Time for a history lesson, kids!
It seems that a lot of folks don’t know that marshmallow is a plant. Apparently, the use of marshmallow to make a candy dates back to ancient Egypt, where the recipe called for extracting sap from the plant and mixing it with nuts and honey. Another pre-modern recipe uses the pith of the marshmallow plant, rather than the sap. The stem was peeled back to reveal the soft and spongy pith, which was boiled in sugar syrup and dried to produce a soft, chewy confection.
Candymakers in early 19th century France may have made the innovation of whipping up the marshmallow sap and sweetening it, to make a confection similar to modern “marshmallows”. They would extract the sap from the mallow plant's root, and whip it themselves. The candy was very popular but its manufacture was labor-intensive. In the late 19th century, French manufacturers devised a way to get around this by using egg whites or gelatin, combined with corn starch, to create the chewy base. So, I guess even those fancy Frenchies have been known to bastardize a thing or two. It ain’t just us ‘mericans.
Well, this recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen:
about 1 cup powdered sugar
3 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin (a disgusting and useful product)
1-2 tablespoons coconut flavor (also pretty gross)
about 1 cup shredded coconut, toasted nice and golden
1 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar (cane sugar works fine too)
1/2 cup brown rice syrup (available at your local natural foods store)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
Oil the bottom and sides of a 9x13 metal or glass baking pan and dust it with about 1/3 of the coconut, followed by a bit of the powdered sugar.
In the bowl of a fancy standing electric mixer, or in another large bowl, dump half of your cold water and sprinkle all of the gelatin over it. Leave it be.
In a heavy saucepan (3-quart or larger) cook the granulated sugar, rice syrup, other half of the water, and salt over medium-low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Now increase the heat just a bit and boil the mixture, WITHOUT STIRRING, until a candy or digital thermometer hits the 240F mark. It’s gonna take about 12 or 15 minutes. And be sure it never looks like it’ll boil over. Burnt sugar on your burner would ruin Christmas, or whatever other silly things you people celebrate. Remove your pan from the burner promptly at 240F and pour the whole mess straight on top of the gelatin.
Now with that fancy mixer, or a nice little hand-held version, whip that shit! But don’t fling hot sugar on your eyeballs. You’re looking for about a triple in volume, and it’ll be silky-looking and white and fluffy. Should take 10-15 minutes-ish.
While you’re overseeing that, have a tiny helper or small slave whip the egg whites in a separate bowl until you get peaks. These peaks can be loose or stiff or somewhere in between; don't really think it makes a huge diff.
Beat your whites into your sugar fluff, followed by the coconut flavoring.
Coax it all into the prepared pan. Very sticky. Sprinkle the remaining toasted coconut on top. Let it chill, uncovered, until firm, for at least 3 hours, or up to a day.
Now time to cut! So fun! Pry the marshmallow block away from the sides of the pan to loosen and then grab an end and pull the whole thing outta there, right onto a cutting board, the bigger the better. Cut into whatever sizes you want. A lightly oiled pizza wheel works good for this. Toss your fluff buds in the remaining powdered sugar, shake off excess, and cram that face. Cram your friends’ faces too.
FLLLLLUFFY!!!! So tender as well. Those little crunchy coconut bits break up the wondrous monotony of heavenly cloud cubes. You can squish'em, bounce'em, or even put'em on yer titties like pasties (because they're sticky inside)!!!