The trees outside my window are covered in pink blossoms. Soon the petals will release and float on the air like snowflakes, and then the show will be over. This spring spectacle is too brief, so I decided to try to capture it in a confection – and what could be more “springy” than a pink marshmallow?
Preserved sakura (cherry blossom) is a Japanese ingredient that is sparsely available at international markets here in the states. I searched for it locally and came up empty-handed, but luckily it is procurable online. Two of the ingredients – the blossoms and leaves – arrived within a week of ordering (you can find those for purchase here and here), but the tiny bottle of sakura essence took close to a month to arrive. It was well worth the wait. It has crisp, citrusy top notes, floral heart notes, and a faint lingering base note that reminds me of Thai lime leaf.
The blossoms come in a small airtight pouch, and their heads are thick and heavy with coarse salt. The leaves are packaged in the same way and are salt-preserved also, but do not have any visible salt granules. Both the blossoms and leaves need to be soaked in water to remove much of the salt before use.
Some of you may find these mallows familiar-looking because they were inspired by another sakura sweet – sakuramochi. I wasn’t sure how the texture of the leaf would work with the bouncy marshmallow, but it is quite delicate – whisper thin and not at all chewy or the least bit tough at the spine. The flavor is lightly floral with a gentle salinity. It was my favorite of all the sakura ingredients.
To give the marshmallows a round “mochi” shape, I piped them into 3″ mounds using a piping bag with the tip snipped to 1/2-inch diameter. Because the mallow batter is prone to set up quickly, I suggest using a large piping bag that will hold the entire batch of batter so it can all be piped at once.
The strawberry flavoring added to the candy enhances the floral notes of sakura essence. If you can’t find the sakura essence, or don’t want to wait a whole month for it to be delivered, then strawberry marshmallows will still taste good wrapped in sakura leaves.
In the end, I didn’t use the blossoms in this confection, but I did use them to make tea. Just drop a blossom in hot water and let it bloom and float around as you sip. It is predictably floral and like pink marshmallows, a beautiful way to celebrate spring.
- 20 2 packages preserved sakura leaves
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 cup corn starch
- 4 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup divided
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
Flavor and color
- 1 teaspoon sakura essence
- 1 teaspoon strawberry extract
- 1/2 teaspoon pink gel food color
- Soak the sakura leaves in a large bowl of cool water for a minimum of 2 hours, or overnight. The longer you soak the leaves the less salty they become. I enjoyed the faint saltiness of the leaves soaked for 2 hours, but taste-testing is a good idea (you may want to order an extra package of leaves for this purpose).
- Cover a large work surface with parchment paper.
- Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Sift 1/3 of the mixture over the parchment paper.
- Have a large piping bag (15 to 18-inch) with a 1/2-inch diameter opening ready to hand.
- For the gelatin base, whisk together the gelatin and cold water in a small bowl and let set for 5 minutes.
- For the sugar syrup, stir together the sugar, 1/4 cup of corn syrup, water, and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the temperature reaches 240°F. Meanwhile, pour remaining 1/4 cup corn syrup into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Microwave the gelatin base on high until completely melted, about 30 seconds. Pour it into the mixer bowl. Set the mixer speed to low and keep it running.
- When the syrup reaches 240°F, slowly pour it into the mixer bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 5 minutes. Increase to medium-high and beat for 5 more minutes. Beat on the highest setting for 1 to 2 minutes more and beat in the sakura essence, strawberry flavoring and pink food color. The finished marshmallow will be opaque pink, fluffy and tripled in volume.
- Quickly transfer the marshmallow to the large piping bag using a large rubber spatula. Pipe the marshmallow into 20 3 1/2-inch mounds on the prepared parchment paper. Let stand until set, about 1 hour. Dust the tops of the marshmallows with more of the classic coating before removing them from the parchment paper. At this point, the marshmallows can be stored in the remaining classic coating in an air-tight container until ready to serve.
- 30 minutes before serving, remove the sakura leaves from the water and pat them dry on paper towels. Wrap the leaves around the marshmallows and secure them with a bamboo pick. Arrange them in a single layer on a serving tray.