I'm a baking addict with a history of messing around in a lab. Science, an intense interest in food and flavor, and creative genes! Thus, Exploratory Kitchen was born! A scientific approach to producing delicious and customizable foods with the aim to understand the ingredients and not just follow the recipe.
As soon as the signs of winter begin to encroach on those hot summer days, I begin to crave hot winter drinks like tea or hot apple cider or my personal favorite, hot chocolate. Thick and velvety and as luxurious as you are willing to dress it. Add some marshmallows or whipped cream or spike it with a little brandy or amaretto. It’s hard to go wrong with this drinkable dessert.
My criteria here is a powdered mixture that melts well in hot liquid and creates a smooth and well balanced cup of hot cocoa.
My first try at hot cocoa was not bad and it’s not that I am discouraging anyone from trying it out. It makes a very decent cup of cocoa. Unfortunately, here comes the “but” – but the cocoa that this powder produces is not better than the new Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa. The addition of the chocolate makes my mixture not dissolve as well and leave a slightly gritty texture. It’s not that this mix is bad so much as it’s not better than store bought in which case I have to ask “what is the point of making your own when there is an easier, cheaper, store bought option.
In this hot cocoa mix I aimed for a rich, lush cup of hot cocoa with the idea that adding real chocolate should improve flavor and texture. This recipe incorporates a lot of high quality bittersweet chocolate as well as cocoa to try to achieve a perfect chocolatey cup.
1½ cups cocoa powder
18 oz bittersweet chocolate (chopped fine)
2 Tbsps vanilla paste
1 tsp salt
1¼ cups confectioner’s sugar
6 cups dried milk
The cocoa powder, vanilla, and chopped chocolate were processed in batches in the food processor until it all resembled a powder. This mixture was sifter and the process repeated until everything was fine enough to go through a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl. I had no issues with this process but if your mixture starts to get sticky or your chocolate looks like it’s melting, add some of the confectioner’s sugar to keep things a nice even powder.
The other ingredients were added in and everything was whisked together.
From my testing, I found that 4 Tbsp of mixture per cup of liquid is best. A thin milk, such as nonfat milk or a milk substitute is better because it’s less heavy and less dominant in the drink. For me I used half water and half whole milk because it’s what I had in the house.
I think this resulted in a pretty decent cup of hot cocoa but it wasn’t anything to write home about. I thought that adding in real chocolate would give it a stronger chocolate flavor but in reality I found it to just add a sort of grittiness as the chocolate had trouble melting despite the effort to powder it. This recipe was good but I think I could still do better.
The vanilla marshmallows relied on the heated sugar and the gelatin for its structure but David Lebovitz has a different approach in which he also adds meringue as part of the base. I felt that my marshmallow adventures just wouldn't be complete without trying this out.
¼ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup corn starch
¼ cup cocoa powder
14 g Knox gelatin (two envelopes)
½ cup cold water
⅓ cup cold water
1 cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup light corn syrup
½ cup egg whites (roughly 4 large egg whites)
⅛ tsp salt
1 Tbsp espresso powder
Before starting on these marshmallows I advise that the pans in which the marshmallows are set are prepared. They were first coated in baking spray and then dusted in a mixture of corn starch, powdered sugar, and cocoa.
In a small bowl, the gelatin was sprinkled over ½ cup of water to allow the gelatin time to bloom and soften.
While the gelatin is softening, the egg whites and sugar were added to the standing mixer and whipped until very thick. The mixer was then turned off while I attended the next steps.
In a medium saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, I mixed the sugar, corn syrup, and 1/3 cups of water. This was heated over medium high heat.
When the sugar mixture reached 240°F, the mixer was started again on high speed. As the sugar reached 245°F, it was poured into the whipped eggs carefully to avoid hitting the whisk so it wouldn't splatter all over the mixing bowl.
Into the same pot I used for the sugar, I added the bloomed gelatin, salt, and espresso powder. The residual heat of the pot should be enough to melt the gelatin and dissolve the espresso.
When fully melted, this last concoction was added to the mixer and everything continued being whipped until fully cooled. Unlike the marshmallows that don't use egg whites, these are much more forgiving timewise. You want to make sure you really do whip this non-stop until it is fully cooled.
Finally, the now cool mixture was spread to the best of my ability between the two prepared pans and allowed to set overnight, uncovered.
Cutting these up was not easy, it was like they didn't want to be pretty. I used a coconut oiled knife to try to get clean cuts but to no avail. I will have to try using a pizza cutter or scissors next time.
These marshmallows have their pros and cons.
They are much less sensitive to timing since you have to whip them till they’re fully cooled anyway
They have this spongy texture that awoke a nostalgic craving for Krembo (look it up, they’re delicious).
They take an extra step to achieve.
If you don’t cool the mixture completely, you will end up with a “soggy bottom”. No one likes a wet marshmallow.
I couldn’t get them to cut pretty. The photo is nice and all but you can clearly see that they are not perfect little squares.
They have a different texture. When you crash them with your fingers they do have some give and they will bounce back but you will also feel the tiny bubbles popping. Those poor tasty bubbles….
Side note: The amount of coffee I added to this recipe was not quite enough. I strongly recommend doubling the espresso powder.
These marshmallows won't spike your insulin but still taste great thanks to allulose! You can't even tell the difference between these and their sugary counterpart.
½ cup water
3 Tbsp unflavored gelatin
¾ cup water
2 ½ cups allulose
¼ tsp salt
⅛ tsp LorAnn Oils tangerine oil flavor
2 drops orange gel food coloring
1/2 cup water and the gelatin were added to the standing mixer bowl and mixed briefly using the whisk attachment.
In a sauce pan fitted with a candy thermometer, the remaining 3/4 cups of water, 2 1/2 cups of allulose, and salt were mixed and set on medium high heat.
The sugar mixture was heated until it reached 230° F which is not quite but almost a soft ball stage for allulose. Heating it more would have been better but unlike regular sugar, allulose begins to burn at a lower temperature.
While waiting for the sugar to get to temperature, I prepared the pan by generously coating it in coconut oil.
Once the sugar reached the temperature, the mixer was started on a medium low speed, and it was poured carefully against the side of the bowl into the mixer. The goal here is to avoid hitting the spinning whisk which will scatter the sugar mixture against the sides of the bowl.
The mixer speed was then increased to medium high and whipped until the mixture was airy and pale. The tangerine flavoring and a few drops of orange gel food coloring were added and the mixture continued to whip until lukewarm to the touch.
Be careful with flavoring, this particular bran I used required just a few drops to impart enough flavor and more was overwhelming.
When thick and cool enough, the mixture was poured out into the prepared pan and left uncovered overnight.
Using additional coconut oil and an oiled knife, the marshmallows were cut to the desired size and very lightly coated in corn starch. This is optional but does help a good bit with keeping the marshmallows separated.
These marshmallows came out incredible. Almost indistinguishable from the real thing. Allulose is always my choice for a non-sucrose (table sugar) sweetener because it has nearly no off flavors and is not poisonous to animals, unlike xylitol. The texture of these marshmallows is also very light, bouncy, and jiggly. Even these videos can’t really portray how nice these came out but I hope it helps at least.
Marshmallows should be like biting into a sweet cloud. Like condensed cotton candy with a spring to it – gentle and delicate. This is what these recipes strive to achieve regardless of flavor.
What is the difference between the gelatin only marshmallows and those with egg whites?
I wanted to do a comparison between the marshmallows I always make which rely on the sugar and gelatin being whipped versus those that also have egg whites making up the base. I prefer the texture of the gelatin/sugar ones over those with egg whites. The egg whites lend a spongy texture where you can actually feel the small bubbles bursting under pressure. The one without the egg whites has a more bouncy texture which I feel is more familiar to most people and is what I normally would look for in a marshmallow. This is not to say that the addition of the egg white is bad, I just don’t think it’s good for a simple marshmallow.
On the other hand the egg white marshmallows are easier to handle and you don’t have to time it as precisely. It also produces more end product.
These classical vanilla marshmallows will blow away the store bought version. Light, airy, delicate, and richly vanilla flavored.
1 cup water (divided)
3 packets Knox unflavored gelatin
1½ cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
¼ tsp salt
2 tsps vanilla paste
¼ cup corn starch
¼ cup powdered sugar
Before starting, it’s best to prepare the container where the marshmallow will set. I used a quarter sheet pan, sprayed with baking spray and dusted with a mixture of 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 1/4 cup corn starch. You want to dust the pan generously with no bald patches or even thin patches. Marshmallow is very very sticky.
The gelatin and 1/2 cup of water were added to the standing mixer bowl, mixed, and allowed to bloom.
In the meantime, the corn syrup, sugar, salt and the remaining 1/2 cup of water were added to a medium pot set with a candy thermometer over medium high heat.
You do not have to mix the sugars but you can before heating. I found that regardless, as the mixture heats, it all mixes together. The sugar mixture was brought to 240°F.
As my mixture got close to the desired temperature I got the mixer running with a whisk attachment on medium low speed. On my mixer this was roughly speed 3-6 out of 12. Once the temperature is achieved, the sugar was carefully poured down the side of the mixer bowl. Be careful not to have the sugar mixture hit the whisk as it’s spinning by because this will throw it around the bowl instead of getting it into the he gelatin. This is also why I prefer to keep the speed relatively low while I’m pouring the hot sugar in.
Once all the sugar mixture was added, I Increased the speed to medium high, which on my mixer is somewhere in the 8-10 range. Then, I left it to whip for a while.
At this point it was good to add my flavoring. For this recipe I used vanilla but other flavored extracts can be added at this point or gel food coloring if desired.
I let the marshmallow continue to whip until the bowl was only lukewarm. I don’t like to let it cool further because it makes it hard to handle the marshmallow once it starts to set or when it’s whipped too much. This is one of those situations where a little experience helps. You want the marshmallow thick with enough air whipped in but not so thick that it’s hard to spread or it starts to set on you.
When the marshmallow was cool enough to handle and whipped enough to my liking, it was scraped out into he prepared quarter sheet and left uncovered for at least a few hours, though better if overnight.
Finally, the marshmallow was cut using a pizza cutter because it’s easier than using a knife, and generously dusted with more of the corn starch and powdered sugar mixture.
This yielded a very light and delicate marshmallow. I make these every year for the holidays and enjoy it immensely as do all of my relatives and friends. If, for some reason, you’re looking for that store bought texture, feel free to let these treats go stale and you will have a very similar product. (That was definitely a back handed insult to store bough marshmallows)
Pitas are a bread I grew up eating and have missed greatly. The pitas in the United States are these sad, dry things that only resemble what I ate as a child in that they have a pocket. My goal with this recipe is to achieve a pita that is light, fluffy, soft, and having a pocket would be nice too.
I heard people do this in the oven, why a are you doing it on the stovetop?
I’ve also seen it done in the oven though I’ve never tried it myself. I like the control I get when I do it on the stovetop and if I get multiple pans going, it’s as fast, if not faster, than the oven method.
32g (1 1/2 Tbsps) granulated sugar 7g (1 Tbsp) active dry yeast 1/2 cup lukewarm water 1kg all-purpose flour 1 1/2 tsp salt 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil 2 1/2 cups water
To keep the dough from drying out I brought out all of my kitchen towels (6-8) and had cut out 20 roughly 6×6 inch sheets of parchment on which my rolled out pitas could rest.
ugar, yeast and 1/2 cup lukewarm water were added to the standing mixer and allowed a few minutes for the yeast to activate. You can tell it’s ready for use when a thin layer of yeast foam forms on the surface.
Once the yeast was ready, the flour, salt, olive oil and 1 cup of water were added to the mixer. The dough hook was attached and the mixer started on low to get everything incorporated. As the mixer was running, another 1 1/2 cup of water was added. The mixture was pretty sticky at this point but let the mixer run another 5 minutes or so and it should stiffen a bit and become more easily handled. Keep the dough covered in the next few steps so it doesn’t dry out.
The dough was divided into 20 equal pieces. I had balls of dough at roughly 80g each. You don’t have to weigh them out if you’re not as obsessive as I am. You’re welcome to simply cut the dough to roughly the right size and take the risk of making uneven pitas, disappointing your parents and burning in the fires of bread hell. As you’re dividing the dough, keep it covered so it doesn’t dry out.
Take each piece of dough and roll it out to roughly 1/4 inch thickness and as round as you can and place the rolled pita on a piece of parchment. I highly recommend not using too much flour so you don’t end up with a thick flour coating on your final product but using enough that the dough is thoroughly covered so it doesn’t stick. Delicate balances in standards are part of being human, you should be used to it by now or it’s time to come to terms with the hypocrisy. For bread God’s sake, keep the dough covered so it doesn’t dry out.
I heated up as many skillets as I could get to the same temperature (three). I don’t have actual temperature readings but on my electric stove top, exact medium is the setting that works best. You want to get your pitas to get a nice deep brown coloring after 3ish minutes.
When my skillets were heated enough and/or I got tired of waiting, the pitas were removed from the parchment and placed in the pan with the parchment side down. This is not arbitrary, the parchment side is wetter. I found that if the wetter side faced up, I had more large localized bubbles forming instead of the beginning of a nice pocket.
The pita was left alone until a large bubble began to form. Giving it enough time is the key to creating a good pocket. If you’re failing to create pockets, give you pitas more time on this first side. Once a decent sized bubble was forming, I flipped it and let it keep cooking until the pita puffs fully into a little bread pillow.
When my pitas ran into issues and they wouldn’t rise I would often try to flip the pita again. This fixed the issue about 50% of the time. Once in a while, the pita just refused. These unpuffed pitas became great snacks while cooking or for those visitor that come sniffing about to see if maybe there are any discards. With practice you can eliminate disgraceful flat pitas but then what will you feed your nosy visitors?
Lastly, you can tell your pita is done cooking when there are no shiny bits of dough anywhere. They will get all matte all around. Shiny=raw dough, matte=cooked.
These pitas come out the way I remember them from my childhood in Israel. They are fluffy, pillowy, light, and pocketed. I also love that this recipe does not require any rising time for the dough and instead takes advantage of the amount of time it takes to handle each piece of dough and the natural process of creating this bread.
1 batch of basic croissant dough 1/4 cup strawberry jam 2 Tablespoons freeze dried strawberry powder 2 Tablespoons ground walnuts 1 egg 1 Tablespoon water
After the major fail of test 1 I was brainstorming how to get jam into my croissant without the detrimental effects of the extra moisture. After my experience with how drying freeze dried strawberries can be from my two-toned dough experiment, I thought this might be the exact effect I need for the jam filling. I mixed my jam with the freeze dried strawberries. For a little extra texture and to mellow out the flavor I also added some ground walnuts.
For this test I made the croissants in a roll shape by cutting out my croissant dough into 3 x 6 inch rectangles and adding about 1 teaspoon of filling into each one.
The croissants were allowed to rise for 2 hours and slightly jiggly, coated in egg wash made from beating 1 egg with 1 Tablespoon of water, and baked at 390 degrees Fahrenheit for 22 minutes.
This time the jam actually worked so well! The strawberry flavor was enhanced by the freeze dried strawberries and the mixture was almost creamy though still retained its jamminess. The walnuts were mostly drowned out but I think it still helped in mellowing out the flavor And tartness of the strawberry mixture. If you really want some jam inside of your croissants, I 100% recommend adding some freeze dried fruit to reduce the moisture. The croissants baked great and had great flavor.
This was a simple test to see if I could add some jam to my croissants and have them still bake well. I tried to add the jam in two ways. For the first, I rolled out my croissant dough and cut out my triangles. I placed about a teaspoon of jam at the base of the triangle before rolling it into a croissant shape.
For my second test I spread the jam across the whole triangle of croissant dough before rolling it into a croissant.
The croissants were allowed to rise for 2 hours and slightly jiggly, coated in egg wash made from beating 1 egg with 1 Tablespoon of water, and baked at 390 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.
This test was bad. The jam added too much moisture and resulted in a poor rise as well as a poor bake. Do not do this! I did really still want to get some jam in these so I’m thinking already of some ways to reduce the jam moisture.