These unbelievably light and airy homemade marshmallows (zefir) are surprisingly easy to make. I’m sharing all the tips so you can create these stunning dessert on your own!
How impressive are these beautiful Russian homemade marshmallows? Besides the impressive look, they’re super delicate and simply melt in your mouth.
Seriously, these marshmallow rosettes (zefir, in Russian) bring so much nostalgia. If you’ve been around for a little bit, you know that Russian cuisine is near and dear to my heart, because it was a major part of my childhood.
And, today, I’m so excited to share one of my favorite childhood sweets – Russian marshmallows.
What is so special about this homemade marshmallow (zefir) recipe?
Unlike American marshmallows, this marshmallow recipe calls for fruit puree, egg white and agar agar. I’ll break down the ingredients and their roles in a little bit.
These fruity marshmallows:
- are unbelievably light and airy – They simply melt in your mouth as you bite into them!
- have the most delicate flavor with a hint of berry.
- are not cloyingly sweet – a pinch of salt balances the sweetness!
- are easy to make and pipe into different designs!
Besides one special ingredient (agar agar), you’ll need pretty much basic pantry staples. Let’s discuss each of them:
- Fruit puree – You can use absolutely any kind of fruit puree here. I usually cook fresh or frozen berries with a little bit of sugar, then strain it for a smooth texture. You can easily use applesauce or apple butter too!
- Egg whites – Egg whites make these marshmallows super light and also makes the batter easy to manage and pipe into different designs. Carton egg whites work great.
- Sugar – Just a regular granulated sugar. Please don’t be tempted to reduce the sugar amount any more than called for, or the marshmallows won’t set properly.
- Agar agar – It’s a setting (or gelling) agent similar to gelatin. I’m using agar powder, which is the easiest to use. (More info below.)
It’s best to use fruit puree made with acidic fruits, like green apple sauce, cranberry puree.
But strawberry, blueberry and blackberry purees work great too! Make sure the puree is nice and thick.
What is agar agar?
Agar agar (or just agar) is a plant derived setting agent, which makes it a great vegan-friendly alternative to gelatin.
Agar agar comes in different forms: powder, flakes, strands, and even bars. In my opinion, agar powder is the easiest to work with, as it dissolves in liquid pretty much instantly. Whereas, agar flakes and strands need to be soaked in water for a little bit before boiling.
Agar activates when it’s dissolved in water and boiled to at least 110°F (40°C).
Also, different agar agar brands have different strengths. For this recipe, you’ll need agar agar with strength of 700-900g/cm2.
How much agar agar to use:
General rule of thumb: 1 teaspoon agar powder for 1 cup of liquid.
How to Make Homemade Marshmallows/Zefir:
Before you begin: Gather all the ingredients and tools before you begin the process, because everything goes pretty quickly.
And you need start piping the batter as soon as it’s ready. That’s why it’s crucial to prepare the piping bags and tips, baking sheets ready to go as well!
Step 1. Prepare fruit puree
- In a 1.5qt saucepan, cook fresh or frozen fruits (I, typically, use strawberries, blueberries or blackberries) over medium high heat.
- Once boiling, add sugar and cook for about 10 minutes. Mash the fruits, as you cook.
- Then strain the puree to make it nice and smooth, then cool completely.
Make sure to cook off excess moisture as much as possible. You want thicker puree.
You can also make this 1-2 days in advance and keep it in the fridge.
Step 2. Make sugar syrup
- Combine water, sugar and agar in a medium saucepan (at least 2qt).
- Cook over medium low heat, stirring frequently, to dissolve the sugar.
- Once the sugar is dissolved, stop stirring and increase the heat to medium.
- Cook the mixture until 240°F (115°C), about 10 minutes. When the syrup reaches 225°F (105°C), start making the meringue.
Sugar syrup will bubble up vigorously, that’s why it’s important to choose adequate size saucepan.
Don’t be tempted to cook the sugar syrup on high heat, as it’ll overcook the syrup which will cause all kinds of issues, like sugar crystals in the marshmallow.
Step 3. Prepare meringue
- Make sure the mixing bowl and whisk are squeaky clean and grease-free. And make sure no yolk gets in the whites.
- Combine egg whites and cooled fruit puree and whisk on low speed until foamy.
- Increase the speed to medium low and start adding sugar 1 tablespoon at a time and beat until soft peaks form.
Step 4. Make marshmallow batter and pipe
- Slowly pour in the sugar syrup into the meringue, as the mixer is running on medium speed. Aim the syrup toward the side of the bowl, instead of the whisk.
- Once all the syrup is poured in (don’t scrape the bowl), increase the speed to medium high and beat the mixture until hard peaks form.
- Immediately transfer the batter into a piping bag and pipe into tall rosettes.
- Let rest and set for 8-12 hours. Then dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!
How to store marshmallows:
Once marshmallows (zefir) dried for 8-12 hours and dusted with powdered sugar, place them in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to a week.
Can you freeze homemade marshmallows (zefir)?
This specific marshmallows don’t freeze well. They get gummy and weird.
Troubleshooting Homemade Marshmallows:
Why my marshmallows don’t hold their shape well?
If the marshmallows don’t hold their shape, it’s mostly likely due to the meringue wasn’t whipped till hard peaks.
Why my marshmallow batter is separated?
There’re a few things cause marshmallow batter to separate, where you’ll see liquid in the bowl.
- Meringue was under-whipped when syrup was added.
- Meringue was over-beaten when syrup was added.
- Marshmallow batter was over-beaten after the syrup was added.
Why my marshmallows are soft and sticky even after 8-10 hours?
A few possible reasons for soft and sticky marshmallows:
- Fruit puree had too much moisture.
- Most likely, the sugar syrup wasn’t cooked long enough.
- Or syrup was poured into the meringue too fast.
Why my marshmallows got wet on the bottom after setting?
2 possible reasons:
- The fruit puree was too runny.
- The marshmallow mixture wasn’t whipped long enough to cool completely.
Homemade Marshmallows (Zefir)
- 7 oz (200g) strawberries frozen or fresh
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 egg white Note 1
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cup (300g) sugar divided
- 1/2 cup (120ml) water
- 3 teaspoons agar agar Note 2
- To make strawberry puree, in a medium saucepan, cook fresh or frozen strawberries with 1 tablespoon of sugar over medium high heat for 10-15 minutes. (15 minutes if you’re using frozen berries.) Mash the fruits as they cook.
- Run the mixture through a sieve. Cool completely and then chill in the fridge. It’s best if you make it a day in advance.
- Prepare the tools before you begin: set a piping bag with decorative tip in a tall glass, so it's easy to fill with batter. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mat.
- To make sugar syrup, in a medium saucepan, combine 200g of sugar, agar and water. Stir everything well and cook over medium heat until 240°F, about 10 minutes. (TIP: Don’t stir it after the initial stir.)
- When the sugar syrup reaches 200°F, start making the meringue. whipping the egg whites mixture over medium speed.
- To make the meringue, in a mixing bowl with a whisk attachment, combine strawberry puree with egg white and salt. Beat the mixture on low speed until nice and foamy.
- Once it’s foamy and pale, increase the speed to medium and start adding the remaining 100g of sugar one tablespoon at a time. Whip the meringue until soft peaks form.
- When the syrup reaches 240°F, remove from heat and let the bubbles subside, no more than half a minute.
- To make marshmallows, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the meringue, while mixer is running on medium high speed. (NOTE: Don’t pour the hot syrup into the whisk, aim it toward the side of the bowl, so it doesn’t splatter.)
- Don’t scrape the hot syrup from the saucepan.
- Once all the syrup is poured in, increase the speed to medium high and whip until hard peaks form, 3-5 minutes.
- Immediately transfer the mixture into the prepared piping bag with decorative tip. (I love using Wilton 1M for this.)
- Pipe 2-inch round rosettes (about 1 inch tall) on the prepared baking sheets. Let them set for at least 8-12 hours. I usually make this at night, so they set overnight.
- Then dust the marshmallows with plenty of powdered sugar and enjoy!