Anatomy of a Marshmallow with Tracy Dempsey of Tracy Dempsey Originals
When you're cooking, it's all about a dash of this and a splash of that. But baking is another matter, an exact science. In this series, we're going behind the bakery case and into the kitchens of some of Phoenix's finest purveyors of sweets (and some savories). Fresh out of culinary school, Chow Bella contributor Mabel Suen will work with local chefs to learn their tricks for making perfect pastries, baked goods and desserts. Stay tuned for findings once the flour settles.
The Baked Good: The Marshmallow
The Chef: Tracy Dempsey
The Place: The kitchen at Arcadia Farms
"Plop it out -- and yes, that's a technical term," says pastry chef Tracy Dempsey with a laugh, explaining that a pan of former marshmallow goo patted down with powdered sugar sets up to look something like a cat-sized Tempur-Pedic mattress.
Mabel Suen Tracy Dempsey Originals marshmallows come in flavors like s'mores, vanilla bean, key lime pie and neapolitan.
On a weekday afternoon, she and two baking assistants are busy at work in the bakeshop of Arcadia Farms, cracking silly jokes as they go. In the rented kitchen, they make rice pudding, gingerbread cookies, donut bread pudding and many other sweet and savory confections under the moniker Tracy Dempsey Originals.
Dempsey created her brand in 2009 as a business savvy solution for restaurants that can't afford to hire on-site pastry personnel, providing dessert programs as well as wholesale items and special occasion cakes all over the Valley. She made her first marshmallow right before the turn of the century in s'mores brownie ice cream while trying out for a pastry chef position.
"The magic of whipping air into water, sugar, corn syrup and gelatin gives them their special fluff. They're a neat little medium for different flavors," says Dempsey, who has done everything from pumpkin pie flavor and toasted coconut to lavender rose, jalapeno lime, and peppermint with candy cane pieces for floating on top of hot cocoa.
One thing's for sure -- homemade beats the hell out of store bought mallows, which evidently contain blue dye to make them bright white. And instead of cheap flavoring, Dempsey uses natural vanilla bean pastes, powder and extracts -- you can, too!
To Dempsey, the perfect marshmallow is light, soft, creamy and melts in the mouth. Made fresh, it is spongy, sumptuous and fluffy. As it ages, it cures from the inside out, developing a skin as it dries and becomes chewier -- some people prefer them this way, and the extra layer also helps them toast beautifully. Read on for her tips on how to make it all happen.