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Gourmet marshmallows add a squelchy interest to dinner parties and barbeques as Ruth Addicott reports
Its difficult to believe a stack of small, pink, fluffy cubes could create such frenzy but marshmallows are experiencing something of a comeback. Philippa Quayle has launched Art of Mallow where she cooks up gourmet marshmallows in a variety of flavours from chocolate chip to strawberries and cream.
The gourmet puffs have proved so popular she made more than 1,400 in the first four weeks and orders keep on growing. The taste for the more upmarket style marshmallow has swept the US where flavours are even more exotic such as avocado and lime, red bean and sesame and (brace yourselves) chicken and beef. The New York Times says marshmallows are having a moment in retro land and chef Maria DUrso from fashionable New York boutique Three Tarts Bakery has branded them the new cupcakes.
Philippa launched Art of Mallow in her kitchen in Oakwood, Leeds, in the wake of the US trend. My husband and I were flicking through the TV channels one night and a programme popped up showing an American woman making an enormous marshmallow, said Philippa. We thought, wow, thats amazing - how do you make a marshmallow like that?
Ironically, it was her husband, Stephen, who ventured into the kitchen first and after seeing his attempt (gooey on the bottom, foamy on the top), Philippa decided to have a go herself. The kids were really excited, theyre happy to test anything thats coming out of the kitchen, she added.
It took a few tries to get the recipe right - the sugar, water and glucose have to be heated to the right temperature and it takes a serious amount of whisking to create the right level of fluffiness. Id have muscles like Popeye if I didnt have an electric whisk, said Philippa. But after tweaking the recipe, they were perfect.
As word spread, Philippa found herself making them three or four times a week.
Everybody was really excited by them. I looked in local delis and sweet shops and there was always fudge and biscuits, but no gourmet marshmallows - only those American ones you get in a packet.
After experimenting with different flavours and coming up with retro packaging, Art of Mallow was born. Its now sold at Haley and Clifford in Roundhay, 1066 deli in Collingham, Harewood House, the Leeds Visitor Centre and Fodder at the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate.
The most popular flavours are Strawberries and Cream, Chocs Away Old Chip (chocolate chip) and Nuts Over My Honey (honey and pistachio).
Theres also Fudge Goodness Sake (caramel fudge), Zest Fest (lemon) and Totally Minted (peppermint). Some school mums are requesting gin and tonic flavour, I dont know about that, but I promised Id work on a Baileys one for Christmas, added Philippa.
So apart from the nostalgia and drumming up fond memories of childhood, whats the appeal? I think its something different and quite unusual, its also new to the UK, said Philippa. People remember marshmallows as those pink and white squashy things that dont really taste of anything, but these are full of flavour and the ingredients are all natural.
They are also versatile and work well on a barbecue as well as with hot chocolate. If youre having a dinner party, you can serve coffee with a little marshmallow on the side or add them to a biscuit or tart to make a dessert more interesting, said Philippa.
Some flavours have gone down better than others; the combination of honey and rosemary proved a bit traumatic for some. I also chopped up some fresh stem ginger and tested it on the neighbours. Their little boy tried it and he looked like he wanted to get rid of it, but was too polite to say, she added.
Apart from the tasting sessions, the part she enjoys most is turning it over once the marshmallow has set. Its like a big, soft, fluffy pillow and I cant resist giving it a little pat. Its such a satisfying sound when you cut it; its the fluffiest squelch you can imagine. Its like cutting through air. You know youve got the consistency right if its got a nice spring to it.
Philippa has always had a passion for cooking and credits much of her success to her home economics teacher, the appropriately named, Miss Raisin.
Im sure shed be proud if she knew what I was doing. One thing I did learn was to clean up as you go along. She was always shouting, Clean up, girls! Clean up! So I have Miss Raisin to thank for my clean kitchen.
To find out more about Philippas range of mashmallows visit www.artofmallow.co.uk