January 17, 2014

Panda Marshmallows for Bao Bao

As you may have heard me gush about before, I love my city.  Now I especially love DC because we have a baby panda to parade around for the world at the National Zoo!  After the surprise birth and then death of a baby cub to Mei Xiang in September of 2012, she was artificially inseminated this past March.  On August 23, Mei Xiang welcomed a baby girl panda and the next day a stillborn.  The surviving panda was a girl and made it the 100 days to receive her name, Bao Bao.  (I voted for Mulan, big surprise there)

Little Bao Bao has been doing her media rounds the past few days and she could not be more adorable.  I decided to get in on the cuteness and make some panda marshmallows to celebrate!  I went to the woman who literally wrote the book on marshmallows, Shauna Sever, for my first foray into the treat.  I used her basic vanilla marshmallow recipe and then added my own panda flair.

Can I just say something?  Everyone seems to hype up how hard the marshmallow is to make.  I had been scared of it for years!  You just need to set up all ingredients before doing ANY steps, have an accurate candy thermometer that you do not step away from, and resist the urge to put your fingers into anything lest you get the sticky goop all over everything!  And for easy clean up, immediately get any tools into soapy hot water after using.

To make the marshmallows, there are three basic parts.  First, the gelatin must bloom, dissolve, and then get a bit of a work out in the mixer.  Next, the sugar, water, and corn syrup mixture must be heated to exactly 240 F then immediately yet slowly (and carefully!) poured into the gelatin and cold corn syrup in the stand mixer.  Finally, the mallow has to be whipped into submission.  Start on a medium speed then work your way up to the highest setting; the mixture should triple in volume of the course of 10-15 minutes.

For the pandas, I poured the finished mallow into a well greased rimmed baking sheet then sprinkled a coating of cornstarch and powdered sugar mixture (to prevent sticking) over the top.  I probably should have used an offset spatula to spread it out evenly, but I kind of liked the rustic look at the end.  After letting the marshmallows dry for at least 6 hours, I cut out bear shaped with a teddy bear cookie cutter, patted cut surfaces in the coating, and let dry for another hour or two.

For the panda look, I dipped the arms and legs into melted dark chocolate and let set on a sheet of waxed paper.  I used a bamboo skewer (how appropriate!) to outline the ears in more dark chocolate.  The result was an adorable little panda teddy bear perfect for popping into a hot chocolate while waiting in line for the panda exhibit.  Of which the lines will be very long, get there early!

Welcome to the world, Bao Bao!

Panda Marshmallows
Minimally Adapted from Shauna Sever's Classic Vanilla Marshmallows
Classic Coating:
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup cornstarch

Gelatin Bloom
4 1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 cup light syrup

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Melted dark chocolate (I used about 2-3 oz)

Essential Tools: rimmed baking sheet, candy thermometer, stand mixer with whisk attachment, waxed paper, bamboo skewer

Begin by sifting or mixing together the coating.  Grease the baking sheet with a flavorless oil.

For the bloom: In a microwave safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water, whisk, and let sit for five minutes.

While the bloom is sitting, start the syrup by combining the water, sugar, corn syrup, and sugar in a medium saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer.  Heat over medium high heat, watching closely.  Bring to a boil; your target temperature is 240 F.

While the syrup is coming to temperature, heat the bloom in the microwave for 30 seconds on high, until dissolved.  Add the dissolved gelatin and 1/4 cup of light corn syrup to the bowl of the stand mixer and turn on the lowest setting.  Keep on in preparation for the syrup.

Once the syrup has reach 240 F, slowly pour into the still mixing bloom.

Increase the speed to medium and mix for 5 minutes.  Increase the speed to medium high and mix for another 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla extract, increase the speed to the highest setting, and mix for another 1-2 minutes.

Pour into the greased baking sheet.  Smooth over with a silicon spatula or an offset spatula.  Sift the coating evenly over the pan and let dry for at least 6 hours.

When set, use a cookie cutter with classic coating on it to cut out the teddy bear shapes.  Cover the cut surfaces and bottom with the classic coating, shake off the excess, and let dry for another 1-2 hours.

To make the teddy bears look like pandas, dip the "arms" and "legs" into the melted dark chocolate, let the excess drip off, and let set on a sheet of waxed paper.  Use a bamboo skewer to outline the ears and add eyes.

Drop in your favorite hot chocolate and enjoy!


  1. awwwwww this is SOOO cute!!! She totally should've been named Mulan though, you had it right!

    1. If only to put the American stamp on her when she went back to China in four years, silly diplomatic animal trades

  2. These panda marshmallows are adorable. Almost too cute to eat, almost:)

  3. Adorable! Still have never made marshmallows. Probably because I'd eat them all myself!

    1. I will neither confirm nor deny their existence anymore… Lol this is definitely a make as a gift kind of project because they are that good!

  4. These are truly adorable. You have such beautiful photos.

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