The Science Behind the Mallow

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Everyone loves marshmallows but have you ever thought about what makes them?

At their most basic they are simply sugar, water, gelatine and glucose syrup, which quite frankly sounds like a bit of a gloopy sugary mess.

So how does that mixture go from being gooey and liquid to the lovely pillowy clouds of fluff with which we are all so familiar?

Well to start with the sugar, water and glucose are heated to around 118-122c , poured into the gelatine in a mechanical mixer and whipped on high speed.

This causes thousands of tiny air bubbles to form, turning the mixture from a gelatinous soup to light, white and fluffy. Once it reaches the right volume it is poured into moulds and left to set.

As the mixture cools it is the gelatine which solidifies around the air bubbles holding them in place, stopping them from collapsing and giving the marshmallows their look and texture.

As yet we haven’t found a suitable gelatine substitute that does the same job to create vegan marshmallows but we will eventually!

If you want to get really technical about the composition of marshmallows the sugar water concentration in them is probably around 85 per cent when it is mixed into the gelatine. In lollipops the concentration is much higher, around 99 per cent. The more you boil the mixture the more water evaporates and the higher the sugar concentration.

Different ratios of sugar, water and glucose will produce different marshmallows and it takes a bit of time to figure out which ones you prefer.

After a LOT of experimentation we have gone for more sugar, less water and less glucose to get seemingly fluffier marshmallows but it is a constant process of evolution and adding in flavourings, purees and other sauces can change the consistency and put you back to square one.