Thursday, August 7, 2014

Toasted Marshmallows

Toasting marshmallows sounds like the simplest thing. Even childen can do it, right? The truth is, however, that many people don't seem to know how. I recently witnessed a group of adults "toast" marshmallows by setting them on fire. I don't think they knew any better. A burnt marshmallow does not taste good. It doesn't toast long enough to melt but only the very outer layer under the burnt crust. Plus that crust, since it's not really edible, is wasted. I'd like to show you a better way.

Untoasted marshmallow on a stick - this is the starting point.

Perfectly toasted marshmallow. Yum.
Growing up in Portland, we spent a lot of time at the beach when I was young, and Chris and I make an annual trip with my mom to the Oregon coast where we spend the better part of a week relaxing, drinking Oregon IPA (I'll tell you about this year's selections tomorrow) and eating good food. A fun beach tradition is building a fire on the beach (legal on Oregon beaches, but not necessarily everywhere, so check if you're not sure) and toasting marshmallows. As the sun sets and it starts to get cold, a good beach fire will keep you toasty hot, the perfect setting for reminiscing or, if you're so inclined, singing a few campfire songs.

And you need something to munch on, and there's nothing better in this setting than a toasted marshmallow.

A good toasted marshmallow is creamy on the inside with a browned (not burnt) exterior. The trick is patience. Slowing toasting the marshmallow away from direct flames will allow the surface to caramelize and the center to melt. If you're patient enough, you can get it melted all the way through. That's when it's really good.

Building the fire can be a bit tricky, and I'm not going to get into the exact instructions for doing so (I imagine there are some great blog posts about it that Google can find; be sure you also follow all the safety suggestions, like building away from grass and large pieces of wood).  It can be particularly tricky on the Oregon coast, because it's almost always windy. Despite being out of practice, I'm still pretty good at it (although the fire for this post took two matches to light). And no, I didn't use lighter fluid, and I don't suggest you do either, lest it make your marshmallows taste funny.

After the fire gets going good, let it burn down until hot coals form. The ideal space for toasting marshmallows is a flat area of hot coals without nearby flames. Use a stick to adjust the fire like this, if necessary. You want to be able to focus the heat on the sides of the marshmallow and not just the top.

This is our beach fire as it is just getting started. While it's making big yellow flames, this is NOT the time to begin toasting marshmallows.
Once the flames have died down and the wood has burnt to hot embers (or coals as we sometimes call them), fine a spot with embers but away from flames for toasting.

Besides the risk of fire, another easy marshmallow-toasting fail is the maneuver where the almost perfectly toasted marshmallow falls off your stick into the fire. It's a real shame. Be sure to poke the stick all the way through the marshmallow to prevent this.

Also, the selection of stick is important. Try to find one that's pretty straight, so the marshmallow toasts evenly as you rotate it. Carving the end of the stick to a point is a good idea too.

Toasting marshmallows should be done in the evening. Start the fire while it's still light, so you can see to find the wood. Then enjoy the beautiful Oregon coast sunset, along with the toasted marshmallows.

Toasted Marshmallows

A bag of marshmallows

1. Build a fire outside. Allow the fire to burn down to hot coals. Adjust hot coals to create a space with an even layer of coals for toasting.

2. Thread a marshmallow onto the end of a long stick (3-4 feet or so--long enough that you're a comfortable distance from the hot fire).

3. Hold the marshmallow a few inches from the hot coals (you'll have to judge the distance for yourself. If the marshmallow starts to smoke quickly, move it away a bit). Slowly rotate the marshmallow over the fire, taking about a minute to do so, to even brown its exterior. When browned all over, remove the marshmallow and eat it immediately.

4. Repeat.

1 comment:

  1. I personally enjoy the taste of a completely burnt marshmallow... carcinogens and all!