Monday, July 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge: Marsh(mallow) Madness





The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

The Bakers were given the option to make both the Marshmallow and Milan cookies or just one of the recipes.

With the completion of this challenge, I’ve been a member of the Daring Bakers for one year.

And what an educational and sweet year it has been.

I’ve piped dough for ├ęclairs, sweated through a layer cake with five different complicated steps, stretched strudel dough and learned about Bakewell Tarts and murder.

Probably the challenge that was the most fun was learning to toss pizza dough!

Several of the recipes became favorites, like the caramel cake, and some were best forgotten, like that layer cake.

And it has been fun to see how differently the other bakers approached each challenge. It often seemed that the more than 1000 members had that many different ways to interpret each challenge.

For this month’s challenge, I chose to focus only on the Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies. I was excited to try my hand at making marshmallows. Making marshmallows has become the latest bakery treat but I hadn’t yet attempted to make a batch.

I flipped through a few of my newer cookbooks and was surprised to find only one or two that had recipes for making marshmallows. I plan to try both the recipes by Dorie Greenspan in her book, Baking: From My Home to Yours and also the recipes by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito in their recent book, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking.

I had to go all the way back to my cookbooks from the 1940s and 1950s to find recipes for making marshmallow.

It appears that once technology made it possible for marshmallows to be commercially produced in 1948 and became available as a standard grocery store product, it was no longer considered a skill cooks needed to have in their repertoire.

These cookies are also called Mallows by the host of this challenge but when I was growing up, we called them Mallomars.

Introduced in the U.S. in 1913 by Nabisco, a Mallomar is a graham cracker cookie topped with marshmallow then dipped in dark chocolate (the Nabisco description says “enrobed in chocolate!”).

Similar cookies have been around for hundreds of years. Many countries have their own version. Most likely the first “mallomar” was created in Denmark.

The cookie base in this recipe was more shortbread in consistency than graham cracker. I would be happy just having them on their own with a cup of tea.

The marshmallow component was the hard part of this challenge and my kitchen and almost every utensil shows traces of my efforts (not to mention my hair and clothes).

I had thought that the marshmallow would be made in a pan then cut to fit the cookie base. But of course that would have been too easy.

The recipe called for the ingredients to be whipped to stiff peaks then piped from a pastry bag onto the cookie paste. Not easy and very messy.

But it worked ok. But I hadn’t factored in Mother Nature.

As all bakers know, one of the most important ingredients in any baking project is the weather. A change in humidity or too hot or cold weather can alter any baking result.

In this case, although I live in Northern California where we don’t really have too many hot days or any humidity to complain about, this particular day was hotter than normal and there was a slight humid feel to the air.

So while the marshmallow did set up pretty well – not great though, the chocolate that I then dipped each cookie into did not.

Then I discovered an interesting fact about Mallomars – Nabisco considers them a seasonal product. Mallomars are only available from October-April then they disappear!

It appears that many people across the country anxiously await the appearance of that yellow box in their grocery stores.

Even amazon.com shows the Mallomar as a product you can order online but if you try to order them now, they show as currently unavailable. The product description on amazon says, “product sensitive to heat”. You can even sign up to be notified when the product is available.

An article from the New York Times in 2005 titled, The Cookie that Comes Out in The Cold, focuses on the reappearance of this treasured cookie when the cold weather hits.

There are also numerous fan websites dedicated to singing the praise of this humble cookie. Movies, TV and print have all paid homage to the Mallomar.

I had no idea the Mallomar inspired such rapture and frenzy in its dedicated followers. I personally was a pink Sno-Ball fan…

So now it makes more sense to me why my cookies failed.

But of course now I want a box. I wonder if there is a limit to the number of boxes you can order on amazon………

4 comments:

  1. Beautiful Job
    They are so cute!

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  2. Your mallow cookies look great from the pictures! It seemed like they worked just fine.

    Wow did not know that about the seasonality of mallows at all, but I did wonder... The chocolate mine only set when I put them in the fridge.

    I was hoping for a cake with berries this month - much more summery, but never mind. There is always next month!

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  3. That's so funny about the mallomars being seasonal! It really makes sense after the troubles people had with this challenge. Your cookies look yummy, and happy DB anniversary!

    This was my first challenge, and I can already tell I'm going to love it.

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  4. Your mallomars look good Patricia!
    I am surprised Gale doesn't call for tempering the chocolate for dipping. But then again, that might have made the recipe seem too complicated. When I dip macaroons, I temper the dipping chocolate if they are travelling anywhere, and I also stash them in the freezer for a few minutes to help them set up if it's hot.

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