Homemade marshmallows provide the perfect balance between floating in a mug of hot cocoa and slowly melting, enriching the flavor of the cocoa to something akin to a Fluffernutter. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

The buoyancy of a marshmallow is crucial to the role it plays in a mug of hot cocoa on a cold winter’s day.

You want a serious floater, first off, for curb appeal. A snowy confection on top adds panache to any mug of dark, hot chocolate. It doesn’t matter if the hot beverage is made slowly from local, full-fat milk and fair-trade cocoa powder over a low flame or poured from pouch and ready in the time it takes the kettle to boil.

The tiny, powdery pellets masquerading as marshmallows that come inside those packets are cute enough, but since they dissolve in the steam coming off the hot cocoa so quickly, they simply don’t meet other crucial criteria: Marshmallows must be resilient enough to pop back up when repeatedly dunked under the surface. It’s a safety measure really. This activity gives the cocoa time to cool to a safe sipping temperature.

The store-bought, cylindrical variety, the ones perfect for toasting, can certainly do the dunk and bob. But given their commercial-grade density, they don’t warm to the core in a cup of cocoa like they do over a campfire. The result is a disappointingly cool, chewiness; a consistency incongruous to the whole exercise of warming wintertime indulgence.

Enter homemade marshmallows: They float, they bob, they warm to any cocoa occasion. And they are easier than you think to make in your own kitchen. It’s a matter of beating lots of air into a mixture of bloomed gelatin and hot syrup and setting the marshmallow to cure for a couple of hours before cutting them into bite-sized blocks of sweetness.

Here is a step-by-step guide:

Spray cooking spray into a 9×9 pan before adding the marshmallow mixture to it. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Prep gear: Spray a 9-by-9-inch pan evenly with cooking spray. Place the pan, a firm spatula and a clean kitchen towel near your stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.

The gelatin bloom mixture Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Bloom gelatin: Combine 3 tablespoons powdered unflavored gelatin, 1/2 cup cold water and 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla into the bowl of the stand mixer. Whisk until the gelatin is the consistency of apple sauce.

Make syrup: Pour 3/4 cups hot water into the 4-quart saucepan. Add 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 1 1/4 cups light corn syrup, and a pinch of kosher salt. Do not stir. Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring it to a full, rapid boil. Cover the saucepan with a lid and let it boil for about 2 minutes. The condensation that collects on the lid will slide down the sides of the pan, washing down the sugar that could crystalize the syrup. Boil the syrup until it registers 245 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer (about 10 minutes).

Whisk hot syrup into gelatin: With your mixer running on a medium speed, carefully pour the hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin. Once all the syrup has been added, cover the mixer and the bowl with the kitchen towel to prevent spatters and increase the speed to high. Whip for a full 10 minutes. The mixture will go from clear and frothy (bowl will be very hot) to opaque, white and creamy (the bowl will be warm to the touch) after about three minutes. After five, it will increase in volume and have thin, sticky strands between the whisk and the side of the bowl. After 10 minutes, it will to resemble soft-serve ice cream (the bowl will be cool to the touch.)

After the syrup mixture reaches a temperature of 245 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer, slowly pour the mixture into the side of the mixing bowl containing the gelatin bloom while running the mixer on medium speed. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Set the marshmallows: Spray the spatula with cooking spray and use it scrape the marshmallow mixture into the pan. Spray your hands lightly with cooking spray and smooth the top of the marshmallow block. Let the marshmallows set at least six hours.

After it has set, remove the marshmallow block from the 9×9 pan and coat the block with a mixture of 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and 1/2 cup of cornstarch, flipping the block over to coat both sides. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Cut and coat the finished marshmallows: Combine 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and 1/2 cup cornstarch. Sprinkle the top of the cured marshmallows with 1/4 cup of this mixture and smooth it out evenly. Flip the block of marshmallows out onto a cutting board. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of powdered sugar mixture over the upended block of marshmallow. Use a sharp knife to cut the marshmallows into 1-inch squares. Toss each square in the powdered sugar mix so all the sides are evenly coated. There will be about 80 marshmallows all told.

Store the marshmallows: These marshmallows will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for several weeks until you’re ready to drop them into mugs of hot cocoa or just eat out of hand.

CHRISTINE BURNS RUDALEVIGE is a food writer, recipe developer and tester, and cooking teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special,” a cookbook from Islandport based on these columns. She can be contacted at [email protected]

After cutting the marshmallow strips into squares, coat all sides with the powdered sugar/cornstarch mixture. The marshmallows will keep for several weeks when stored in an airtight container. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

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