Ancient Egyptians were the first to enjoy a gooey treat now called marshmallow as early as 2000 BC. The treat was considered very special and it was reserved for gods and royalty.
Marshmallow was made from the mallow plant (Athaea officinalis) that grows wild in marshes. The term marshmallow was derived both from the native home of the plant and the plant name. Mallow is native to Asia and Europe and has been naturalized in America. The Egyptians squeezed sap from the mallow plant and mixed it with nuts and honey. However, no one knows what the candy looked like in those times.
The French were introduced to marshmallow in the early to mid-1800s. Owners of small candy stores whipped sap from the mallow root into a fluffy candy mold. This time-consuming process was typically done by hand. Candy stores had a hard time keeping up with the demand. Candy makers started looking for a new process to make marshmallows and found the starch mogul system in the late 1800s. It allowed candy makers to create marshmallow molds made of modified cornstarch. At this same time, candy makers replaced the mallow root with gelatin and this created the marshmallow stable form.
Marshmallows were introduced and popularized in the United States in the early 1900s, after the new manufacturing process was developed.
In 1948, Alex Doumak revolutionized the process for manufacturing marshmallows. He created and patented the extrusion process. This process involves taking the marshmallow ingredients and running it through tubes. Afterwards, ingredients are cut into equal pieces and packaged. In the 1950s, marshmallows became extremely popular in the United States and were used in a variety of food recipes.
Today, Americans are the main consumers of marshmallows. According to experts, Americans buy more than 90 million pounds annually. Marshmallow is considered a year-round snack even though the majority is sold during October and December.
The history of the s’more is a mystery. No one knows who started the tradition of roasting marshmallows. However, in 1927 the Girl Scout Handbook was the first documentation of the recipe combining marshmallows with chocolate and graham crackers.
The Girl Scouts organization was likely responsible for naming the treat. The term s’more allegedly stands for “gimme some more.”
S’mores have been popular throughout the years, especially with children. S’more are synonymous with camping and summer fun.
In the 19th century, marshmallows were made by mixing mallow root sap, egg whites and sugar into a fluffy mold. The French added cornstarch to help speed up the production and give the candy its unforgettable form.
Today the manufacturing of marshmallows is quite different. Mallow root sap has been replaced by gelatin. Corn syrup, starch, sugar and water are mixed with the gelatin. The fluffy mixture is piped through long tubes and then cut into equal pieces. To create shaped marshmallows like Peeps, a special nozzle moves back and forth to cut the marshmallow into recognizable shapes.
Marshmallows also can be made at home. The ingredients are almost the same, but salt and vanilla extract can be added in for flavoring.