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Great 28: Cheese + Marshmallows

stack of marshmallows

To most, marshmallows conjure memories of roasting slightly stale sugary pillows over a campfire, often until they accidentally ignite (cueing the search for a friend who appreciates a good char). While mass-produced versions of this confection have widespread nostalgic charm, its origins are perhaps less familiar: The “marsh mallow” originally referred to a flowering perennial plant, Althaea officinalis. Egyptians were the first to boil its roots with sugar to make medicinal treats that soothed the mouth and throat. Continuing the practice, the French made the roots so delicious that the health benefits were forgotten; eventually they subbed in gelatin for the plant to make pure candy. Americans then mechanized the process, putting the puffs in the hands of the public.

Today, artisan marshmallow-makers are again crafting the classic by hand, creating varieties that your 10-year-old self couldn’t have dreamed of. Read on for new ways to enjoy an old friend—sans flames.

Boozy Marshmallows

To bring a bit of sweetness to cheese-and-cocktail hour, add besotted marshmallows from Florida-based Vivéltre Gourmet Confections. For a burly date, invite Vivéltre’s Bacon Bourbon Sutra onto your plate. The Maker’s Mark–infused marshmallow is speckled with candied bacon, which adds both savory notes and crunch to the fluffy-sweet morsels. The company’s vice president, Taryn Hendler, complements this rugged meat candy with a “stronger, obnoxious, smelly” blue, like mixed-milk Spanish Valdeón. Interested in a guest with a little more glitz? The delicate, brunchy profile of Vivéltre’s French Riviera starts with fresh strawberry water and champagne. Hendler recommends noshing on this fruity treat alongside “something smoother, softer,” such as a custardy ricotta.

Recommended Pairings 
La Caseria Valdeón + Vivéltre Bacon Bourbon Sutra marshmallows
Caputo Brothers Creamery Ricotta + Vivéltre French Riviera marshmallows

Caramel Marshmallows

The swirl of slow-cooked sugar and cream adds a buttery burst and gentle chew to a classic marshmallow. Toasted Mallow in Gilbert, Ariz., bumps up the aromatics in their salted caramel flavor by adding caramel extract to the marshmallow base, then rippling that with more caramel. Boston-based pastry chef and Whole Foods cheesemonger Noa Katzelnik matches its sweetness with Uniekaas Reserve gouda. She likens the pair to a handful of trail mix: “You’re getting those different textures in your mouth—a candy [element] that becomes soft as soon as you bite into it, the crunchy nuttiness of the gouda, and the chewiness of the caramel.” For an unexpected take on a s’more, Katzelnik marries Vivéltre’s Salted Caramel Blondie with a smoked English cheddar. The cheese’s smokiness and crunchy crystallization mirror the mallow’s burnt sugar and sea salt, all against a downy backdrop that yields a multilayered mouthfeel.

Recommended Pairings
Uniekaas Reserve + Toasted Mallow Salted Caramel marshmallows
Ashley Chase Estate Mature Smoked Seaside Cheddar + Vivéltre Salted Caramel Blondie marshmallows

Nutty Chocolate Marshmallows

If you prefer your mallow with some snap and crunch, try one dipped in chocolate and dunked in nuts. We love the macadamia and dark chocolate–covered version from Utah-based Madyson’s Marshmallows alongside a funky washed rind. “Macadamias are a bit more subdued than other nuts, more meaty, and the dark chocolate has a slight bitterness,” Katzelnik says.“Both go well with the very creamy, melty, rich, milky Secret de Scey.”

Toasted Mallow’s Rocky Road features walnuts throughout and a topping of milk chocolate sprinkled with a few more nuts. Katzelnik suggests indulging in it with a hunk of espresso- and lavender-rubbed Barely Buzzed; the milk chocolate complements the floral aspects of this American original, which in turn mimics the nuttiness of the walnuts.

Recommended Pairings
Jean Perrin Secret de Scey + Madyson’s Marshmallows Macadamia Nut Chocolate Dipped marshmallows
Beehive Cheese Company Barely Buzzed + Toasted Mallow Rocky Road marshmallows

Photo Credit: bartoshd/iStockphoto.com

The Great 28 is featured in our annual Cheese Pairings issue

Kara Kaminski-Killiany

​Kara is a Michigan cheesemaker, writer, and freelance behavioral economist who can’t get enough bloomy rind cheeses that perfectly melt just below the rind. She is happiest when tending goats, discovering unique cheese flavors from new sources, and decoding the puzzles of human behavior.​

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