I can picture the hills that we rode down on our sleds, my sisters and I. There was the one across the street in the neighbor’s yard that was short and sweet and easy to climb back up over and over, and the hill in Miamisburg whose descent landed you near a frozen pond and patch of trees.
On snow days Mom would get the call around 5:00 am that school was closed and she’d call her chain of other teachers to share the news. We three girls were thrilled at the idea of a snow day not only for the sake of missing school, but for the joy of playing in the snow. We built snow couches and igloos and rolled around outside, our cold cheeks turning the color of blush as we rolled in the soft white powder.
As part of any good snow day, we would come inside to warm up with a good cup of hot chocolate. Mom stirred the milk, sugar, and cocoa on the stove and ladled it into our cherry and raspberry-painted mugs. My mom doesn’t like marshmallows – I guess it’s the texture – so we rarely had them in our hot chocolate. I told myself I didn’t miss them. They always melted anyway.
Aside from hot chocolate, my mom would often fix us another comforting, warm drink when we were little: vanilla milk. We would drink it at night to help us sleep, slurping from our green and blue plastic cups that once had sippy lids. For this simple treat, she warmed milk with a drizzle of honey, a dash of cinnamon, and splash of vanilla extract. Simple, sweet, and pure.
I have been dying to make this recipe for Chocolate Marshmallows ever since I read The Sweet Life in Paris because who has ever had a chocolate marshmallow (?!). Since today was a snow day it seemed the perfect occasion to tackle this recipe. Inspired by my mom’s warm vanilla milk and these already chocolate-flavored marshmallows, I made a Reverse Hot Chocolate to comfort me on this snowy day. As the marshmallow melts into your warm vanilla milk, it becomes its own form of hot chocolate and the cinnamon gives it a wonderful upgrade. So I give you the Reverse Hot Chocolate. Now go earn it first by taking a long walk in the snowy wonderland. You’ll feel all the better for it!
Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Sweet Life in Paris
3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup + 6 T. cool water, divided
2 packets unflavored gelatin – 15 grams each (such as Knox)
6 T. cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp. vanilla
powdered sugar, cornstarch or 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Now’s the time to put your mise en place to work. Measure out all of the ingredients. In a small bowl, measure out 6 tablespoons of water and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Let sit. In a medium heavy-bottomed pan melt corn syrup, sugar, and 1/3 cup of water over low to moderate heat. If you have a candy thermometer, attach that to your pan. If not, get a digital thermometer on hand.
In an electric mixer put your egg whites and a pinch of salt. Begin to beat the egg whites on low as you let you sugar mixture come up to temperature. You want the syrup to reach 250 degrees before removing it from the heat while the egg whites beat enough to begin to hold their shape. Once the syrup has reached 250 degrees, remove it from the heat and stir in the gelatin and water mixture until completely dissolved. Carefully whisk in the cocoa powder.
With your electric mixer on high, carefully pour your chocolate syrup mixture into the egg whites as it beats. Make sure to pour it closer to the side to avoid hitting the beater and whipping the mixture around. Continue to beat on high as your prepare your pan.
Dust an 8-inch square pan with a mixture of half cornstarch, half powdered sugar OR unsweetened shredded coconut (David Lebovitz’s recipe). Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl, adding your vanilla. Continue to beat until the mixture thickens slightly and the outside of the bowl no longer feels warm. (Do it longer than you think, because if you don’t your marshmallows will be wet on the bottom, like mine!) Carefully pour your chocolate mixture into your pan and dust with another layer of powdered sugar or coconut. Allow to dry uncovered at room temperature for at least 4 hours.
When dried, remove from the pan on to a cutting board and cut with a knife or scissors into squares, dusting with more powdered sugar or coconut as you go to dry out the sticky edges. Serve in your favorite form of vanilla or dark hot chocolate! Store in an airtight container.
For the Vanilla Milk, heat a mug of milk in the microwave or on low on the stove with vanilla, and honey. For about 1 cup of milk I would start with a teaspoon of honey and a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Add more honey if you like it sweeter. Top with a dash of cinnamon and a few chocolate marshmallows.