Honest-to-Goodness Marshmallows

(Makes 45 to 50 marshmallows)

It takes only about 20 minutes to whip up your own batch of marshmallows, a relatively simple process that is greatly aided by the use of a candy thermometer.

Purists prefer the honesty of vanilla flavoring; substituting lemon extract cuts the sweetness of the confection. A bit of food coloring lends a festive touch, but we prefer a marshmallow that is snowy white.

Vegetable shortening for the pan

Confectioners' sugar for dusting, plus additional for the pan

2 1/2 packages (2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin

1/2 cup cold water

1/2 cup hot water

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

2 egg whites*

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (may substitute lemon, almond, orange, peppermint or other extracts)

Food coloring, if desired

Lightly grease a 13-by-9-by-2-inch metal pan and sprinkle with the confectioners' sugar; tap out any excess sugar.

Place the gelatin in a large bowl and add the cold water. Let the gelatin sit for about 5 minutes.

In a saucepan over low heat, stir together the hot water, sugar and corn syrup and cook, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Raise the heat to medium and cook, without stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil and threads; it should register 240 degrees on a candy thermometer (the soft-ball stage).

Stir the gelatin mixture into the sugar mixture. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the mixture until it triples in volume, about 8 minutes. Set aside.

In a medium bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites and vanilla or other flavoring (and optional food coloring) into the gelatin mixture just until incorporated.

Transfer the marshmallow mixture to the prepared pan, dust the surface with confectioners' sugar until it is lightly coated and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 3 hours or overnight.

To serve, use a sharp knife to cut around the edges of the pan. The bottom of the confection will be sticky. Cut the marshmallow slab into 1- or 1 1/2-inch squares (or whatever shape you prefer), then gently ease the pieces from the pan and toss them in a bowl of confectioner's sugar. This may be done in several batches. Transfer to a colander and toss again, to remove excess sugar.

To store: Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

* Note: Uncooked eggs may be contaminated with salmonella and should be avoided by young children, the elderly and anyone with immune system deficiencies.

Per marshmallow (based on 50): 38 calories, 1 gm protein, 9 gm carbohydrates, trace fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 gm saturated fat, 7 mg sodium, 0 gm dietary fiber