30 July 2009

The Marshmallow Test

In recent weeks I have seen the story of the Marshmallow Test burning up the internet. Do you know of this study conducted by one of the psychology professors at Stanford back in the '60's? The basic premise was a child left alone in a room with a plate of sweets in front of him/her to see how he/she would react. A researcher would tell the child he needed to leave the room for about 15 minutes but before he went, he instructed the child to pick a treat from the plate (which included marshmallows). The child was told that he could either eat the marshmallow right away OR if he could wait until the researcher came back, he would get two marshmallows. The study was developed to identify the mental processes that caused some people to delay gratification while others simply ceded.

Of course, the kids who participated in the study demonstrated all sorts of behavior. While some were able to wait and receive the promised two marshmallows, others dove into the plate straight away and ate everything on it, others ate small bites of the goodies and put them back on the plate hoping no one would notice, and so on and so on. The study gets really interesting though when the researchers started to look into what happened to these kids about 20 years later. What they found was that those children who were able to wait for the researcher to return - the delayed gratifiers - were more successful in their lives than those who were not able to delay their gratification. Those kids "seemed more likely to have behavioral problems, both in school and at home. They got lower S.A.T. scores. They struggled in stressful situations, often had trouble paying attention, and found it difficult to maintain friendships." For more on The Marshmallow Test, click here.

I'd like to think I would have been one of the kids who was able to wait and get the 2 marshmallows instead of one. But I have always had a bit of a sweet tooth, especially when it comes to marshmallows. And lo and behold was I thrilled when I learned of the Daring Bakers' Challenge for July cause I have always had a thing for Mallomars - a beloved childhood treat that I haven't seen anywhere on these shores!

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network. We were given the choice to make either recipe, or for the more daring (and those with time to kill), both.

Mallows(Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)

Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website
Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies
Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Serves: about 2 dozen cookies (note: I thirded the recipe and ended up with about 30 cookies!)
• 3 cups (375grams/13.23oz) all purpose flour
• 1/2 cup (112.5grams/3.97oz) white sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter
• 3 eggs, whisked together
• Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows
• Chocolate glaze, recipe follows

1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.
9. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.
10. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.
11. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.
12. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

Note: if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping.

Homemade marshmallows:
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup light corn syrup
• 3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
• 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 2 egg whites , room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Chocolate glaze:
• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
• 2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil

1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.

I decided to make 4 varieties of Mallomars (or Mallows as they are called in the Daring Bakers' Challenge). The Classic, The Elvis (with a blob of peanut butter sandwiched between the marshmallow and chocolate glaze), The Obama (with a square of white chocolate hidden under the chocolate glaze) and The Cherry Kookoo a/k/a The Courtney Love (which sports a maraschino cherry at its center). They completely lived up to my childhood memories of these delectable cookies; who knew they were so easy to make at home yourself?

Speaking of Courtney Love, I doubt she would have been one of the kids who deferred gratification. But that's just my humble opinion of the gal - lord knows she's had a rough life. She looks like she could use a Mallomar or 20 these days. And hey, no need to wait, I've got a plate baked up fresh......

Just a reminder: Iron Cupcake Earth Herbs Challenge is now open for voting. Why don't you skidaddle on over there and vote for my luscious Lavender Loves Lemon Celebration cupcakes?


  1. these look do nice and yummy ! I ve never tried making them thought it was difficult to do. Wish to try making these perhaps making a filling with Nutella too :)

  2. Ahh that's very interesting! I hadn't heard of that experiment but I can believe it. Love hearing those types of results (I studied Psychology so it was full of studies like that). Great job with the marshmallow cookies too!

  3. That test sounds interesting! I try so hard to delay gratification... but I think I would have been one of the marshmallow grabbing kids.

    Your peanut butter version looks soooo yummy!

  4. GREAT READ! I was so engrossed in your story about the test, and since I don't have a super sweet tooth, I think I would have been able to wait. However, I have yet to have any major success, I'm lazy, My SAT scores were average at best on first try (well, I did rush through it with a lot of 'eeny, meeny, miny mo's', as I wanted to get out of there go to the mall with my friends lol)..ad nauseum..lol, so I would have been an exception to the test 'rules' :P

    Also, LOVE how you named your Mallows! The Courtney Love one cracked me up! She is a KooKoo, and seems to have marshmallow for brains!

    Finally (is this long enough, yet?), your Mallows are gorgeous, and my fav is definitely the Obama! I'm a white chocolate junkie, so I'd be all over those like white on rice! Amazing job in every aspect!!

  5. What an interesting study. I would have botched the study up completely since I don't like marshmallows.