Hickory Vanilla Marshmallow Creme

After three days of running around holiday-ing with the family, my husband and I settled in for a lazy Sunday of apologizing to the cat for leaving her alone for so long. In the midst of Christmas shopping, listening to The Muppet Christmas Carol soundtrack, and making soup out of a leftover roasted duck carcass, we hit upon a hot chocolate craving.

I, personally, do not enjoy hot chocolate without heaps of marshmallow — preferably homemade, in scoopable form. I had caved into the excitement of early Black Friday shopping between dinner and dessert on Thursday and scored a pastel turquoise Kitchenaid hand mixer for only $25, so this was the perfect excuse to immediately break it out of its box.


I riffed off of Gemma at Bigger Bolder Baking’s Marshmallow Fluff recipe and added hickory-flavored liquid smoke so it would at least taste like we were sipping cocoa in front of the wood stove upstate at the farm. When you go from harvesting brussels sprouts in the snow to a cramped Brooklyn kitchen, you feel the difference. This was meant to ease the blow.

Next, I threw together a pint of homemade hot cocoa mix, simmered some milk with rosewater, and in less than half an hour we were composing Christmas lists in the library with mugs of cocoa in hand. Sometimes it’s okay to give in to one’s more childish gastronomical inclinations. The entire stretch between Thanksgiving and January 2nd is such a time. I had stockpiled enough marshmallow and cocoa to last us a week of this behavior, at least.

The thing about making marshmallow is always those nagging leftover yolks. With soup on the stove and a loaf of Irish brown bread in the oven, there was no reasonable way to use them. But this is not a season for reasonable food solutions. So, I made aioli.

“What are you doing?” he asked as the rhythmic pounding of my granite mortar and pestle began to drown out Kermit’s crooning.

“Making aioli,” I said, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.

Using the New York Times recipe as a loose guide, I pounded something like 8 cloves of garlic and an inch of ginger (because I had already peeled it) into a blindingly hot paste. I was exhausted before I put the first bit of oil in the mortar’s well, but I was determined.

“Once you have a good emulsion,” the recipe reads, “you can scrape the mixture into a bowl and continue with a whisk if it’s easier for you.”

Well, I would certainly not be taking the easy way. I wanted to beat my aioli into fluffy submission like a proper Provençal cook. But twenty minutes and very sore biceps later, I found myself scraping the thick yellow goo into a bowl and whisking myself to the end of a very arduous process.

And then? Hot brown bread with garlic ginger aioli, dunked in translucent duck broth studded with carrots and parsnips. Eventually, aioli spooned directly into the soup bowl, while watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the disapproving cat curled on an ottoman at our feet. It was the perfect end to the beginning of the holiday season.


Hickory Vanilla Marshmallow Fluff 

Adapted from Gemma’s Bigger Bolder Baking 


  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup 
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 large egg whites + pinch salt 
  • 1 tsp hickory-flavored liquid smoke
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 


1.  Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat and stir until sugar is totally dissolved. At this point, stop stirring and turn the heat to medium. 

2. Once the sugar mixture comes to a boil, start whipping the egg whites and salt until thick and foamy. Then, turn off the mixer and watch your sugar — if you’re using a candy thermometer, you want it at 240 F. If you’re *not* using a candy thermometer, use the cold water test: drop a little bit of the sugar mixture into a glass of cold water. When it holds it’s shape but flattens when you take it out (aka, forms a “soft ball”) your sugar is ready! 

3. Pour sugar into egg whites in a steady, thin stream while whipping on medium speed. Whip on medium-high speed until thick and glossy. Whisk in vanilla and liquid smoke on low speed. 

This recipe keeps for weeks in an airtight container at room temperature.

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