an overcoat.
At first glance, these Kool-Aid Marshmallows might seem too bizarre to be a real thing. Believe me, I get it. And I wrote the recipe. But really, what we’re doing here is adding flavor to the mallows with the powdered drink mix, rather then just throwing in an extract or candy oil in the final steps of whipping. And the color is provided in powder, too, so no extra food coloring is needed to achieve a perfect candylike hue–hooray!.
While you can use any flavor of unsweetened Kool-Aid mix for these, the specimens you see in the photo above were made with Tropical Punch mix, which is one of my very favorite flavors for Kool-Aid Marshmallows. (Can you believe that I’ve experimented with this enough to have a favorite flavor This is my life, friends.) With all of their awesome fruit punchy-ness, they’re everything a marshmallow should be–fluffy, fun, full of Candy Land-esque novelty flavor. And as long as I’m on my way to Crazytown by flavoring a marshmallow with Kool-Aid, I tend to just go for it, take the scenic route, and roll the edges in Pop Rocks, which crackle delightfully upon serving. It’s all so hysterically whimisical, it almost makes you forget that you’re spending July 4th in long johns.
I’m going to give you the recipe for these gems below, but I also thought I’d give you a few more ideas for goodies for the 4th, suitable for summer get-togethers and picnics of all sorts. Enjoy!
To begin, first let’s pretend “riffable” is actually a word. Because truly, it appears so often in my personal lexicon that I would be mortified to learn that it’s not.
(Related: Let’s talk about people (note–not me) who use the word “orientated”. As in, “I am perfect for this job because I’m very detail-orientated” or “This map has me all disorientated”. I should add that if you’ve ever said either of those sentences, you probably A) did not get the job, and B) should know that’s it’s likely not the map’s fault.)
Anyway, regardless of the legitmacy of the word, I’m all about recipes that offer high a riffability factor. In fact, some of my favorite back-pocket sort of recipes aren’t really recipes at all, they’re more like ideas that open you up to a whole bunch of different variations. That’s part of the reason that I’m so bananas in love with marshmallows that I actually wrote a whole book about them and stuffed every available bit of white space with variations and ideas for riffing on the basic recipe. Homemade mallows are the perfect building block for some serious confectionery creativity and giving you all kinds of ways to blow minds and take names.
But with mallows, no matter how simple the process and how large the payoff, there is most definitely a recipe involved it takes some doing. So say you want the glorious, candied blank canvas, with even less effort. Well, I’m picking up what you’re laying down and I’ve got just the thing for you. Like most things in life, the idea begins with a slab of good chocolate. I don’t see how this could not go well.
So yesterday was a big day, folks. The sort of day that I’ve been giddy about for weeks on end. Yesterday I got up, mainlined about half a pot of coffee, and actually managed to shower and dress myself before dropping Little C off at school. Post-drop off, I drove to the KQED studios here in San Francisco, got settled in front of a microphone and tried to act like it was a totally normal day. Except it so totally wasn’t. Because I was there to talk with Lynne Rossetto Kasper and record an interview about marshmallows for The Splendid Table. Ohmahgah.
So here we are, guys. Just days away from the most marshmallow-y holiday of all! Mallows seem to be everywhere these days, from sweet little packets of artisan treats to ahem, a certain book all about the subject, to those ubiquitous Peeps and bunnies in day-glo colors. Hooray! To me, marshmallows are the ultimate happy candy, and really, whether they’re packaged or homemade, I love them. Of course, I’ve become quite partial to from-scratch mallows myself, as I can now make them practically in my sleep, but that is neither here nor there. I want to get you mallowing right along with me, to make me feel a little less crazy. ‘Tis the season, after all! Come along, won’t you?
How, but HOW is it that I’ve never shared this recipe with you, darling readers? I’ve been making and eating this stuff for years, I tell ya. Well, no time like the present to finally get the word out about this fabulously addictive, utterly customizable Candied Party Popcorn. Particularly since the fast-approaching Easter holiday has us all upping our intake of non-wholesome foods in fantastical Spring-like colors, just like the good Lord intended. At least this recipe has lots of popcorn-y fiber and healthy fats from nuts, sure to make your skin and hair glow. Hooray!
There are a few basic, totally non-religious beliefs I have about the holidays:
I’m also a big believer in edible gifts. Maybe it’s because of my Midwestern roots, maybe it’s because I desperately need a way to disperse the parade of treats coming from my kitchen due to an incurable compulsion to bake en masse come October, but either way, edible gifts are one of my favorite things in all the land. This year, with testing for cookbook #2 in the works, there are even more sweet treats all up in here than usual, so edible gifts are as much of a joy to make as they are a necessity to keep perfectly delicious things from meeting the compost. And because my pants will only stretch so much, I can only put my family so close to the brink of diabetes, and to be honest, most of my neighbors kind of creep me out so I’m scared to bring them recipe testing leftovers. True story.
Candy, candy, candy! Man, I love Halloween. Okay, so I don’t really love the spookiness and deadlike decorations and costumes and general carte blanche for grown people to be unreasonably bizarre, so let me rephrase that. The only things I actually love about Halloween is the abundance of candy, pumpkins as decor, and adorable little kids in sweet, non-creepy costumes. And did I mention candy? I’m partial to gorging on the commercially-made sort myself (except Smarties and SweetTarts–COME ON PEOPLE, DON’T KID YOURSELVES). But this dead simple and utterly delightful Sponge Candy is the kind of homemade confection that just might make you rethink handing out the prepackaged stuff to trick-or-treaters. That is, if we wouldn’t all get arrested for doing that. Nevertheless, this stuff if terrific and hey, look! It comes all Halloween-hued with no food coloring required.
As I understand it, sponge candy is a regional thing, especially popular in upstate New York. I’m not going to give you a whole confectionery history on it, except I will say that its main selling point is the fact that the texture resembles that of the completely addictive center of a Butterfinger bar, with an even deeper caramelized flavor. And since I’m the sort of person who will obnoxiously gnaw all the chocolate coating off a Butterfinger just so I can then unattractively house the entire unadulterated crisp, crunchy, sweet-salty center (while slightly drooling with a vacant stare–just trying to help you visualize, here), I couldn’t wait to whip up some sponge candy in the my very own kitchen. Let’s just say this was a very good call, judging from the golden candy shards all over my keyboard at this very moment.
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