Along with chewing gum that never loses its flavour and caramels that change colour as you suck them, among the sugary wonders whipped up by Willy Wonka were marshmallows that tasted of violets. The creations of Oonagh Simms, a London-based marshmallowist, make Mr Wonka’s floral ambitions look feeble. Her chubby blueberry cubes spiked with artisanal gin are emblematic of the posh marshmallows proliferating today.
For years marshmallows have come in one flavour – unremittingly sweet. From the pastel twists of Flumps to the saccharine goo of Marshmallow Fluff, they have been a single-dimension sugar hit, to be drowned in hot chocolate or toasted over campfires and smooshed into s’mores. By contrast Simms’s candies taste distinctly of the fruits, herbs and booze they contain – from passion fruit to basil to champagne. They are less sturdy than the mass-produced kind; their texture is more like a delicate mousse than bouncy rubber.
They are spreading. In San Francisco, MeMe Pederson laces hers with Tahitian vanilla and yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit. At Three Tarts in New York, quintessentially American flavours, such as maple pumpkin and molasses ginger spice, abound. The French have long recognised the pudgy bonbons’ potential; at Pain de Sucre in Paris connoisseurs choose from such flavours as rose and orange blossom, saffron and pistachio.
A word of warning: delicious they may be, healthy they are not. Like their cheaper counterparts, fancy marshmallows boast plenty of refined sugar; the fruit purées they include, organic as they may be, are – nutritionally speaking – no different from other kinds of sugar. S’mores the pity.