Since I made the decision to avoid using gelatin, I had wanted to make homemade marshmallows with a vegetarian alternative. Then, I received a kitchen torch, and the desire to toast homemade marshmallows catapulted this project to the top of the list. I knew there was a vegetarian version of marshmallows made with xanthan gum in Demolition Desserts, but I had read that they don’t set up as firm as marshmallows made with gelatin. I decided to try them anyway. Once I had gelatin-free marshmallows and the ability to toast them, it seemed natural to then float them on top of some rich and delicious hot chocolate. I took a few cues from Ina for the technique and whipped up a white hot chocolate with a little espresso to balance the sweetness and some Kahlua to reinforce the coffee flavor with an alcoholic edge. A sprinkle of cocoa powder before floating the marshmallow added a bit of dark chocolate flavor too.
So, to make vegetarian marshmallows, the process is the same as for making ones with gelatin only instead of dissolving gelatin in a hot sugar syrup, xanthan gum is added after the hot syrup is incorporated into the egg whites. Water, cream of tartar, sugar, corn syrup, and half a vanilla bean were placed in saucepan over high heat and brought to a boil. The heat was reduced to medium, and a candy thermometer was attached to the pan. The syrup was cooked until it reached 248 degrees F, and meanwhile, three egg whites were being mixed in a stand mixer with the whip attachment. The hot syrup was added to the egg whites while mixing, and as soon as all the syrup was added, one and a half teaspoons of xanthan gum was added. You get the same, glossy, sticky meringue. That is then transferred to a cornstarch-sprinkled pan and left to set. I cut some marshmallows into heart shapes, and they did seem softer and a little gooey-er than marshmallows I had made with gelatin in the past. They held their shape well enough for floating on hot chocolate though. For the hot chocolate, I chopped four ounces of white chocolate and heated two cups of milk to a simmer. I poured the hot milk over the white chocolate and whisked until it melted. I poured that mixture through a sieve, just like Ina, into a small, heat-proof pitcher. Then, I added one tablespoon instant espresso, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and a splash of Kahlua. After pouring into two mugs, I topped each with a sprinkle of cocoa powder and a toasted marshmallow.
I have to say I was very pleased with the slightly bitter edges of the toasted marshmallow in combination with the sweet, white chocolate. The resulting color of the hot chocolate itself with the added espresso and Kahlua isn’t exactly a beautiful shade of off-white, but the flavor made up for the unremarkable looks.