Elderflowers hold great cultural significance & medicinal value, while elderflower marshmallows are just the touch of divine & decadent whimsy we all need.
Oh, the glory of elderflower season is finally upon me! The frothy white blooms are bursting forth and glowing like tiny pearls in the sunlight… As an herbalist and wildcrafter, I have no further to look than my own front yard for this fragrant treasure. Every year, I endeavor to invent new and delicious recipes for my modest and greatly restrained harvest of the blooms. Months ago I decided that elderflower marshmallows would be the confectionery delight on the ticket. And let me tell, you the elderflower marshmallows did not disappoint. I mean, ELDERFLOWER MARSHMALLOWS people… Also, this recipe really has no nutritional or medicinal value – but it is magic.
But first, elderflower folklore…
The sacred elder tree (Sambucus spp.) is steeped ancient European tradition and it is customary, as such, to ask permission to gather from her boughs. Feminine in association, the elder is thought to represent a motherly, crone-like figure who presides over the great transitions of life, such as birth and death. A botanical midwife, if you will. The elder was thought to ward off evil spirits and the act of cutting the elder wood is considered a grave misstep. The elder fell upon sadder connotations with Christian tradition. Some legends would have it that it was the wood from which the fateful crucifix was made, the tree from which Judas Iscariot hung, and was even maligned as the botanical incarnation of the Devil himself. Verbal traditions being what they are, these legends are hard to pin down in origin. I suspect that these negative connotations are very regional. I can certainly see how a botanical symbol associated with the transition into death in one culture could then be linked to darkest and most feared aspects of another. All that said, my experience with elder errors more to the divine. I cannot think of anything but glorious beauty when I stand in the midst of her boughs.
A little bit of elderflower medicinal use…
Elderflowers are sublimely cooling. As a relaxing diaphoretic, elderflower relieves the tension associated with internal heat. Elderflower works by encouraging a gentle perspiration, reducing fever or simply dropping body heat from exertion or exposure to a comfortable level. Elderflower can be ideal for those experience redness and inflammation, rash-y and acne prone conditions. Elderflower, used at the onset of a cold or flu, may support the immune system and shorten the duration of discomfort. The flavor is faintly floral and earthy – and even my littlest one will sip on some elderflower and spearmint tea when a fever strikes (hers being hot, fast and short – usually with no lingering illness).
Now that we have touched on the history and medicinal use of elderflower, let’s get down to business… We’re here for the elderflower marshmallows. Pillow-y white clouds of pure floral sweetness. These are just pure sin, wrapped in elderflower, and sprinkled with fairy dust. Which is to say – they are stupid good. Not the confection you roast and stuff between slabs of chocolate and graham cracker, these elderflower marshmallows are, well, sophisticated. Perfect for a bridal or baby shower, an afternoon of bubbles and nibbles, or delivering to your lover for dessert. These things are whimsically naughty and just plain wonderful. In creating this recipe, I wanted to add elderflower at every opportunity, so you will find it in three forms: dried for the base “tea”, as a liqueur added in the last moments of preparation, and fresh mixed with powdered sugar for dusting the outsides. The result is a marshmallow that exudes elderflower essence, without becoming oppressively floral. Delicious and divine, fairy finery, elderflower marshmallows.
Make your own elderflower liqueur here (second recipe on post).
Interested in learning more about elderflower and 49 other common wild medicinal plants? Check out my new book The Backyard Herbal Apothecary!
Elderflower Marshmallow Recipe
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup dried elderflower
- 3 packages unflavored gelatin about 3/4 ounce
- 1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 2 1/2 tablespoons elderflower liqueur see link to make your own or check your local liquor store
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 2 fresh elderflower umbels
- Prepare an elderflower "tea" by bringing one cup of water to a simmer, remove from heat, add dried elderflower and cool.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, place 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Gently rake your fingers through the elderflower umbels, knocking off the individual flowers into the powdered sugar. Mix thoroughly and set aside.
- When the elderflower "tea" is cool, strain and place 1/2 cup of the tea in the bowl of a stand mixer. Added the gelatin, mix and allow to "bloom". Fit mixer with the whisk attachment.
- Add the remaining 1/2 cup of elderflower tea to a medium saucepan with high sides. Add sugar and light corn syrup. Over medium high heat and stirring constantly, boil the sugar syrup until it reaches soft ball stage, 240 degrees (F) on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat.
- Immediately turn on the mixer to low speed and slowly pour the hot syrup into the gelatin mixture. When done pouring, increase the speed to high.
- Continue whisking until the mixture is white, very thick and increased in volume. Add elderflower liqueur and mix well to combine.
- Prepare a non-metal 9x13 inch baking dish by lightly greasing the bottom and sides and then dusting the surface with a small amount of the powdered sugar/elderflower mixture to coat. Pour marshmallow mixture into prepared dish, smooth with a spatula, and dust the top with more powdered sugar/elderflower mixture.
- Allow to dry in a dish for 12 hours or overnight. Using a knife dipped in hot water, cut through marshmallows to desired serving size. Toss individual marshmallows in remaining powdered sugar/elderflower mixture or more plain powdered sugar as necessary.