Chocolate Dipped Orange Zest Marshmallows (FAK Friday)

Chocolate Dipped Orange Zest Marshmallows by Will Cook For Friends (who knew homemade marshmallows were so easy?

I have a secret to tell you. Are you ready?

Homemade marshmallows are really, really easy to make. The Stay-Puffed marshmallow man doesn’t want you to know, but it’s true.

They also taste a million times better than store-bought. I used to think the only appropriate use for marshmallows (besides putting them in the microwave and watching them puff up) was lighting them on fire and then picking away at the charred bits. Not with these, though… I actually like homemade marshmallows. I like them so much, in fact, that this is the third time they’ve made an appearance here on the blog.

And I’m certain it won’t be the last.

Homemade Orange Zest Marshmallows by Will Cook For Friends (who knew homemade marshmallows were so easy?

Let’s count the ways homemade marshmallows are different from your run-of-the-mill ones, shall we?

1. They are soft. Now, you may be saying to yourself, “of course, all marshmallows are soft.” But no, not like these they’re not. They’re like little pillows of sweetness. But not like those hard orthopedic pillows… we’re talking light, cloud-like pillows that angels use to rest their heads on when no one is looking.
2. They melt. Place these in a mug of hot chocolate and wait a few minutes before drinking it. The marshmallows spread out into a frothy, gooey blanket of sweetness that adds to every single sip. Take that, mini marshmallows!
3.  The flavor. Straight-up, homemade marshmallows just taste better than store bought. Add to that the fact that you can infuse them with just about any flavor you like, and now you have a real winner. I once had a sweet potato casserole made with these brown butter sage marshmallows, and I’m pretty sure it’s one of the best things I’ve put in my mouth to date.

If you need more convincing, stop reading and make a batch. It’ll take about twenty minutes, and then they have to set up overnight. Tomorrow, you can wake up to one of these:

Chocolate Dipped Orange Zest Marshmallows in Hot Cocoa (who knew homemade marshmallows were so easy?)

This, my friends, is one of T-Hub’s favorite things of all time. Hot cocoa (he also likes it as a mocha, with a shot of espresso and fresh whipped cream), with a few drops of orange extract, and a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg. Topping it off with these marshmallows is like the icing on the cake. And the extra chocolate? That’s like the sprinkles on the icing on the cake. Only better.

Chocolate, Glorious Chocolate | Will Cook For Friends

Before we get to the recipe, let’s talk about how marshmallows work.

Marshmallows are made up of three basic components. Sugar, corn syrup, and gelatin. Now, before we get carried away, the corn syrup we’re talking about here is not the same as “high fructose corn syrup” — this stuff is almost entirely glucose (not fructose), is less sweet than table sugar, and is used to help keep the marshmallows soft and chewy.

To make the marshmallows, the sugar and corn syrup are boiled together to a temperature of 240 degrees F. This is also known as the “soft ball” stage of candy-making. The temperature sugar is heated to gives us a clue as to how the sugar will behave once cooled. At 230-235 F., it is at the “thread” stage. At 235-245 it is in the “soft ball” stage. 245-250 is “firm ball”, 250-255 is “hard ball”, and, well, you get the idea. The names of the stages come from when a small amount of the boiling sugar is dropped into cool water. At the thread stage, the sugar creates thin strands, and does not harden. This is the temperature you would use to make a sugar syrup. At the soft ball stage, a bead of hot sugar dropped into cool water will form a ball that is very soft and pliable. At the firm and hard stages, the ball gets harder and harder, and at higher temperatures it will become brittle. Once you go above 320F, the sugar begins to caramelize… but be careful! Any higher than 350F, and the sugar will start to burn.

The stages of boiling sugar for candy making ("soft ball" stage)

Boiling sugar might sound a bit scary, but don’t worry. Just be sure to use a pot big enough to hold the bubbling liquid, and use caution when pouring the syrup. Once you’ve made marshmallows once or twice, you’ll be doing it in your sleep.

Once the sugar reaches soft ball stage, it gets whipped with the gelatin. Beating the sugar introduces air, and creates a light, spongy texture. After a thorough beating, the marshmallow fluff gets poured into a pan, dusted with corn starch and confectioner’s sugar to keep it from sticking. As the mixture cools, the proteins in the gelatin help support the fluff, and keep it from collapsing. Finally, the slab of marshmallow is ready to be cut into bite-sized pieces. Or giant pieces. Or wee tiny pieces. Or mini cookie-cutter snowflakes. Whatever.

Dunking in chocolate is optional, but recommended. Unless you’re planning to toast these babies, in which case, save the chocolate for the s’mores.

Chocolate Dipped Orange Zest Marshmallows by Will Cook For Friends (who knew homemade marshmallows were so easy?

Honestly, the hardest part of making marshmallows is the clean-up, and even that isn’t hard. There will undoubtedly be powdered sugar and marshmallow goo everywhere, but all it takes is a little warm water to wash it away.

All that technical talk probably makes this sound a lot harder than it is, so you’re just going to have to trust me when I say, you can do this. And you should. Homemade marshmallows are a total game-changer.

What’s your favorite way to eat marshmallows? In hot cocoa, s’mores, or some other way? Let me know in the comments!

Chocolate Dipped Orange Marshmallows
Makes about 50-100 marshmallows, depending on size

3 envelopes unflavored gelatin (1/4oz each, or approx. 2 1/2 TBSP)
1 cup ice cold water, divided
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. kosher salt, or just a pinch of fine-grain sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. orange extract
1/4 tsp. fresh orange zest (about 1/2 an orange)

For dusting:
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 cup corn starch, or potato starch

For dipping:
8 oz. good quality dark chocolate

1.   Lightly grease (or spray with baking spray) a 9×12 inch baking dish. Mix together the confectioner’s sugar and corn starch, and sift about 1/4 cup of the mixture over the baking dish. Be sure to cover the entire bottom and sides of the dish thoroughly. You want it to look like a blanket of freshly covered snow, with no gaps showing. Set aside.
2.   Place the gelatin into a large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, and add 1/2 cup of the water. Set aside. (If using a hand-mixer, have it ready and nearby.)
3.   In a medium-sized pot with high sides, add the granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, and the remaining 1/2 cup of water. Cover with a lid, and place over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes. After a few minutes, remove the lid and check to see if the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is boiling. If the sugar has not dissolved yet, return the lid for another minute or two.
4.   Once the sugar has dissolved, remove the lid and clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, or soft-ball stage. This should happen within 5-10 minutes, but keep a close eye.
5.   Once the sugar reaches 240F., remove it from the heat and carefully(!) pour it into the bowl with the gelatin, while beating on low speed. If you have a stand mixer, be sure to use the spatter-guard to prevent hot sugar from spattering out of the bowl. If you’re using a stand mixer, try to pour the sugar into the bowl without pouring it over the beaters themselves. Having an extra set of hands will help.
6.   Increase the speed of your mixer to high, and beat for at least 8-10 minutes with a stand mixer, or 10-12 minutes with a hand-held mixer. At first it will look thin and frothy, then it will begin to thicken. After several minutes, it will look like marshmallow fluff — keep beating for the full time. In the last couple of minutes, add the vanilla extract, orange extract, and orange zest.
7.   Using a lightly greased rubber spatula, pour the mixture into your prepared baking dish and spread it evenly. Dust the top with more of the confectioner’s sugar / starch mixture, and let rest at room temperature for at least 4-5 hours, or overnight.
8.   Once the marshmallows have set-up, remove them from the baking dish and cut into squares (or use a small cookie cutter to make shapes). I find a pizza cutter dusted in corn starch makes easy work of the cutting.
9.   Toss the marshmallows in more confectioner’s sugar / starch to coat all sides thoroughly. Then, place a handful of marshmallows into a mesh sieve, and shake back and forth to remove any excess dusting powder. Repeat until all of the marshmallows are done. Finished marshmallows can be stored in an airtight container or baggie in a cool, dry place for up to a couple of weeks, or dipped / drizzled with chocolate and stored for up to one week.
For the chocolate
1.   Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. (Or, place the chocolate in a bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until melted).
2.   Dip or drizzle finished marshmallows in the chocolate, and set on a parchment lined plate or tray. Let rest until the chocolate has hardened.

Recipe notes: marshmallows can be made in nearly any flavor you can imagine! Feel free to swap the orange extract for whatever flavoring you like, or add herbs and spices to make things interesting (chai spice, pumpkin pie spice, or gingerbread spices are all nice additions). You could also add cocoa powder or other add-ins, like jam, or fruit purees. To make plain vanilla marshmallows, leave out the orange extract and zest, and add another teaspoon of vanilla extract.
Smaller marshmallows can also be made by using a rimmed baking sheet instead of a 9×12 inch dish, or by piping the marshmallow goo onto a thoroughly dusted cookie sheet. 

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25 Responses to Chocolate Dipped Orange Zest Marshmallows (FAK Friday)

  1. Mellissa @ ibreatheimhungry December 14, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    Willow these are so beautiful! I have never made my own marshmallows before but your instructions totally made me feel like I could, and that it would be relatively easy! The gorgeous photos made me WANT to make them in the worst way! Thanks for all the time you put into this post and photos!

  2. Abby December 14, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

    I like the way you do hot chocolate! That mug with the drizzled chocolate…I have no words, well maybe one…gimme haha. I love the orange and have never tried homemade marshmallows…might be time to change that.

  3. shannon weber December 15, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    willow, can i tell you something? you’re great. here’s why: lots of reasons, but in particular, this: i’ve been afraid to make marshmallows for a year now. A YEAR. because last christmas, thinking i had this whole baking thing nailed, i tried to make some peppermint swirl ones out of a Martha Stewart magazine. they looked so pretty in the photo, and they seemed easy? Well, disaster soon followed. i mean, BIG, PEPTO-PINK, GUMMY MARSHMALLOW DISASTER.
    they were not easy. but you what i’ve learned? i trust you. and i think i should probably get over it, because since when do i let a martha recipe failure get me down? never. besides, the whole chocolate orange combo? WIN. WAY better than peppermint. i’m going to try your version. wish me luck.

    • Willow Arlen December 15, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

      Thank you so much, Shannon! I’m so excited that you’re going to make these. There will be marshmallow goo every, you’ve been warned, but so long as most of it ends up in the pan you’ll be fine. Tips: use lots of the corn starch / confectioner’s sugar dusting powder (more than you think you’ll need), to prevent stickage.
      That Martha Stewart recipe makes it all more complicated than it needs to be… I’ve actually done peppermint swirl marshmallows before (basically this same recipe, minus the orange, plus a few drops of peppermint extract, pour into pan, then swirl food coloring with the tip of a very small pairing knife), and they turned out great. The swirling is a bit messy, though, because the ‘mallow sets up fast and is very sticky/gummy, so I wouldn’t recommend it for a first try.
      You’ll have to let me know how these turn out for you!

  4. Shelly West December 16, 2013 at 1:50 am #

    I’ve never made homemade marshmallows because I’m not a fan of the store bought ones but you’ve seriously made a case for how much better homemade ones are that I may need to give them a chance!

  5. Chocolate Shavings December 16, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    These are so pretty! And u couldn’t agree more: homemade marshmallows are SO easy to make, and the end-result makes such a difference!

  6. Jeff Bannow December 16, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    I can confirm that these are unbelievably amazing!

    • Willow Arlen December 16, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

      Thanks, Jeff — glad you liked them! :D

  7. Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes December 16, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    Oh my you made the process look so easy and the marshmallows are beautiful- THubbs is spoiled, his hot cocoa sounds super fancy!

  8. carey December 18, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    I made marshmallows a couple years ago. It was surprisingly easy, and oh man, so many delicious marshmallows!! I was thinking about making them again this year, and flavoring them with Art in the Age’s ROOT liqueur or Zirbenz pine liqueur. (But then what the heck does one do with pine marshmallows? I just have the winter crazies, and I want everything to taste like a Christmas tree.) But holy cow, browned butter sage marshmallows?! If there’s one thing that could get me to eat a mallow-covered sweet potato casserole, that’s it. Now I want to make those and stick them in some sweet potato ice cream, a la the Jeni’s Splendid Sweet Potato + Torched Marshmallow ice cream. Ermahgerd. :)

    P.S. How do you like your candy thermometer? (And if you love it, which one do you use?) I own at least half a dozen different thermometers, and I don’t trust any of them.

    • Willow Arlen December 18, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

      Ooh, liqueured marshmallows sound delicious, and uber Christmasy. I wonder if you could do spiked eggnog marshmallows? And I am the same way, I am NOT a fan of marshmallow laden sweet potato casserole, but with the browned butter sage marshmallows it was incredible! Turning it into an ice cream is a brilliant idea, too (yay, Jeni’s!)

      Honestly, I don’t even know what the brand is… it’s just a ten dollar thermometer I got at the grocery store, but it’s served me well so far. If you aren’t sure if your thermometers are trustworthy, you can stick them in a pot of boiling water and they should read 212 degrees F (assuming you’re at sea level). If they don’t, at least you know by what margin they are off by, and you can adjust accordingly. :)

  9. Amy @ Elephant Eats December 18, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

    How did you know that chocolate and orange is my most favorite combo of all time?! It’s like you made these marshmallows just for me :) Marshmallows are on my list of things to attempt in the kitchen. I really really hate boiling sugar for candy-making. i don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but it literally takes an eternity for it to reach the right temperature…and I have the patience of a 2 year old. Please tell me what I’m doing wrong. Oh, and my fave way to eat marshmallows is obviously on a s’more. Sometimes if I dont’ have a campfire i’ll toast them over my gas range, or in a pinch in my toaster oven :)

    • Willow Arlen December 18, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

      I can read minds, that’s how. ;)

      Okay, that’s a creepy thought. Moving on. Boiling sugar shouldn’t take too long, but I guess it depends on what type of candy you’re making, and in what quantity. If you’ve got a lot of sugar and it’s on low heat, it will probably take a while. For a batch of these marshmallows, there isn’t a whole lot of sugar in the pot, and it’s over medium-high heat the whole time, so it goes pretty quickly (3-4 minutes with the lid on, and I’d say another 5-10 minutes with the lid off, depending on your stove — mine is on the quick side of that estimation). While my sugar is coming up to temperature, I like to measure my extracts and orange zest into a small dish so it’s ready to go when I need it. That might help pass the time a bit. :)

  10. kiki December 19, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    Is there any way to substitute the gelatin to make a vegetarian version?

    • Willow Arlen December 19, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

      I have heard (but not tried this), that you can replace the gelatin with powdered agar agar. The procedure for making them with agar agar may be slightly different, though. I would look around for a vegetarian/vegan marshmallow recipe elsewhere, and just add in a bit of orange extract and orange zest.
      Hope that helps!

  11. j August 13, 2014 at 8:44 pm #

    i made these and tempered my chocolate.. yet the chocolate still came out streaky… was wondering if the tiny bit of powdered sugar that may have got into the chocolate was the culprit? how do you keep this from happenning… ie contaminating the chocolate with bits of powdered sugar.. ( and i did definitely take off any excess on the marshmallows before i dunked them)


    • Willow August 14, 2014 at 12:34 am #

      Hmm, I’m sorry to hear your chocolate was streaky… I didn’t have any issues with the powdered sugar (of which there was plenty on my marshmallows) causing streaks in the chocolate. I can’t imagine that would detract from the flavor, though. If the flavor of the chocolate is affected, I’d say the streaks aren’t caused by the powdered sugar, but that a little humidity or something wonky with the temperature maybe caused the chocolate to not be in temper properly, and it bloomed? Just grasping at straws, here, but that’s all I can think of.

  12. j August 16, 2014 at 12:41 am #

    Thanks! hmmm if you have had lots of powdered sugar and that didn’t ‘contaminate’ your chocolate at all… I will try and monitor the temp better… i get it to 90 degrees and start dipping.. but maybe it cools off while dipping or something. Thx again.

    • Willow August 16, 2014 at 9:58 am #

      That seems like the most likely cause. Tempering chocolate can be quite finicky. For dark chocolate, I always take the temperature to between 115-120 degrees, then let the temperature drop while stirring vigorously. It also helps to seed the melted chocolate with chunks of whole chocolate, to develop the crystalline structure necessary. Once the chocolate has cooled a bit, I then bring it up to 90-92 degrees F. I remember Alton Brown had a tip for keeping the chocolate warm while it was in temper, too, which was to set the bowl on an electric heating pad. I tried that once and it definitely helped. There are also plenty of other tips and tutorials online for tempering, too, if you’re still having issues. Or you can just melt it in 20-30 second intervals in the microwave… it’s less precise, but I’d say it gets the job done 90% of the time. That’s what I did for the marshmallows in the photos, and as you can see there are no streaks. Hope that helps!

  13. j August 16, 2014 at 1:27 am #

    p.s. if you dip the marshmallows with sticky sides into the chocolate without coating first with powdered sugar – is there any downside? Does the powdered sugar serve a purpose other than making the marshmallows easier to handle?

    • Willow August 16, 2014 at 9:59 am #

      I can’t think of any reason that wouldn’t work. :)

  14. Gigel August 13, 2015 at 7:51 am #

    Yes, I made them in college. They are SO much bteter than the store-bought kind that I won’t even eat them now unless they are homemade. Yours look droolworthy! I wanna be your neighbor who gets the leftovers. The idea of peppermint is brilliant! I can hardly wait to try this and them put them in hot cocoa! nomnomnom!

    • Willow Arlen August 13, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

      Homemade marshmallows for the win! I hope you like these, the orange flavored ones are some of my favorites (closely followed by straight up vanilla, and then the peppermint — it’s good to mix things up!). :)

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