The Hipster’s Cookbook: Difficult Recipes


Every week in The Hipster’s Cookbook, Meghan Bongartz shows you how to make delicious food for little money.

I was talking with a friend recently about recipes that are difficult to make, and I was having trouble coming up with anything. There are plenty of foods that I don’t like to make frequently because they’re so time-consuming, but that doesn’t necessarily place them in the “difficult” category. Yeast breads, for example, have to be left to rise for at least an hour, kneaded, and then left to rise again before baking. You can’t completely abandon the bread, but once you have the dough, it’s more or less passive prep time. Other recipes are just finicky. When making meringues, you have to be careful not to allow any moisture in the mixture because a single drop of water or a humid day can ruin it. In the end, though, you’re just whipping egg whites and baking them. You don’t need rocket science, just a dose of caution. The friend I was talking with disagrees, and says that anything that isn’t Easy Mac or grilling meat is too complicated, so right now we’re at a point of agreeing to disagree.

Clearly I’m a little cocky as far as my cooking abilities go. Before you start thinking that I’m completely horrible, though, you should know that this marshmallow recipe exists to crush my ego whenever it starts getting too inflated. There are not very many ingredients, and it doesn’t really take that long to prepare (again, passive prep time), but I ruin the first batch almost every time I make it. The problem has to do with the very exact temperature that the sugar syrup has to reach and the fact that it’s hard to hold a thermometer over a pot of boiling sugar without letting it touch the bottom of the pot or acquiring steam burns. If you’re like me and working with a budget-priced candy thermometer, you might not get the most accurate read on the temperature. This will result in the sugar syrup getting too hot and turning into caramel or, my personal favorite, not getting hot enough so that you end up with a weird fluffy Jell-O-like mixture that is very sweet but not delicious and will not dry out. Other perks of this recipe include using a pot that is just slightly too small so that it overflows when everything bubbles and quadruples in volume and cleaning corn syrup off of everything in your kitchen.

I’m sure you’re all dying to bring this disaster into your own lives at this point, but I do actually think this is worth making. For one thing, you’ll never want to buy marshmallows from the grocery store again after tasting these. It’s also a good exercise in precision, and that will make you a better cook overall. Most recipes won’t be ruined by inexact measurements, and I’m just as guilty as the next person of guesstimating how much salt I have and not sifting my flour, but the more exact you are the better your results will be. Sometimes the difference is minimal, but other times it’s the line between good and gourmet. And it will make you feel so good about yourself when you finally get it right.


Chocolate Covered Strawberry Marshmallows

(adapted from Desserts by the Yard by Sherry Yard)

¼ cup cornstarch

¼ cup confectioner’s sugar

1 ½ cups fresh or frozen strawberries

2 cups plus 3 tbs granulated sugar

1 ½ cups cold water

2 packets powdered gelatin

¼ cup light corn syrup

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

8 oz dark chocolate

1) Line a 9×13 baking pan with aluminum foil and spray bottom and sides with cooking spray. Combine the cornstarch and confectioner’s sugar in a small bowl, and sift half of the mixture evenly over the foil.

2) In a small saucepan, heat strawberries and 3 tbs sugar to boiling, stirring and crushing the strawberries with a spoon, until they are mostly liquefied with some small pieces of fruit left. Set aside.

3) Pour ½ cup of the water into the bowl of a stand mixer or a large heatproof mixing bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the top and let stand for 5 minutes, while setting a pan of water to simmer. Place the bowl over the pan of water, and stir until the gelatin has dissolved completely, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.

4) Combine remaining 1 cup water, corn syrup, and 2 cups sugar in a medium saucepan and stir together with a rubber spatula. Cover the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-low heat. Uncover, insert a candy thermometer, raise the heat to high, and cook without stirring until the mixture is between 240 and 245 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from heat immediately.

5) Beat the gelatin mixture on medium speed in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer while slowly streaming in the hot sugar syrup. Drizzle the syrup down the sides of the bowl, not over the beaters. Continue beating the mixture until thick and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

6) Add in vanilla and strawberry mixture. Beat until evenly combined.

7) While the marshmallow mixture is still warm, pour it over the foil in the baking pan and spread it in an even layer with a rubber spatula. Sift the remaining cornstarch mixture over the top. Cover with a loose layer of aluminum foil and allow to cool and dry until it is firm enough to cut, 4-6 hours or overnight.

8 ) Using kitchen scissors, a sharp knife, or mini cookie cutters, cut into 1 or 2 inch cubes or shapes. In a small heatproof bowl, microwave the chocolate for 15 seconds at a time, stirring as necessary, until completely melted. Spear each marshmallow with a toothpick, dip in chocolate, and place on a sheet of wax paper to dry.