They are widely regarded as a popular form of candy in a variety of sizes, to suit a variety of purposes such as cooking them on a campfire to supplementing a mug of hot chocolate, and can be equally enjoyed on their own merit, but who first invented the unexplainable form of sweet taste that is the marshmallow?
It is said that original ‘marshmallow candy’ had first come about in ancient Egyptian times. This early effort was made by a form of honey candy that was then thickened and flavoured by sap from a Marsh-Mallow plant (the plants were found in and around salt water basins).
In the 19th century, this form of treat would form a purpose, with the Marsh-Mallow plant’s extracted juices being cooked according to recipe to create a ‘hardened foamy meringue’ that was termed as a ‘medicinal candy’ used in efforts of healing children’s sore throats.
Despite more advanced and stock-friendly mass manufacturing methods and ingredients replacing the plant extraction approach used in creating the snack (which would lose the medicinal effect of its more natural counterpart) come the mid-1800’s, the marshmallow (today made with key ingredients such as corn syrup (or sugar), gelatin (for shape), gum arabic, and flavoring) was becoming popularised as a common snack.
With developments taking the manufacturing process from ‘hand-crafted’ to ‘machine-assisted’, 1948 saw the pinnacle of development in this field, when Alex Doumak, an American man employed in this field, experimented with new methods of marshmallow making. What he discovered was a faster method of creation now known as the ‘extrusion process’, which involves sending a fluffy mixture through long tubes and pipes ready for cutting into equal pieces, the types of marshmallow seen most commonly today.
In 1953, the Just Born candy would be one of the first to really begin mass-producing, marketing and selling marshmallows, with the novelty of chick-shaped marshmallows known as ‘Peeps’.
Since then, other confectionery companies have made and sold marshmallows by the proverbial bucket-load, with the snack fast becoming seen in many shapes, sizes and colours while being applied to numerous sweet-based recipes (such as s’mores).