Hot cocoa is a big deal in my family. Being that we are a skiing family- both water and snow- coming in from the cold water or icy mountain was a condition that regularly needed to be remedied. I remember rushing into the cabin after a chilly morning ski on water that looked like absolute glass, shivering so hard my teeth rattled, and dying for a cup of warm chocolatey goodness. Mornings on the mountain were not much different, all three of us kids doing the ski boot strut off the hill, frozen solid and salivating at the lodge cocoa that always tasted like it came straight from the North Pole. Our family’s favorite Christmas movie was The Santa Clause and our favorite scene, the one with the little elf and her perfect hot cocoa recipe.
Almost as important as the cocoa itself, are the little white sugary puffs that float around in it. I’ve never liked commercially made marshmallows, but never knew you could make them yourself until a few years ago. My first foray into ‘mallow making was entirely inspired by Ashley of Not Without Salt‘s post, Pieces of Heaven. Her photos made the ‘mallows look absolutely tantalizing and I couldn’t wait to stuff my hot chocolate with the fluffy little treats.
Last year, in an effort to be both a bit more healthy and adventurous, I decided to see if I could make a bunch of substitutions and still come out with a delicious, fluffy marshmallow. I substituted honey for the sugar and corn syrup, vanilla beans for the extract, used organic gelatin instead of the packaged stuff and a bit of sea salt to enhance the flavor. Honey is expensive, but totally worth it. Maple syrup can be used too, if you’re into a mapley-chocolate combo. There’s no getting away from the powdered sugar, it’s a necessity, but I’ve been able to find some great organic options at my natural foods store. If you don’t have access to a natural foods store, Amazon is a great place to look for that stuff. Over all, I felt like the “healthier” variety added even more flavor to my cocoa, and I feel much better stuffing a mountain of ‘mallows into my cup.
Happy Christmas Eve Eve! I’ll be over here enjoying the calm before the storm with a tall glass of honey vanilla ‘mallows and a side of hot chocolate.
- 1 cup water
- 3 Tbsp organic beef gelatin
- 1 cup honey/maple syrup
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 3 cups organic powdered sugar, more to coat
- Grease an 8 x 8 pan and line with parchment paper. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
- In a stand mixer, combine gelatin with 1/2 cup water to soften.
- While softening, pour 1/2 cup water in saucepan with honey & salt, on medium heat. Bring to a boil and boil until soft ball stage (syrup forms a soft ball when dripped onto a surface) 15-20 minutes.
- Set mixer to low, slowly pour in honey mixture and add vanilla bean seeds. Make sure gelatin is combined with the syrup mixture and turn mixer to high (6-8).
- After mixture starts to cloud, add powdered sugar, one cup at a time.
- Once the mixture starts to look like a meringue and has soft peaks, remove from mixer and pour into pan. Level and coat with powdered sugar.
- I like to give my ‘mallows a day or two on the counter to dry out.
- Remove them from the pan by pulling up the side of parchment and cut to desired size. I think a bench knife is the easiest way to cut them.