Corn-Free, Gelatin-Free (and of course, Gluten-Free) Homemade Marshmallows!

This is (almost) the end of a 4 year frustration of mine! I have been stumped over how to make marshmallows without gelatin (beef or fish) or agar. While my family and I can have regular store bought marshmallows, several years ago, I wanted to make these for an old playmate of Sam’s who was allergic to corn, beef and egg (these do have egg, which is why I am “almost” at the end of this project, but not using gelatin was a MAJOR hurdle to jump! I will work on the egg part next). When you read the ingredient label on a bag of KRAFT Marshmallows, you will see:

Corn Syrup, Modified Corn Starch and Gelatin...corn, corn, and corn-fed beef.

The good thing is there are no eggs in Kraft Marshmallows so I know it can be done! 🙂 Here is an ingredient I learned about today: Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate (what exactly is slightly toxic??).

Makes me look look at celiac disease in a different light. As hard as it to find hidden sources of gluten, I would rather have to deal with avoiding gluten than have to avoid corn and soy… it is literally EVERYWHERE!

Before I do the marshmallow recipe, I want to make sure I clarify a few things. I have had a few people ask me if I am going vegetarian, vegan, joining The Rainbow Family or heading for the hills to live off the “fat of the land,” which I think is their kind way of asking me if I have lost my mind! 🙂 The simple answer is no (not necessarily in regards to the “losing my mind” part, because I have indeed opened a Pandora’s Box for myself). I have celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis which requires me to be on a strict gluten-free diet for life. That is all I can handle right now in the “no forever” department with regards to food. I do eat corn and use cornstarch as it is a major ingredient in the gluten-free diet, but now that I am at a place of peace and dare I say actual enthusiasm over my GF diet, I am on a quest to “ask the next question” on other foods that I eat and feed my family. I am cutting back on corn (mainly corn syrup and High Fructose Corn Syrup) and incorporating more natural ingredients when I can. But enough on that for now, (in case this is of no interest to you). I will continue my “ramble” after the recipe for the purposes of documenting our family’s journey for my children in the event I get hit by a bus tomorrow (knock on wood). 😉

I came across a very cool blog last week called “Pie of the Tiger,” by Jessica Peterson. Jessica has a recipe for homemade Vegetarian Marshmallows with a picture of the cutest homemade Peep made from her recipe! While reading her post, I clicked on a link for a free PDF download of Texture: A hydocolloid recipe collection, available on Khymos.org. This is a very cool recipe collection that has some rather unusual recipes using different hydrocolloids. Utterly fascinating to my inner food science nerd! I have read the text and I think there are some useful ideas (as well as some not so useful!) for re-creating popular convenience foods at home for people with dietary restrictions, or who want to start eliminating some of the additives that are in main-stream convenience foods. Shoot, this text would fun if used just for science experiments with your kids!

I realize this is not for everyone but it is nice knowing there are options! The following recipe is in the Xanthan Gum section, page 60. Since I am GF, Xanthan Gum is something I keep on hand.

Corn-Free, Gelatin-Free (Vegetarian, not Vegan) Homemade Marshmallows

60 mL Water

Pinch of Cream of Tartar

255 g. Granulated Sugar

255 g. Light Corn Syrup (I used the homemade Corn-Free, Light “Corn” Syrup)

1/2 Vanilla Bean (I just used 1 tsp. Clear Vanilla Extract and I did not add the extract to the hot syrup mixture itself, but added it after combining the egg whites and hot syrup mixture in my mixer bowl)

85 g. Egg Whites (~ 3 Egg Whites)

5 g. Xanthan Gum (0.76%) (I am not sure what (0.76% means, but I just used my Xanthan Gum from my pantry)

  • Ground Xanthan Gum with a tablespoon of sugar (I did this in my food processor), set aside
  • Heat water, cream of tartar, remaining sugar, corn syrup and vanilla bean to 120° C. (248° F.)
  • Meanwhile, whisk egg whites, about 2 minutes, until soft (I took this to mean “foamy”)
  • Discard the vanilla bean
  • Continue whipping the egg whites at slow speed while slowly adding the hot syrup mixture to the egg whites.
  • After adding the hot syrup to the egg whites and while still whipping, sprinkle the xanthan gum/sugar mixture to the egg white/syrup mixture.

(This is also where I added the Clear Vanilla Extract)

  • Turn speed up and continue whipping 2 – 3 minutes until the marshmallow pulls away from the sides.
  • Sprinkle a pan or baking sheet (I used a 9″x 13″ cake pan, and it was too big, my marshmallows were rather flat and not as “poofy.” Next time, I will make these in an 8″ x 8″ pan), generously with cornstarch (I used corn-free powdered sugar, but you could also use arrowroot powder, potato starch, tapioca starch, sweet potato starch, etc. instead of the corn starch…although, I don’t know how well the starch alone would taste. The author of the Pie of the Tiger blog used vanilla sugar, which sounds great too, especially if you are making homemade Peeps), then add marshmallow mixture and spread out.
  • Top marshmallow with the starch, powdered sugar or vanilla sugar (same stuff you used for the bottom).
  • Cover with plastic wrap and allow to set in the refrigerator for 4 hours.
  • Cut marshmallows into desired shapes and dip cut surfaces into the same starch/powdered sugar or vanilla sugar mixture that was previously used (which I forgot to do before taking my photos and now they are gone!).

The marshmallows are delicious, but not as dense as a commercial marshmallow. We have enjoyed these alone and in hot cocoa so far, but have not tried to use them in a recipe like crispy treats or as Smore’s, so I am not sure how well they work for those purposes.

My pictures are not nearly as good as those that are on the Pie of the Tiger blog, but because I used “un-corn” corn syrup, I wanted to show what mine looked like in comparison with those made with real corn syrup.

Homemade Corn-Free Light "Corn" Syrup

All the ingredients to make the hot syrup mixure (sans vanilla bean).

Whipped egg whites, before adding the hot syrup...they are foamy.

I added the clear vanilla extract right about this stage.

This makes great marshmallow "fluff!"

I also lined my pan with parchment paper to make the marshmallows easier to lift out. I sprinkled the powdered sugar on top of the parchment paper.

Very cool new find: 365 Organic Powdered Sugar is Corn-Free!

No corn starch!

After adding the marshmallow mixture, sprinkle again with powdered sugar.

See how flat they came out in the 9" x 13" pan? I would definitely recommend a smaller pan!

So back to my “ramble:”

Up until late December when I watched Food, Inc. for the first time, I knew that things like High Fructose Corn Syrup were probably not good for us, but I did not know WHY they were not good for us. I honestly didn’t give it much attention because it was hard enough to keep track of all the hidden sources of gluten and I have been prone to “not wanting to know” about certain things because that might mean giving up something else!

I am at a place now where I am ready to start finding out what these other ingredients are (like Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate), why they are used, and whether or not I should be eating them. It is a personal journey, and we are all at different places, so please understand that when I make posts touching on things other than the gluten-free lifestyle; I am not trying to be “preachy,” or to make judgments or sway viewpoints or anything other than to share what I am learning, and to leave a personal journal for my children.

Over the past year, I have caught many news clips or articles about the newest “study” that has linked things like Autism, Down Syndrome and ADD/ADHD to celiac disease/gluten intolerance. Or how the GF diet (among other dietary restrictions) can help with managing them. The gluten-free diet has also become that latest “it” diet with people from from all walks of life (non-celiacs) going gluten-free and swearing by how it makes them feel better. There is a lot of debate over whether or not the GF diet is truly beneficial to anyone other than those with celiac, DH or non-celiac gluten intolerance, but I am not one to question how people feel or if a parent sees genuine improvement in their child by going GF. I am not a doctor, medical researcher, etc. so I have nothing scientific to contribute to this other than a humble opinion or two.

I also understand the concern for celiacs (I am one of them) of the gluten-free diet not being taken seriously, or getting lumped in with some kind of new “low carb” diet, and how a restaurant server or fast food worker who does not understand the dire consequences of consuming gluten for people with celiac disease, might be lax and just “pick the croutons out of a pre-made salad” or pick the rogue chicken nugget or onion ring out of the “gluten-free” french fries.

My husband, who does not have to be gluten-free but is for his own personal reasons; swears by the gluten-free diet and how it has made him feel better, have more energy, and lose weight (about 15 lbs.). I do not doubt how he feels, but I do hold him personally responsible for how he explains this to others, and to differentiate his dietary “preferences” from that of Celiac Disease (which he has no problem doing, especially when it comes down to the fact that further perpetuating the misinformation that is already out there can harm his wife and son).

I will also take it a step further by saying it was not the Gluten-Free diet per se, that made Mike feel so much better; but rather what the GF diet excludes (keeping in mind this was prior to Burger King’s new “gluten-free” menu). When Mike went GF, he was no longer grabbing as many McDonald’s or other fast food meals as he possibly could while on his lunch break at work (seriously, it was like he had to stock up just to survive coming home to a GF house for 24 hours!). 😉 I also cook a lot (obviously), and I try to limit (not omit entirely) how many processed foods (like hot dogs) we eat, which further reduces the additives in our diets. Seeing the changes in Mike alone, has lent a lot of credibility (for me) to the documentaries (Food, Inc. and King Corn specifically), and the books I have been reading, like The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. The information I have been taking in has helped to further open my eyes about how our food is made and the overall health and social consequences of those processes. I cannot help but ponder the possible correlation between the rising prevalence of celiac disease (4 times greater than in the 1950’s) and other food allergies, etc. to processed convenience foods and the scientific changes that have been made in wheat and other genetically modified crops over the years to make those convenience foods. I could be totally wrong but it is certainly something to think about!

Check this out for additives (this is Morgan Spurlock from “Supersize Me“):

Okay, I am done. Back to doing what I do best… cooking! 🙂

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26 Responses

  1. Inspiring!!! I can’t wait till I try to make these!!!!

  2. I am also working through the journey to eating better. I was diagnosed with celiac in 2008 and this last year has been life changing in so many positive ways. If you haven’t already, read “The Unhealthy Truth” by Robyn O’Brien…it’s such an eye opener, much like Food, Inc. although I haven’t seen that yet.

    • Stacy,

      I LOVE your attitude! Wish I had had some of it for myself when I was at your stage. I REALLY got stuck in the “5 Stages of Grief” after my diagnosis, especially the denial phase! Fast forward a few years, and I can seriously say that celiac was the best thing that ever happened to me (less the sick part 😀 ) If it had not been for CD, I would probably not be thinking about what I put into my mouth today. Or what my kids are putting into their mouths. I am healthier than I have ever been and I feel great too. Not to mention getting to chat with very cool people who I would have never met otherwise, on something that should concern us all… 🙂

      The “Unhealthy Truth,” I will add it to my list!

  3. What I sometimes wonder is who had the idea to put tetrasodium pyrophosphate into a marshmallow in the first place. How does that conversation start? And at what point do the people who initially think it might not be a good idea not get invited to the next department meeting?

  4. The standard American diet is just awful, I continue to be shocked by the new lows that we sink to. I saw a new ad today for a powder that you pour in your water bottle so you can drink your salad. http://www.greenstogo.com/index.php I suppose it is better than a big mac but at least a big mac has never pretended to be healthy.

    We are fairly new to the gluten-free thing so I am not yet comfortable with it, but I have promised the make rice krispy treats (or a gluten-free dairy free version). I am not a huge fan of corn syrup either so I will probably not use store-bought marshmallows.

    • Christi,

      You make a GREAT point! I think we (OK, I can only speak for myself here) want an “easy” fix to everything. I loathe Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower and Beets. So drinking them, or better yet…swallowing them in pill (or powdered) form sounds great to me BUT it does seems as though one would be trading in a fast food Big Mac for “Fast Food Brussels Sprouts.” You still don’t know what exactly is in that stuff!

      Besides, shouldn’t a Brussels Sprout LOOK LIKE a Brussels Sprout?

  5. I just wanted to comment on this post…I found your blog earlier this year when I was doing a GF trial while nursing my son. He had (seems to be growing out of them) unexplained allergies and our doctor thought a GF trial could help. It ended up not really, so we’re both back on gluten now.

    Anyway, I read Omnivore’s Dilemma years ago and have been on a crusade against HFCS for years. I try to feed my family whole food and stay away from anything processed…but it is a work in progress. I get so irritated when I read food labels and find a long list of ingredients.

    Good luck on your journey and keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Amy!

      I hope you will keep coming around now that you are back on gluten! This is one of the reasons I like to re-post recipes in their original version and offer “GF and other allergy or low-fat, low-sugar tweaks” on the side. I think we can all help each other, whether it is raising awareness on what the heck we are eating, sharing cooking tips, gardening, canning, shopping, mommy stuff (daddy stuff too!), reusing household items, whatever. I just crave a sense of community with like-minded people who want to know more and try new things. I am trying to break out of my box a bit, and I love hearing about other people’s viewpoints.

      Thanks for sharing Amy,
      Heidi

  6. You know I do the GFCF diet irregularly but have a goal to improve that track record this year. I am sooo lucky you are helping with figuring this stuff out because truthfully I would not have the time. Thank you so much!!

    • Mary,

      You are not dealing with celiac disease so take your time and take baby steps. Be realistic on what your goals are and take one step each day towards realizing those goals. A very wise man once told me, “Heidi, imagine the woman you would like to be, and begin taking the steps to become her.” Some of the best advice I have ever received. 🙂

      Love ya, and thanks for the great recipes! XO

  7. I am so with you on the additives in our food and when did it come to this. Something that can stay “good” on a shelf for months & months or years can’t be good for us. The less ingredients in my food, the better I feel. There is no doubt in my mind.

    Kim

  8. You know, for some reason Michael Pollan pretty much seems to hate xanthan gum, especially in his book. Its his go to alien ingredient for demonising modern food by name.

    I don’t understand, why don’t you just make real marshmallows? From marshmallow (the plant).

    Another fun thing you might want to try is making real ginger ale.

    • Justin,

      I have actually not read that portion of the book yet, on the Xanthan Gum. I am slower at crunching through books because I read about 4 or 5 at a time. Plus, I have to go slow on Michael Pollan’s stuff because I am prone to freaking out. 🙂 I have to stay focused on the baby steps, and right now I am focused on corn syrup (including high-fructose), corn-fed beef, free range chickens and eggs, an no store-bought tomatoes (the Flavr Savr Tomato gave me nightmares!). We are also going to plant a garden this year.

      Xanthan Gum will be tricky for me though, as it is a MAJOR ingredient in gluten-free baking. The bread I eat does not have corn syrup (yea Udi’s!) but it does have xanthan gum, as it is a vital component in most gluten-free baking. If I have to “choose my demon” right now, I will choose xanthan gum. The way I see it, which is worse: homemade baked goods without corn syrup, HFCS, chemicals and preservatives but with xanthan gum. Or store-bought processed foods with corn syrup, HFCS, chemical, preservatives and xanthan gum?

      I am soaking it all in and making the easier changes at the moment. Which is why I am touching on the things I learn in my blog, for others who may be like me and not know what to do. The first thing any of us can do is become aware. That is where I am right now, in my own “Awakening.”

      As for the “real” marshmallows… I have actually thought about that, it looks very intriguing to me! I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a marshmallow plant until the xanthan gum marshmallow experiment! I am not sure where to get a marshmallow plant though… There is so much to learn, and I feel like the last one out of the gate. 🙂

      Homemade Ginger Ale sounds great too. Do you have a recipe to share? 🙂 I just made my own homemade Limeade “concentrate” without the HFCS, etc., that you find in the store-bought concentrate. I need to do more beverages.

      Thanks Justin!

  9. […] cup Powdered Sugar (I used 365 Organics Powdered Sugar which is corn-free. Click here to see a picture in an older post of mine) 1/3 cup Granulated Sugar 1/3 cup Shortening (I used […]

  10. Hi, I just learned my son has Eosinophilic Esophagitis. He had a skin test years ago that said he was allergic to shellfish, sesame, and corn. Imagine my surprise when everything I pick up has corn, cornstarch–modified or not–or HFCS. He is starving. His allergies never presented before where you could see any reactions. So when he would eat shrimp & crab, corn, or the occasional sesame, he would appear fine. Then he started throwing up for no apparent reason. He eventually had an endoscopy where they found inflamation and eosinophils in the lining of his esophagus. We assume that his allergy to certain foods are the reason and the doctor wants to eliminate all allergens from his diet.

    Seeing that you have a lot more experience with hidden corn, can you send me info on corn free foods or point me to where I can find a premade list of foods to avoid and food substitutions I can make for corn. Your help would be greatly appreciated.

    -Kellie

  11. […] For powdered donuts, you will need confectioner’s sugar. Whole Foods’ 365 brand of Organic Powdered Sugar uses Tapioca Starch instead of Cornstarch, if you avoid corn. You can see a photo of it here. […]

  12. Wow, this is the first recipe I’ve found that really seems to work! I’ve tried making veggie marshmallows before – first with veggi gel, then with veggi jelly crystals, and while the latter worked a little better than the former, they were both essentially marshmallow-y tasting liquids. I’d given up, but I came across some Xanthan gum in the supermarket by chance today. I’d thought it was quite hard to get hold of here in the UK (obviously not, it seems).
    I’ll try this first thing tomorrow! It’ll be so great to have even some half-decent marshamallow again!
    Just a question – how well do they store?

    • Hi Jazz!

      I really hope they work out for you! I really wish I could tell you how well they store, but to be quite honest, they didn’t last more than a few hours. The boys had some friends over that day and they ate them all! 🙂
      If you find out, please post another comment letting me and others know! 🙂

      • Well, they are in the fridge setting! I got some egg yolk in the white (because I’m clumsy) so I added some pink food colouring so they weren’t a vaguely sick colour 😛
        Another hour or so and they’ll be ready to eat, I think.

  13. Jazz,

    Now that you mention it, I do think mine took a while to set up too, I honestly can’t remember how long though! Are you using corn syrup or the faux “corn syrup?”

    • Neither, it’s not available in the UK. I used golden syrup instead, which is heavier and may account for the thickness of mine. I think I need a new mixer – if I’d mixed them longer without fear of it blowing up, they would have turned out much better.

      • Jazz,

        They didn’t turn out well? I’m sorry! I did use my heavy duty Kitchenaid Professional 620 model for making mine, I didn’t consider that that may have affected my turnout… it has an extremely powerful motor.

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