Gingerbread Marshmallows

Full disclosure ahead: as much as I advocate for intentionally making more things that can be bought from a store from scratch, there are some times–SOME times–where even I question whether or not it’s actually worth it to go to the trouble. Sometimes I just don’t think I’m a good enough baker or cook to make it myself. Sometimes I don’t have the necessary time or equipment. Sometimes, I choose convenience.

I’ve known that it was possible to make marshmallows at home from scratch for several years. I never so much as considered making marshmallows at MY home, by MYSELF until this year. The reasons, I think are probably obvious. I debated the issue with myself for several days.

Making marshmallows from scratch? Really Jess?

Why?  For what? Who even does that?

I don’t know y’all. For some reason, this year I felt differently about it. I got to thinking about how cool it would be if I COULD not only make marshmallows, but if I got to do it for the 12 Days of Christmas. And how much more cool would it be if they turned out even better than those I could just buy in a store?

(If you think this is all ridiculous & unnecessary, I get it. Kraft absolutely does sell gingerbread flavored marshmallows during the holiday season. If you were to go to a local grocery right now, you’d probably be able to find them with no problem.)

But if you’re like me and you’re feeling a little bit adventurous, then maybe you ought to keep reading. You may be pleasantly surprised when I tell you that making marshmallows isn’t complicated. It’s really not. You’re going to need 2 very crucial tools: an instant read thermometer and an electric mixer. It doesn’t have to be a standing one, a handheld one will do, but trying to do this without the thermometer and by hand…eh. I can tell you why it’s a bad idea.

Marshmallow is made when a sugar syrup gets poured over gelatin, then whipped at a very high speed for a certain amount of time. You need the thermometer to let you know when the sugar syrup has reached the right temperature. You need the mixer because the gelatin syrup needs to be whipped/beat for up to 10 minutes. Trying to do this manually by hand will put your arms in a whole lot of discomfort. Capisce?

Like a proper gingerbread, these are flavored with ginger, cinnamon, cloves and molasses. What most makes a homemade marshmallow different from a store-bought one is texture. Homemade marshmallows are fluffier and chewier. They melt and are far gooier than storebought ones. They’re just so much better. As you can see, they go beautifully in a cup of hot chocolate, and give it AMAZING flavor. I also found another use for them….that I’ll be sharing on Day 6 of the series. Stay tuned!

DAY 1: VANILLA RED PINWHEELS

DAY 2: CHRISTMAS ELF BITES

DAY 3: THREE FRENCH HEN PIES

DAY 4: CRANBERRY BUCKLE

DAY 5: GINGERBREAD MARSHMALLOWS

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Gingerbread Marshmallows

Recipe Courtesy of Betty Crocker

Ingredients

  • Butter or shortening for greasing
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar, plus more for sprinkling & coating
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar 
  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup molasses

Directions

Generously grease the bottom of an 11 x7 baking dish with butter or shortening. Line it with parchment paper, grease the paper and sprinkle the bottom with 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or a large bowl) sprinkle the gelatin, ginger, cinnamon and cloves over 1/2 cup of cold water to soften. Set aside.

Place a glass of ice water next to the stove. In a medium saucepan, heat granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, water and molasses over low heat, stirring constantly with a wire whisk until sugar is dissolved.

Bring to a boil and cook without stirring until mixture to comes up to approximately 240 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer. If you drop some of the mixture into the glass of ice water, it should form a soft ball that forms its shape, but is still pliable. Remove from the heat.

Turn the mixer onto low speed (or use a handheld one). Slowly pour the syrup mixture over the gelatin. Once all of the sugar has been poured in, turn the speed of the mixer up to high. Beat for 8-10 minutes, until the mixture turns white and becomes thickened and shiny. It should also triple in volume.

Use a spatula to pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Wet your hands to make it smooth across the top. Let stand uncovered at room temp for a minimum of 8 hours or overnight.

Sprinkle a clean surface with powdered sugar. Use the corners of the parchment paper to lift the marshmallow out of the baking dish. Turn it out onto the sugared surface. Use a sharp knife or pizza wheel you’ve greased with butter to cut the marshmallows into squares.  Dip each one into powdered sugar and lightly dust off the excess.

Store in an air-tight container for up to 5 days.

Graham Cracker Toffee Bark

Graham Cracker Toffee Bark1

We made it you guys! The 12 Days of Christmas Series on Cooking is My Sport has reached its final day. Sick of seeing all my posts in your blog reader yet? Don’t worry, this is the last one…at least for a few days. I thought I’d keep things simple with this post and wrap up the series with an Ultimate Christmas Survey. Although I’ll be providing the questions and answers to the questions, I invite all of you guys to pick up a few and record your own answers in the comments section- cause I’m nosy like that and would love to read about your Christmases.

Favorite Christmas Move: A Charlie Brown Christmas. This is tough, but if I have to pick just ONE, then the Peanuts gang wins everytime. I always get a little misty-eyed at the end when Linus shares the true meaning of Christmas. Plus, this is one of the only movies I watch more than once every Christmas season.

Favorite Christmas Cookie: Thick, iced and soft sugar cookie. Nothing ever beats one for me- no siree bob, it doesn’t.

Graham Cracker Toffee Bark2

White Light or Colored Lights: If it’s just me, then I’m gonna go with white lights and gold accents. If I’m gonna have kids around, we’ll go for the colors.

Gingerbread Men Cookies or Gingerbread: Gingerbread Men Cookies

Favorite Christmas Music Album: Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas. Every track is flawless.

Fake or Real Christmas Tree: Fake. I’m not about that shedding,possibly flammable tree life. Plus, I know it’ll always be the right shape and size.

Christmas Wreath: Yes. My mom decorates them for fun, so it’s really very pretty.

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Egg Nog or Apple Cider: I’ve never had egg nog before, so cider is my choice.

Christmas Brunch or Christmas Dinner: I’m a Christmas dinner girl; I’ll usually have a cup of coffee or something like that in the morning and let myself get REALLY hungry by dinner time so I can build up one heck of an appetite and throw down on dinner.

Favorite Christmas Tradition: Watching all of our Christmas movies with my sisters, then driving around on Christmas Eve in the city looking at people’s lights.

Graham Cracker Toffee Bark4

Worst Christmas Gift You’ve Ever Received: Those chintzy, cheap art sets from bargain stores. You know what I’m talking about: the ones where the colored pencils don’t even really work, the markers dry out within days and the crayons shed all over the place. Yet, when I was young I would still get one from somebody EVERY year.

Star or Angel Tree Topper: We’ve had both an angel and a star, but I think I’m partial to the star.

Ham or Turkey: I love baked ham, but I love turkey more for the holidays, so it’s turkey for me.

Favorite Christmas Book: The short story A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

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When Do You Open Presents: Christmas morning. No exceptions. I want the full surprise on the actual day.

White or Non-White Christmas: I’m from Michigan. I either have to like white Christmases or curl up in a ball and weep in complete and total despair.

Name 1 Thing You Really, Really, REALLY Want For Christmas: A DSLR camera. I can’t afford one. But if there really was a Santa Claus, I’d be begging him to send me one from the North Pole.

This last recipe in our series is dangerous stuff, guys. Krytopnite dangerous. Beware: self-control is not likely when eating this. I’ve seen recipes elsewhere that used saltine crackers as the base for making chocolate candies and toffee. But I decided to go ahead and use cinnamon dusted graham crackers for mine. And it turned out ridiculously well. I’m sorry if it seems like I’m blowing my own horn, but it’s just the truth. The melted butter and sugar makes the graham crackers take on a texture that almost like nut brittle and melds so well with the creaminess of the chocolate. The toffee bits give it just the right amount of crunch. This toffee is PERFECT for gift-giving…if you don’t eat it all yourself first.

Graham Cracker Toffee Bark7

Aaaaand, I guess that’s all she wrote. I’d really like to thank all of you that have been following along with the 12 Days of Christmas here on Cooking is My Sport. I’ve had a lot of fun making all these Christmas goodies and hope you’ve had a good time reading the posts, or even been inspired enough to make some of your own. I’m thankful to reach another Christmas with my little blog baby and all you lovely people. I can’t wait until next year to start all over again.

Okay, I take that back. Maybe I can wait a little while. 12 days of blogging, photographing, editing and posting takes its toll on a girl. I’m kinda tired….

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Day 4: Giant Molasses Cookies

Day 5: Crustless Cranberry Pie

Day 6: St. Lucia Buns

Day 7: Brown Sugar Cookies

Day 8: Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Day 9: Biscochitos

Day 10: Cardamom Print Wafers

Day 11: Cinnamon Wedding Cookies

Day 12: Graham Cracker Toffee Bark

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Graham Cracker Toffee Bark


Recipe Loosely Adapted from Taste of Home

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Ingredients

  • 8-10 Cinnamon sugar Graham Crackers
  • 11.5 oz. of semi sweet chocolate chips (little less than 2 cups)
  • 1 cup of butter, cubed
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup vanilla baking chips
  • 8 oz. English toffee bits (like Heath)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 °. Line a 15 x 10 x 1 half sheet pan with heavy duty aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray,

2. Lay graham crackers in the bottom of the sheet pan, breaking into pieces if need be to cover entire surface.

3. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in sugar then bring to a boil.. Cook and stir 1-2 minutes longer or until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the graham crackers, spreading with spatula to make sure they are evenly covered.

4. Bake 8-10 minutes, until sugar mixture is bubbling. Melt vanilla chips in a glass bowl or cup in microwave, in about 15 second increments.

5. Remove half sheet pan from oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips over crackers. Allow them to soften for a few seconds, then use a spatula to spread out evenly.

6. Dip a fork into the melted vanilla chips and swirl it through the melted semi-sweet chocolate. Sprinkle the toffee bits over the chocolate.

7. Cover with aluminum foil and freeze until chocolate is set and firm, about an hour. Remove, and use a knife to break toffee into shards. 

Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls2

Welcome to Day 2 of the 12 Days of Christmas Series on Cooking is My Sport! Just in case you missed the first post yesterday, I’ll include a complete list of the recipes at the end of each post as we go through all of the days.

Let’s talk about Christmas popcorn tins. You all know which ones I’m talking about; the metal tins with the fancy, or sometimes wonky designs on the outside and three flavors of popcorn on the inside. Yeah, those. I’ve got mixed feelings about the Christmas popcorn tins. When I was young I really dug them, but in retrospect I kinda chalk that up to being a young, growing girl with a rabbit fast metabolism that could eat just about any Christmas treat without complaining. Now, eh…I’m not much of a fan. But for the sake of conversation, I’ll give my own rating of each of the flavors:

Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls1

The caramel corn is the obvious star of the three for me; there’s very little that caramelized sugar cannot make taste good, and the combination of the sweet with the saltiness of the popcorn is a pretty solid combination. Caramel corn for the win- 8/10

The regular butter popcorn is…well, regular butter popcorn. If the popcorn you’re buying is still relatively fresh (meaning it didn’t come from a dollar or low-budget store), then it’ll taste pretty decent. I gotta say though, I rarely get a strong butter flavor from it. It’s something for you to eat when you get the munchies, but not much else- 5/10

Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls4

The loser of the Christmas popcorn tins is the cheese flavored popcorn- no question. Whenever someone gave us a tin for a gift when we were growing up, none of us would touch the stuff. It just stayed there, untouched while the caramel corn and butter popcorn would get eaten. I don’t even know where to start with what’s wrong with the cheese popcorn: for one, the cheese coating just tastes so artificial and processed. Number two, it sticks and coats on your hands and turns them orange (blegh, yucky fingers). Three, there’s just something about the cheese coating that makes the popcorn taste stale to me. I’ll pass on the cheese popcorn every time, thank you- 2/10

Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls3

Before I even started baking for the Christmas series on the blog, I knew I wanted to make popcorn balls. They’re easy, they make GREAT gifts for friends and co-workers at Christmas parties, you can poke holes through them and hang them on a tree for decoration, and there are so many different flavor combinations that you can use when putting them together. I did two flavors this year, and this was one of them.

Think about a sweetened honey roasted peanut; now think about the saltiness of that peanut meeting and melting with a sticky caramel coating. That’s what these are. Salty, sweet balls of goodness. Think it can’t get better than that? Think again- the stickiness of the coating is tempered by the crunchy outer layer of sesame seeds that the balls get rolled in after they’re molded. So friggin good. I literally had to stop myself after taking an undisclosed amount of bites. They’re kryptonite powerful. So you should get in your kitchen and make some, stat.

Thanks for following our series, and once again: if you’re late to party then feel free to check out the complete list of recipe links for this year’s 12 Days of Christmas below!

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

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Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls


Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine

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Ingredients

  • 12 cups freshly popped popcorn (preferably made over the stove)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp. butter, plus 2-3 extra tbsp. for buttering your hands
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1 cup honey roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • Toasted sesame seeds, for rolling (about 3/4 cup)

 Directions

1. Bring honey, butter, peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar and water to a boil in a large pot over medium heat, stirring.

2. Remove from the heat; using a rubber spatula, stir in popcorn and 1 cup chopped salted mixed nuts until coated.

3. Butter your hands, then shape into balls and roll in toasted sesame seeds, working quickly before balls cool off. Place finished balls on parchment paper lined baking racks to set.