A marshmallow is a candy, first commercially manufactured during the late 19th century. The traditional candy was a combination of marshmallow root, whipped egg whites, vanilla extract, and sugar. However, marshmallow root is more difficult to find, and is now more often replaced by gelatin, usually derived from the bones of animals. The finished product is usually shaped and cut into 1 inch (2.54 cm) or smaller cylinders and may be rolled in powdered sugar or cornstarch, giving the exterior a dry texture.
The miniature marshmallow is popular and is often used in hot cocoa. Several other time-honored food traditions involve this puffy candy. Roasting marshmallows over a campfire, so that the exterior is a hard brown, and the interior melted is a hallmark of many family camping outings.
Also, many camping trips would not be the same without S’mores, a wedge of chocolate and a toasted marshmallow between two graham crackers. S’mores can also be made easily in the microwave, in about ten seconds, and a marshmallow toasts well over a gas range.
Another popular dish is candied yams covered with toasted mini marshmallows. These are quite popular at Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. Since the yams are already very sweet, this dish is sure to please people with a sweet tooth.
Popular Easter candies are made of marshmallows with colored sugar coatings. Often, these treats are made in the shape of chickens or rabbits, although they come in numerous shapes and are themed for most holidays throughout the year.
Some popular candies and cookies also include marshmallows or marshmallow cream. Chocolate covered candies are popular. Mallomars® are a cookie made with a graham cracker base, topped with a marshmallow and then covered in chocolate. Rocky Road ice cream and candy would not be the same without marshmallows.
When placed in a microwave, a marshmallow will expand greatly, until it finally loses its shape. Two set in a microwave for 30 seconds or so will expand to two to three times their normal size. This does ruin the original texture of the marshmallow, turning it hard, but it can be fun to watch.
Because marshmallows can be rather large, they have been related to some choking incidents resulting in death. It is much better to give younger children small ones that won’t block the throat, or to cut them into sections. As well, anyone who consumes a marshmallow in any form should be certain to chew carefully because, if swallowed whole, one can block the throat.
Because the marshmallow contains gelatin, it is often not consumed by vegetarians, and may be considered not Kosher by practicing Jews. Some variants are vegetarian, but are difficult to find except in natural food stores. Marshmallow cream generally does not include gelatin, and can be used instead in many recipes. Alternately, when a cook can obtain marshmallow root, carrageenan or agar, homemade versions of the candy can be made.