A couple of months after we started dating, my then-boyfriend Aaron mentioned to me that he had a recipe for a particularly addictive chocolate-coated marshmallow confection. It was something that his mother used to make throughout their teen years for consumption during the Summer months, and the family would store them in the freezer for an icy cold, chocolatey treat.
At this point, my mind drifted. Frozen chocolate-coated marshmallows? Being a child of the British Empire, I’ve always associated this combination (sans freezing) with products such as the delightful Tunnock’s Tea Cake, which is eaten at room-temperature with a nice hot cup of tea. However, scattered throughout the conversation were phrases such as ‘the best thing ever’ and ‘you can’t stop at one’. His enthusiasm was infectious, so as our tastes are quite similar (uh, we’re both chocaholics) I remained rather keen to try them.
Some weeks later, Aaron turned up at my apartment bearing a slightly smudged, handwritten recipe card entitled ‘Marshmallow Treats’. I had a skim through the ingredients, quickly realising that the recipe was similar to chocolate marshmallow snowballs, a confection that I had oft sampled but never created from scratch.
Now, this is the point where my seed of doubt started to grow into a sizable seedling. Chocolate marshmallow snowballs have always fallen into the category of ‘fake’ chocolate for me, mostly because the samples I’ve tried have been dry, obviously biscuity and devoid of real chocolate flavour. However, a couple of days later Aaron brought home the ingredients and we spent a warm Saturday morning melting butter, sifting cocoa and rolling out a ginormous double-batch.
At this point, I need to specify that we followed Aaron’s family tradition by placing our trays of little treats directly in the freezer to set. Around an hour later, they emerged: frosty cold, deep cocoa-red and flaked with coconut.
As I earlier confessed my seedlings of doubt about this recipe, I’ll also be completely honest about my first reaction when eating a frozen marshmallow treat. They’re frosty cold, with slight resistance as your teeth penetrate the chocolate coating towards the soft marshmallow centre. As you chew, the coating melts into a sweet jumble of cocoa, crunchy biscuit and fragrant coconut… it’s an absolutely delicious, uniquely cold chocolate treat. Oh, and Aaron was also completely correct about the difficulty you’ll encounter when attempting to stop at one of these little mouthfuls. At our first sitting, we consumed… uh, about ten or so? Each. This was followed by a sudden bout of nausea, so I’d discourage you from following in our rather foolish footsteps.
So, whether you’ve experienced a dry chocolate snowball or a soft, pillowy Tunnock’s Tea Cake, I’d encourage you to set aside prior associations whilst sampling these frosty little marshmallow treats. Yes, they’re still skirting in ‘fake’ chocolate territory, but with genuine, high-quality Dutch-process cocoa they’re as chocolatey as can be.
You’ll see that we’ve made some adjustments to Aaron’s original family recipe… namely, a reduction in sugar and coconut. Admittedly, this does result in a slight textural variance from the original product (due to aspects of food science that I won’t describe here) however it allows the complexity of the cocoa to shine through.
If you’d prefer, get back-to-basics with the sugary recipe card above, an apron and a wooden spoon. Either way, try them straight from the freezer – you’ll be very glad you did.
Marshmallow Cocoa Treats
Makes approx. 35 golf-ball-sized treats
- 200g unsalted organic butter
- 400g can of condensed milk
- 1/2 cup (firmly packed) brown sugar
- 1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa, sifted
- 2 tsp natural vanilla essence
- 250g plain, sweet biscuits (e.g. Arnott’s Marie or Milk Arrowroot, graham crackers or malt biscuits)
- 250g marshmallows
- 1 cup finely dessicated coconut
Combine the butter, sugar, condensed milk, vanilla essence and cocoa in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir regularly, without boiling, until glossy and smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside whilst you prepare your biscuits.
If you have a food processor, place all of your biscuits into the processor bowl and crush them until you have a fine consistency. If you don’t (like me), place half of the biscuits onto a clean tea towel, then fold to enclose. Bash your biscuit parcel with a heavy rolling pin or other kitchen implement until the biscuits are finely crushed. You may need to open the tea towel and give any resilient large pieces a direct hit with the rolling pin. Repeat the process until all your biscuits are of a finely crushed consistency.
Add the crushed biscuits to the chocolate mixture, then stir to combine. Set aside until the mixture thickens and reaches room temperature.
Now for the fun part: set up your ‘marshmallow treat assembly area’. You’ll need a clean tray lined with greaseproof paper, your bowl of chocolate mixture, a shallow plate or dish filled with dessicated coconut (for rolling your marshmallow treats in) and a bowl filled with clean, cool water.
Dip your hands into the water to slightly dampen them. Scoop take about one tablespoon’s worth of chocolate mixture, then form it into a flat disc with your fingers. Place a marshmallow in the centre of the disc, then fold around the edges until the marshmallow is completely enclosed. Roll the ball in the palms of your hands until it becomes smooth, spherical and shiny.
Place the ball onto your plate of dessicated coconut, and gently roll it around until the outside is well coated. Carefully place your finished marshmallow treat onto the lined baking tray, then repeat the process as required.
When your marshmallow treats are finished, place them in the fridge or freezer to chill for at least half an hour before eating. As above mentioned, our preferred storage method is in an airtight container in the freezer, for icy-cold consumption on warm Summer days.
- I’m not going to kid you by saying that there are amazing health benefits within these little balls of chocolate deliciousness. Yes, there are beneficial antioxidants in cocoa, but they’re definitely not enough to outweigh all the butter and sugar you’ll be consuming. Let’s just say that these are a ‘sometimes’ food, ok? Don’t start at ten serves like we did.
- Make sure that you keep your hands moist throughout the rolling process, or you (and possibly, your kitchen) will soon be covered in a sticky, coconut-flaked chocolate mess. Keep refreshing your bowl of water if it gets dirty.
- If you’re not fond of coconut, you can roll these balls in toasted, crushed almonds or hazelnuts, more cocoa, chocolate sprinkles or (one of my favourite things) Swedish pearl sugar. If you’re unfamiliar with this ingredient, it’s basically little crystals of sugar (a little like rock salt) that add textural crunch and sweetness to baked goods. They’re traditionally used atop kanelbullar (Swedish cinnamon rolls).
- You can also dip these delicious treats into melted milk, white or dark chocolate to completely gild the lily.
- If the idea of marshmallows isn’t enticing, feel free to substitute a glace cherry, toasted nut or whatever else you desire as the centre filling. You can also just use the coating mixture to roll plain cocoa balls.
- Extra note: you’ve probably identified that the hands in the initial ‘rolling’ illustration are not mine. They belong to Aaron, my much more masculine and ultra-talented counterpart. I’m the one with the peachy nail-polish doing an unintentional ‘running girl’ hand pose. Ha.
For those who were wondering what happened to our little bean-birds during the prolonged stint of hot weather, I’ve included a more recent photo. Their mother successfully shielded them from the sun’s penetrating rays and they’ve quadrupled in size over the past two weeks.
Each day, their beautiful little heads pop up to be fed in a flurry of activity, translucent necks straining in the filtered sun. Their mother has also reached a new level of fierceness in her efforts to protect them. She performs air attacks on unsuspecting unit residents (a.k.a possible predators) every day.
I’ll be sad when they eventually leave the nest, as their little chirps and wobbly movements add a bit of joy to our everyday routines. I’ll keep you updated on their exceptionally fast progress… hopefully the next photo will be of little fluffy bean-birds in flight.