Recipe: Butter's Famous Marshmallows

Finished marshmallows
I recently purchased a baking cookbook called Butter Baked Goods. It's written by the owner of a small bakery, but what intrigued me most were the marshmallow recipes. The recipes I've seen before were all a little intimidating, but this was super easy to do, and they turned out great. It's one of the few that does not have you sitting over a candy thermometer waiting for a specific temperature. And I've made two batches without a hitch. (Please excuse the horrid photo. The lighting in my kitchen is the worst).

Butter's Famous Marshmallows
1 cup water
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vanilla
Lots of powdered/confectioner's sugar (about 2 cups)

1. In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, pour 1/2 cup of water into the bowl. Sprinkle in the gelatin. Set aside to let the gelatin soak.

2. In a saucepan over high heat, add sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a rolling boil and continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat.

3. Turn mixer to low and mix gelatin a few times. Slowly add the hot sugar mixture, pouring it gently down the side of the bowl, and continue to mix on low. (Make sure everything is mixed before cranking the speed up or you will end up splattered with scalding sugar!!)

4. Turn the mixer to high and continue to whip for 10-12 minutes until the batter just about triples in size and becomes very thick. It will look like glossy marshmallow cream, but thicker. Stop the mixer, add the vanilla, and whip briefly to combine.

5. Transfer mixture to a buttered 9 x 9 pan and use a spatula to scrape the bowl and smooth.

6. Cover with a greased sheet of plastic wrap.

7. Leave the marshmallow to set at room temperature for at least 3 hours or overnight. The marshmallow will be too soft and sticky to cut otherwise! I let batch one set overnight and batch two for five hours. Overnight is better.

8. Sprinkle a work surface with powdered sugar (I used a rimmed baking sheet to corral the mess). Run a knife along the edge to loosen the slab.

9. Use a large knife to cut the slab into 1 inch squares. Coat the freshly cut marshmallows in sugar until completely covered.

TBR Challenge Review: Rogue Rider (Lords of Deliverance Book; Book 4) by Larissa Ione

Format: ebook, mass market
Pub Date: November 2012
Publisher: Grand Central
Length: 424 pages
FTC: Purchased myself

This month's TBR Challenge theme is holiday stories. And since my definition of holiday novels is as quirky as my definition of holiday movies, I picked the last book in Larissa Ione's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse series. Because nothing says Merry Christmas like some demons and some bad-ass immortals.

 This is a series I've read most of, but it's been awhile. I had this one in the digital TBR and somehow managed to read it in time for the challenge. Woohoo! (I'm late posting, but what else is new? Stupid holiday obligations and all).

Unlike the first few Demonica books, which did NOT work for me, this series has been a winner so far. They have such a strong voice, lots of attitude, and everything works together well. My favorite part, though, is the very beginning. Mainly because the heroine discovers an unconscious, naked, frozen man in her woods and promptly christens him Fish Stick. What's not to love about that?


From the Ashes

Photo via the Walmer family
For those who weren't on Twitter Sunday morning, here's the recap: it was a busy, tragic weekend for my town. We lost 4 businesses to a catastrophic fire that burned most of a block in our historic downtown.  No one was injured, but it was a major blow to a town whose tourism dollars rely on our quaint, old-fashioned atmosphere. And for those who live here, it was a part of what made our town special.

It was so bad that we made the Sacramento news, and most people in Sac couldn't find us with GPS.

I vaguely remember hearing sirens blaring in the wee hours of the morning, but assumed it was some dumbass who had crashed on the icy curves just outside of town again. Little did I realize that the sirens were headed into town and that part of our town's very identity was burning to the ground.

Our fire department is 100% volunteer, as is nearly every other department in the county (many other communities responded to our fire, bringing the total number of personnel to over 35). And they stayed on site in the freezing cold for hours. It was so cold that water was turning to ice as it hit the streets. Even now, there are huge icicles inside on the charred timbers.

As the news spread through social media, you could feel the stunned disbelief and sorrow. Families who grew up here and had moved away were just as shocked and saddened as those of us who still live here.  The Pizza Factory, where the fire originated, was more than just a chain restaurant. It had occupied the same location for decades. The walls were adorned with jerseys of high school and community college players. Our elementary school principal's photo was there with her high school softball team. Artwork from artists who have moved on to bigger and better things were there. Little pieces of the town's history for more than a generation are now gone.

We're all still a little wounded by this loss. I know families coming in for the holidays are going to be hit by this the second they round the corner onto Main. 4 businesses may not seem like much, but in a town our size, it's devastating. Part of being from a small town like ours is the idea that nothing is going to change. The businesses might change owners, but the buildings themselves will always be there. That's no longer true.

Nothing left to do but babysit the smoldering ruins
Before the fire was even out, there were offers to help clean up. Offers to share or donate retail space. Discussions for how to help not just those businesses that were destroyed, but those that were damaged by water and smoke. And despite the loss, we were all collectively grateful for our firefighters and what they managed to do. Most importantly, they saved the two oldest buildings on the block and no one was hurt.

Our downtown is not going to be the same for a long, long while, but we are already coming together in a way that reminds me of why I love this place. It's not the buildings. It's the people. People like the owner of the thrift store that was adjacent to the pizza place.

Photo via Quincy Thrift

The only thing left of her shop are her prized action figures she had behind the counter. Firefighters saved those, and she is already in the process of reopening—1 day later— in an empty retail space just down the road.

It's going to be a bittersweet Christmas this year, but I'm left feeling extremely proud of my community.


Review: Ripped by Sarah Morgan

Format: ebook
Pub Date: November 26, 2013
Publisher: Cosmo Red Hot Reads/Harlequin
Length: 95 pages
FTC: Purchased myself

I've been a bit caught up in Real Life Obligations again, so I haven't been out and about in Romancelandia for the last month or two. Apparently, I missed hearing about this book. I did what I never do: I acted on an author rec to try a book. Of course, cynical me, I tried the sample first.  I was majorly hooked, and couldn't get the rest of it fast enough.

Not only is this a holiday novella, this is written in the first person! And (THANK GOODNESS) not the first-person, present. It's very rare that you read a romance that's written in the first person that is either a) not Urban Fantasy or Paranormal or b) not written in 1st/present  (which I loathe more than Ebenezer Scrooge loathes giving his employees the day off).  Added to that...this is absolutely hysterical. One caveat: the author is British or at the very least, lives in Great Britain. There are some phrases which may seem odd to American readers and the humor is definitely of the wacky, British style.


Cookbook Review: Butter: Baked Goods

Format: Hardcover
Pub Date: October 2013
Publisher: Random House
Length: 264 pages
FTC: Purchased myself
List Price: $35 ($22.14 on Amazon as of today)

I ordered this recently as an early Christmas present for myself. I'm not familiar with the author or her bakery, but I LOVE to bake. And this one looked cute. Little did I know I would be receiving a gorgeous hardbound baking book that I would be proud to show off.

There is a wide variety of recipes in this book. Everything from scones and muffins to pies and cookies is here. There aren't a ton of any one type of recipe, but what is here is definitely appealing.  Most of the recipes are easily accessible for the average home cook. Only a few are the least bit fussy. And I only found one ingredient that I could not source locally: pistachio paste. Which isn't a problem for me, because I'm really not all that fond of pistachio.

Butter's claim to fame is the homemade flavored marshmallows. I've seen homemade marshmallow recipes before (Ina Garten has one) but I haven't seen flavored ones. The main recipe for marshmallows also features several variations including raspberry, coffee, mint, and coconut. Given the techniques, you can easily swap other flavors in where you want to as long as they're added in the right part of the recipe.


Recipes: Quick Holiday Goodies

If you need a quick hostess gift or addition to your holiday cookie tray, here are three super easy recipes that have always produced great results for me.

Candy Cane Hearts
Mini candy canes
white candy coating (sometimes called Almond Bark)

For each heart, you will need 2 mini candy canes. I crush the inevitable broken ones in a plastic bag using a rolling pin to sprinkle later. Melt candy coating according to package directions. If it's too thick to pour, try adding a tiny bit of vegetable oil until you get the right consistency.

Line a work surface with waxed paper. Arrange two candy canes into a heart shape. Fill with melted candy coating. Immediately sprinkle with crushed candy canes. Cool, then carefully peel from the paper.


The Great Christmas Tree Hunt

My town is in that valley in the distance.
The Christmas season is a mixed blessing when you live the middle of nowhere. You can't just pop down to the nearest Target to grab that last minute gift. (That's an 80 mile drive). So that means you're shopping online, hoping Amazon Prime sends whatever it was you forgot in the promised 2 days. But it also means that you aren't stuck paying upwards of $60 for dead or dying tree to stick in your house. We live adjacent to a National Forest, and our local area grocery stores, gas stations etc all stock Christmas Tree Permits. For a small fee, you can go cut your own. And that's what we did over Thanksgiving weekend.