It's wintertime, and since I have a 9 year old daughter that means we drink a lot of Hot Cocoa in our house.  I'm not talking the weak, insipid instant mix, but good, old-fashioned, made-from-scratch Hot Chocolate.  And you can't have hot chocolate without marshmallows. Sure some people like to top their cocoa with whipped cream, but for pure comfort factor you can beat marshmallows!

Homemade marshmallows are a thing of beauty. They taste so much better than the store bought ones, can easily be customizable, and aren’t overly difficult to make. While vanilla is the standard flavoring for marshmallows I also like to make them flavored with almond extract or peppermint extract. If you try this start with half the amount of vanilla and keep adding until you get the flavor you like. Also, once set, you can simply cut them into squares or use mini cookie cutters to cut out different shapes. Personally, I like snowflake shaped marshmallows.

Homemade Marshmallows

2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or flavor of your choice-the choice is endless)

Coat a 12×17 rimmed baking sheet with pan spray, line with parchment and spray again. Pour 1/3 cup cold water into the bowl of an electric mixer and sprinkle with gelatin. Allow to soften for 5 minutes. Meanwhile place sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/3 cup water in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Remove lid and cook until syrup reaches 238 (soft ball) on a thermometer. With mixer on low, whisk gelatin and slowly pour in the sugar mixture. Raise the speed and whip until mixture is thick, white and has almost tripled in volume (about 12 minutes).

Add vanilla and beat 30 more seconds Pour into prepared pan. To smooth out the top coat the back of a spatula with pan spray before smoothing it out or the marshmallow mixture will stick to it. This stuff wants to stick to everything! Allow to cool, uncovered, at room temp. at least 3 hours or overnight. Coat cookie cutters with pan spray and cut into desired shapes. Dust lightly with a mixture of cornstarch and powdered sugar (1:1 ratio) and allow to air dry for 12 more hours. Store in an airtight container.