Alton lied to me!

or what am I doing wrong?

I made marshmallows last night. I had the same problem that I did last year. These are my only candy-making attempts, so I don’t have a lot of experience to fall back on.

The recipe says to cook the syrup covered for 3-4 minutes* then uncovered to 240 F, 7 to 8 minutes.

It took an hour to get the syrup to 240, which is just a wee tad more than the ten minutes the recipe led me to expect. My roomie has made peanut brittle, divinity, etc., in the past and agrees that the 10-12 minutes listed is unrealistic by her experience.

But I’ve Googled some other candy recipes and they have similar times (5 to 15 minutes).

I’m using a small saucepan (in fact, I have to be careful at first or the syrup tries to boil over) on medium to med-high heat (gas stove), as per the instructions.

Am I doing something wrong, or did my favorite TV cook lead me astray?

*I did learn today (or perhaps re-learned, I think AB may have mentioned it) that this covered cooking time is to melt any sugar on the side of the pan into the syrup. Nifty!

Are you at a high altitude? My understanding is that that can really affect boiling times and will thus monkey with one’s candy-making. We’re in the Appalachians, and it does seem to take a little longer than he claims to get my syrup up to temp, but I’ve never made much candy and I’ve never made any when we lived anywhere else. If you’re in the Rockies or something, that very well could be it.

The other thing I wonder about is the size of your gas burner. Sometimes in an apartment you’ll find little 3/4-sized stoves with smaller than normal burners–about the size of the “simmer burner” on our current stove. Trying to get anything up to boiling on the simmer burner takes for-fucking-ever, especially if you’ve only got it at medium-high.

Lessee, 371 meters, nope I don’t think it’s the altitude. :stuck_out_tongue:

I’ve got a full-size stove and am not using the simmer burner. Not the power burner either - that’s way too big for the little pan I’m using. Just the regular burner. (Now I feel like Goldilocks.)

Thanks for the suggestions, though.

Maybe I just need to crank the heat up some more, I dunno. I’ve got more to make so I guess I can try that.

I’d make the things a lot more often if it weren’t for this issue. They’re really easy and people love 'em.

Recipes say ‘medium’ as though medium is the same on all stoves, but I know from experience that it’s not true. Perhaps your stove is a bit underpowered? My mother’s stove is fifteen years old, normal-sized, and not super-cheap, yet when I tried to brown some chopmeat on her stove recently, the meat just gave off liquid and steamed itself without much browning, even when on high. On my stove, I’d do that on medium or medium-high. If your roomie is finding that it takes an hour to melt sugar for peanut brittle (something that takes me about ten minutes), you probably ought to crank it up a bit.

You’re not mixing up your Fahrenheit with your Celsius, are you?

I’m pretty sure that it’s all Farenheit. The recipe and stove are USAnian, the candy thermometer is not only USAnian, it’s probably 30 years old. :stuck_out_tongue:

Roomie’s experience is on a completely different stove, so I don’t think it’s just that.

I don’t think the burner is particularly underpowered, but I’ll try cranking up the heat more.

Thanks all!

I’ve always assumed that the 60 Brazillion BTU Viking range that they use in cooking shows is way better than my little electric. I’ve never paid attention to times and go through thermometers regularly because I don’t believe it should take an hour to reach 240 degrees. But it does…

Of course, I’m at 5350 feet. So that makes a difference one way or another.

I made a batch of Alton’s marshmallows yesterday (and did it several times over last year). My guess is that you’re using too small of a saucepan if you’re concerned about it boiling over. Go your next size up, especially if it’s wider–you’ll have more of the syrup having hot surface contact on the bottom of the saucepan. And you can turn the heat up.

Yep. Use a larger bottomed (wider) pan. This will take care of your timing issue as you can get it up to a rolling boil without worrying about kitchen napalm spatter.

Check your thermometer by putting it in rapidly boiling water and seeing if it is 212.

How much water did you initially have in the pan? Most of the water has to boil off before the temperature starts rising. I’ve made caramel in less than 20 minutes before so I don’t know why it takes you an hour to get to 240.

Water only boils at 212 at sea level. The OP said they were at 371 meters so their water will boil at slightly less than 212.

A better way to calibrate a thermometer is in reference to the freeze point of water which is constant regardless of altitude. Fill a glass with a much ice as possible, fill with cold water and add more ice until it gets as full as possible. Let it sit for 4-5 minutes (adding ice as required) and then insert you thermometer into the middle of the glass. It should read 32 degrees F or 0 degrees C. If it doesn’t then adjust the thermometer as required. This method is accurate within +/- .1


The OP is at 371 meters. Boiling water will be close enough to 212 that it won’t make any difference.

It’s only got a half-cup of water to start with, plus sugar and corn syrup.

[Side-note: the water’s just to melt the sugar, right? So if I started with another liquid besides water (say, some form of liqueur), it would melt the sugar and all boil off like the water and be fine. Yes?]

I think I started with a bigger pan last year and the syrup wasn’t deep enough to keep the thermometer in. (My next size up is quite a bit larger.)

Aha! Obviously I need a new pan! :smiley:

Calculating it out, at 371m the boiling temp should be about 209 degrees F. So yeah, not too big of a deal but which would you rather do, stick a thermo in a boiling pot of water or in a glass of ice? I’ll pick the ice, thank you. And, if you boil the water too long you will end up with water that is hotter than 212, where as you can’t really get a glass of ice water colder than 32 without trickery.

Safe and more reliable to go with ice water, but to each his own.


Of course, the chance that the candy thermometer shows 32 degrees F is probably nil. :smack:

And candy thermometers are generally not adjustable for calibration since they tend to be liquid based rather than mechanical based…:slight_smile:


Well, the problem with a liqueur is you run the risk of it flaming up during the cooking process; plus, I’ve never seen a candy recipe where you start with liqueur. The water is to help dissolve the sugar, but it also makes it easier to start boiling without it crystallizing–you can cook the sugar and corn syrup without the water, you also risk the sugar lumping up if you’re not careful. I’ve seen other liquids, such as cream, be used in the making of certain candies (such as toffee).

I personally like a good excuse to buy a new saucepan. :slight_smile:

Yup, that’s my thinking. It’s not that I just want to get a new pan, I need one! :slight_smile:

Hmm. I may have to rethink my marshmallow flavoring plans. Or I could try a half-batch and see how it goes…or maybe I’ll try just using it instead of extract first and see how those come out.

Thanks for the advice, everyone!

Whereas superheating water isn’t some sort of trickery? :smiley: Even at sea level, the water boiling can’t go beyond the boiling point of 212F, so unless you’re capturing the steam, heating that directly, and measuring the steam pressure, you’re only ever going to get a maximum of 212F.

Personally, I like to do both with thermometers that will read in that range. Test at boil, test at freezing, note differences.