Let’s just get this out of the way- I love TV, and Parks and Recreation is one of my favorite shows. How could I not love a show that is so clearly obsessed with food? I did a little squeal when a little Ron Swanson made out of marshmallows and candy appeared in last year’s Christmas episode, and I’ve been dying to make one ever since. I finally found an excuse and made this little guy for a friend. This Marshmallow Ron Swanson gets a more flavorful makeover with homemade vanilla bean marshmallows and chocolate features.
Homemade marshmallows are magic. They are not cloyingly sweet like store bought marshmallows, and have a much more substantial and satisfying texture and flavor. They also seem to be made from thin air, they have almost no ingredients somehow. Just gelatin (some recipes use egg whites, this one uses gelatin), a little of two kinds of sugar, and little water. Later a little vanilla and a little salt are added for flavor, and that is IT. They also don’t take very long to make and are more forgiving to make than most candies. You start with a little gelatin in a stand mixer, and while the motor is running you pour in a boiling sugar syrup. The mixture is beaten for about 10 minutes, until it’s big and white and fluffy and..MARSHMALLOW. Then is the messy process of transferring the marshmallow to a pan to set for a few hours. Once set, cut apart the big slab into individual marshmallows and roll in a little powdered sugar to prevent sticking. And then stuff your face with them.
I’m almost certain April’s version used Tootsie Rolls to create the hair and mustache, which would certainly work well and be simple to execute. But I kicked it up a notch by using good milk chocolate (closer to Ron’s hair color than a dark chocolate) made into modeling chocolate. Modeling chocolate, sometimes known as chocolate clay, is exactly what it sounds like. The addition of corn syrup makes the chocolate pliable and mold-able, perfect for making details like a thick, disapproving mustache. The feet appear to be made of Junior mints and the eyes made of mini M&M’s or chocolate chips, but I just made these same shapes with more modeling chocolate. For the arms and legs, I couldn’t think of a good homemade substitute so I copied April’s use of black licorice (well, I ended up with something called Chocolate Twizzlers and BOY are they disgusting).
Adapted from a Thomas Keller recipe
1 Tbs. vanilla bean paste or vanilla extractPrepare pan by spraying with cooking spray and dusting with powdered sugar. For a normal batch, a 9″x9″ pan will make nice thick marshmallows, or a 13″x9″ pan will make smaller ones. For our Marshmallow Ron Swansons I needed a lot of height, so I used a medium-sized loaf pan.
Add 1/2 cup water to bowl of stand mixer fitted with normal paddle. Sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand for 10 minutes (this is called letting the gelatin “bloom”).
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring sugar, corn syrup and 1/4 cup water to boil. Keep boiling until it reaches 250 degrees on a candy thermometer (hard ball stage), or about 4 minutes. Do not allow to cool.
Immediately start stand mixer on a low setting. SLOWLY and CAREFULLY pour in hot syrup, being very careful not to splatter. Once all syrup is in the mixer, stop briefly to scrape down sides of bowl, then turn mixer on high. Beat for about 10 minutes, until mixture has stopped increasing in volume, and before the mixture has cooled all the way.
Transfer to prepared pan. This is messy, deal with it. I usually just grease my hands and a rubber spatula or two with a little cooking spray and dig in. Level the marshmallow the best you can (again, greased rubber spatula should help). Allow to set for 4 or 5 hours, or overnight.
Once set, cut apart. (For regular marshmallows, cut into cubes. For Marshmallow Ron Swansons, cut 3 large cylinders with a sharp, greased round cookie cutter, then cut up any scraps). Roll cut sides in powdered sugar to prevent sticking.
Marshmallows can be stored in an air-tight container for a few weeks.
3.5 ounces milk chocolate (decent quality)
1 1/2 tablespoons corn syrup
Melt chocolate. Stir in corn syrup until fully incorporated. Let stand for about 2 hours. Knead until smooth before using.
3 large cylindrical marshmallows
modeling chocolate or large Tootsie Roll
3 or 4 strands black licorice
2 Junior Mints (optional)
2 chocolate chips or mini M&Ms (optional)
white candy melts, almond bark, or royal icing
small skewers (optional)
Using modeling chocolate or Tootsie rolls, create mustache shape, hair shape (don’t forget the sideburns) and eyes and feet if not using additional candies. Trim 2 pieces of black licorice for legs. With a small amount of candy melts, almond bark, or royal icing for “glue”, attach feet and allow to dry. To one marshmallow, attach eyes, mustache, and hair, also using your edible glue and allow to dry.
Start with one marshmallow. I “glued” this directly to the surface I wanted him to sit on (and allowed to dry), but this is optional. Cut 2 small slits to accommodate legs. Add a small amount of “glue” to each slit, and stick in each leg. Allow to dry.
Since I wanted my Marshmallow Ron Swanson to be able to stand up by itself and it would not be given to children, I stuck two short skewers into the top of my bottom marshmallow, and also added a bit of “glue”. This is optional. Carefully attach the second marshmallow and allow to dry. Cut 2 small slits on the sides (closer to the back) to accommodate arms. Cut lengths of licorice for arms, allowing for additional length needed to cross arms. Add a small amount of “glue” to each slit, and stick in each leg. Allow to dry. CAREFULLY cross arms.
Add a bit of “glue” to top of middle marshmallow, carefully set head marshmallow on top and show him some damn respect.