I long to be the kind of person who roasts my marshmallows with patience and caution, holding them at a safe distance from the fire, rotating diligently, waiting for the outside to turn copper and the inside to go molten. In this ideal state, the marshmallow will yield to the weight of the graham cracker, spilling out of its belted restraints, its heat melting the square of chocolate beneath.
In reality, I am too focused on the s'more itself to put enough care into roasting the marshmallow. I have no concept of longterm gratification. Instead, I'll roast carefully for, oh, 20 seconds, then feel the force of impatience thrust my stick-wielding hand so that the marshmallow is directly in the flames. And, no surprise here, the marshmallow catches fire, turning into what looks like a charcoal briquette.
I'll frantically blow it out, then turn to those around me and tell them, Of course this is what I intended! This is how I prefer my marshmallows, gosh darnit!
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Well, what about you?
Are you a low-and-slow, mellow marshmallow-er? That is, are you a tip-toe-er, a rule follower, a long-term planner?
Or do you go fast and furious, plunging your marshmallow into the fiery pit below? Are you a line cutter, a thrill seeker, a pyromaniac? Have you ever tried microwaving or torching or broiling a marshmallow?
Or do you do some mix of the two, turning calmly until you just can't take it anymore?
If you do care to achieve the bronzed, poofy-gooey 'mallow, we've got a few tips:
Wait until some of the fire has faded into a bed of glowing coals that give off radiant heat. By using indirect heat, you can avoid setting the exterior of your marshmallow aflame before the inside has a chance to cook.
Hold the marshmallow at least 5 inches above the hot coals. Over on The Art of Manliness, Kate and Brett McKay recommend seeking out a "cave" of coals that will provide heat from the side as well as below; this will create "a marshmallow roasting 'hot box.'" And for added stability, you can rest the stick on a log, chair, or neighbor's thigh so that the marshmallow maintains the same distance from the fire as it rotates.
Once you're positioned, cook, rotating slowly, until the outside has a taut, golden crust, anywhere from one minute to five minutes. "You want it on a slow, steady, and constant rotation, just like a rotisserie chicken," writes Colin Field for Cottage Life magazine. "The more time it takes, the gooier and more delicious the centre will be."
You've gotta be patient and slow for a while (letting the meltiness reach all the way to the insides). Then you can torch the sucker.
Richard Hartel, University of Wisconsin Food Scientist
Why should anyone care so much about roasting a marshmallow? Consider it a litmus test of your ability to cook any ingredient over an open flame.
Cooking with Fire author Paula Marcoux, told The Art of Manliness that while the marshmallow is “the lowest common denominator of campfire cooking,” it “is a great learning tool. Its sugary ingredients make it highly responsive to heat, so that to toast one is like roasting real food on fast-forward." Pay attention to that process and you'll be able "to approach roasting anything—a chicken, a hog, an eggplant, a fish (things you really don’t want carbonized on the outside and raw in the middle)—with a refreshed understanding of the task.”
Guess that means I shouldn't try roasting a fish any time soon. What about you?
A (former) student of English, a lover of raisins, a user of comma splices. My spirit animal is an eggplant. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream. For that, I'm sorry.