Marshmallows only taste good over a campfire, and whatever anyone says about toasting them gently until you get a nice taper from a dark toffee color on one side to their original whiter-than-snow state on the other, they're wrong. And I can say that since this is my post. As far as I'm concerned, they only taste good when you burn them, pull off the charred outer layer and pop that in your mouth as you return the remaining marshmallow to the fire to be re-toasted (read: burnt). That way, they're delicious.
To me, raw marshmallows are the stuff that lives on a high shelf in your parents' kitchen, hardening to the point that you really couldn't eat one if you wanted to. Or they're the stuff that freezes in the cold Ann Arbor football season and gets thrown on the field ... until one puts someone's eye out and they're banned. For me, they're really not to be eaten. Nor is Fluff, or any chocolate covered candy that contains marshmallow (except, possibly, Le Vrai Petit Ourson, which I've been told is the pièce de résistance of chocolate-covered marshmallow candy ... I just can't bring myself to buy a whole package of them in order to find out).
At least that's what I thought until a couple of years ago when I learned that my great, great grandfather was a confectioner who made marshmallows in his candy shop in Plattsmouth, Neb. It's kind of silly I guess, given my general opinion of marshmallows, but for the past few years I've been more than a little wistful for the days when marshmallows were made somewhere other than a big factory, and were hand-sliced rather than extruded. And more than that, I've been really curious about how they tasted. (I'm convinced that at least one of the three jars with very blurry white things in them are evidence of said hand-cut marshmallows, but it's hard to say. And what was Photoshopped out of the left side of the photo way back in 1915 anyway?)
I'm sure that there's a candy shop somewhere in the US that makes marshmallows on a small scale, and as I learned from a quick google search, technically, you could make them yourself; however until I came to Aix, I had never seen hand-cut marshmallows. At Pâtisserie Weibel (or Au Pêché Mignon -- I'm a little confused about what the name of this place actually is), the marshmallows come in lemon, licorice, mint, orange, orange flower, strawberry and violet flavors, so I got some for James.
Here are (from top to bottom) the violet, lemon and orange flower guimauve.
So where these marshmallows are concerned, I take back what I said about toasting. I think toasting of any kind is a bad idea for these marshmallows because I really doubt they'd hold up. These are light, billowy, tender and very pleasantly flavored. They also have kind of a funny sour smell which may come from the gelatin -- despite my hopes for old-fashioned marshmallows, there is no extract of the real marshmallow plant in these -- but it didn't seem to interfere with the taste, which I know because James was kind enough to share. We liked them well enough and to be honest, I would actually consider buying them again in order to taste the other flavors (and to taste the orange flower again). However, I haven't been converted into a marshmallow lover yet.
And besides, there are so many other sweets ...