Posts tagged ‘marshmallows’

Campfire in the Pantry (Marshmallow Chronicles, Part V)

When the Imperial Candy Company/Redel Candy Corp. of Milwaukee launched their new marshmallow line in 1917, they were clearly thinking about just one thing: Campfires. Marshmallow and campfires were the peanut butter and jelly of the ‘teens, and so they named their new confection “Campfire Marshmallows.”

The earliest packaging encouraged marshmallow munchers to roast the goodies around the flaming logs, or at least to imagine a forest surround. Here is a 1918 ad that sets the sylvan tone:

Although the campfire image suggests a rough masculinity, marshmallows were frequently marketed in ways that connected their appearance and texture with qualities of women and children. For example, a competing brand put out by the manufacturer of  Cracker Jack was called “Angelus” and featured a cherubic little girl as the trademark. Along similar lines, in this 1919 ad Campfire brand makes a saucy connection between the puffy white mounds of marshmallow and the little cheeks of these cute rascals:

We can see in these ads that something dramatic has changed between 1918 and 1919. The 1918 box is really emphasizing the campfire theme. It even has the slogan “you can toast them if you like.” In contrast, the 1919 package was simplified and streamlined. And that wasn’t the only change afoot at Campfire headquarters.

In 1919, Campfire broke ranks with the leading marshmallow manufacturers. It launched an audacious new marketing campaign with one aim: to stock every pantry in America with marshmallows. American cooks had been experimenting with marshmallows for more than a decade, to be sure.  (On scientific cookery at the turn of the century and the culinary rise of the marshmallow, see my post on Candy Salad). But Campfire wanted more: to redefine marshmallow altogether, to push marshmallow out of the candy store and into the baking aisle.

Campfire acted on multiple fronts to push marshmallow forever more onto grocery shelves. They changed the shape of the marshmallow to round, the better to cook with. Before that, marshmallows sold as candy were square. And they put the marshmallows in six ounce boxes, rather than the traditional candy-serving of two and 3/4 ounce. They launched a new advertising campaign which promoted marshmallow desserts: jellies and cakes and parfaits. And they put out a cook book featuring both familiar and entirely new recipes “showing the many uses of Campfire in preparing dainty desserts, cakes, puddings, etc.” The booklet was described in ads such as the one above, and included in the marshmallow package.

This 1920 ad features an even more elaborate dessert display, and the explicit suggestion that Campfire marshmallows deserve a permanent place in the kitchen pantry:

There was much to be gained in this push into the kitchen. As an admiring article in Printers Ink explained:

It is easy to see why Campfire keeps entirely away from the confectionery idea and bases its whole appeal on cooking and baking. … Regarded as candy, marshmallows would be purchased only semi-occasionally. Looked upon as a cookery staple most valuable in the preparation of new and dainty dishes it can have a steady demand.

But Campfire did not entirely abandon its marshmallow roasting history. Ads in Boys Life Magazine in 1920 and 1921 reminded Scouts of their summer camp marshmallow pleasures. In an early example of “kid-fluence” marketing, Campfire counseled:

Tell mother about these tempting Marshmallows today. Tell her there’s a recipe folder in every package. But be sure to tell her to get Campfire–the kind of Marshmallows you had at camp. (see the ad here)

Campfire Brand marshmallows today are manufactured by Doumak, Inc. It was Alexander Doumak who invented the modern extrusion process in 1948. Since 1900, marshmallows had been made using the starch mogul system, which involves dropping marshmallow goo into starch molds and letting it set. Doumak came up with the revolutionary idea of squeezing the marshmallow mixture out into a long tube and cutting it into pieces. It was faster and easier than the starch moguls. And that is the marshmallow we have today: tubes of white puffs in a sack, and sold as grocery.

Sources: All advertising images appeared in Confectioners Journal in the years indicated. “Changing a Confectionery into a Staple Article of Cooking,” Printers Ink, Jan 27, 1921 p. 97-100. For a detailed explanation of the modern marshmallow manufacturing process, see How Marshmallows are Made.

June 25, 2010 at 11:29 am 3 comments

Candy Salad (Marshmallow Chronicles, Part IV)

The rage for all things marshmallow that newspapers noted in the early 1900s also inspired creative cooks to propose new ways of incorporating marshmallow into desserts. While candy promoters sometimes struggled to have their products accepted as “good food,” in the case of marshmallow the passage between candy and pantry staple seemed exceptionally smooth.

The  years of marshmallow’s transition from specialty confection to national candy craze were also the years of stunning innovation in American cooking. The movement known as “domestic science” advocated a rational approach to cooking that emphasized consistency, nutritive value, uniformity, and blandness and rejected the traditional, the intuitive, and the flavorful. Untamed, messy, irregular foods were not modern or hygienic. The task of the scientific cook was to regulate, control, and master her ingredients.

At the pinnacle of turn of the century scientific cooking stood white sauce. There was no dish that could not be improved by the addition of a coating of white sauce, a bland mixture of milk, butter and flour. And while marshmallow was perhaps slightly less versatile, to a generation of scientific cooks trained at the knee of white sauce, its white, bland appeal must have been irresistible. Just as white sauce improved every meat and vegetable, so would marshmallow improve every cake, pudding and ice cream.

At first, the marshmallow incursion was limited to the most simple and straightforward sorts of additions. Fanny Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cook book included a recipe for “marshmallow cake” in 1896, yellow cake with a marshmallow crème in between the layers. Recipes for marshmallow cakes and marshmallow frostings were published several times in the Boston Daily Globe’s “Housekeeper” column in the early 1900s, suggesting that home made cakes featuring marshmallows were a popular dessert item.

The cake recipes added sweet to sweet: marshmallow’s pure sugar hit would intensify the dessert sensation offered by tender cakes and succulent sugar frostings.

But marshmallow would not be stopped. By the ‘teens, the layering of sweet on sweet led to dessert innovations like gingerbread with melted marshmallow, ice cream re-frozen with melted marshmallow then topped with marshmallow, and cakes with names like “Ecstasy” or “Heavenly Pudding” which combined “marshmallows, candied fruit, macaroons, white cake, gelatin, and whipped cream in one fashion or another.”

These and other marshmallow creations are described by Laura Shapiro in Perfection Salad, an indispensable history of the emergence of “scientific cookery” at the turn of the century. Shapiro’s book explains the trends and attitudes that would pave the way for a new phenomenon that flourished at mid-century: Candy Cookery. The marshmallow was just the beginning.

As a distinctively American style of cooking and presentation took hold of American stomachs and American kitchens in the early 1900s, sweet flavors were less and less confined to the final course. The versatile marshmallow presented the inventive cook with sweetness, volume, and texture, but no particular flavor or color to intrude on other ingredients.

Nothing was immune from marshmallow improvement. The line between dessert and salad quickly blurred. Shapiro describes Fanny Farmer’s famous Los Angeles Fruit Salad: canned pineapple, grapes, walnuts, and marshmallows, “an innovation in sweetening that was remarkable even by [Farmer’s] own standards” (Shapiro 194). And many marshmallow concoctions defied categorization entirely. Shapiro describes a Boston Cooking School Magazine recipe for cream cheese and marshmallow sandwiches to be served for tea, as well as the mania for toasted marshmallows stuffed with raisins as a luncheon buffet specialty. Such culinary innovations seemed to fall entirely outside traditional categories of salad, dessert, or even candy.

Marshmallows were destined for great things in the kitchen. By 1913, the grocery magazine Table Talk was pushing marshmallows as a regular pantry staple. In an article titled “Marshmallow Mixtures” Eva Alice Miller scolds the cooks of America for their narrow marshmallow prejudice:

Many housekeepers consider marshmallows simply a confection, and make no use of them in their cooking. They are very useful, however, in many ways, and make a pleasing variety in the bill of fare.

Alongside the pudding and pie recipes, Miller included instructions for Marshmallow Omlette, Marshmallow Toast, Marshmallow Salad, all of which would seem at home on a breakfast or lunch plate.

Marshmallow cooking was no joke. Witness this antique marshmallow tin for Gordon’s Household Marshmallows (offered for sale by Rion’s Relics). It is big enough to hold ten pounds of the puffy stuff. Eat up, America!

For more on turn of the century ideas about American cookery, see Laura Shapiro, Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century (1986; University of California, 2009).

June 23, 2010 at 8:00 am 3 comments

Toasted Mallows for Toasty Days

Hot hot hot. Memorial day, and the mercury is rising.

As you probably  learned the day you left a Hershey bar out on your dashboard, heat and humidity are not kind to candy. Many candy factories essentially shut down over the summer before the days of artificial “climate control.” The enterprising candy maker looked for items that would weather the weather (har har): something that wouldn’t melt or get sticky or fall apart when the temperature rises.

Here’s a 1907 ad for Toasted Mallows, a hot-weather specialty:

“When the Mercury Goes Up, Toasted Mallows Go Down.” Not bad for a candy slogan.

Toasted Mallows are marshmallows coated in toasted cocoanut. I love the funny “toasted mallow” character at the top. He looks a little like an oversized shredded wheat biscuit.

The ad copy reads

Here’s a lot of profit and candy goodness for your trade worth investigating. A summer confection that thrives when the temperature hovers in the nineties.

What really caught my eye in this ad was the photo of the young people eating the candy. This is an unusual image for the advertising of the day, most of which relies on hand drawings rather than photos. Who are these boys and girls? I imagine they might actually be employees of the Darby Candy Company. Or perhaps, given that they all seem about the same age, these are students who got a lucky chance to eat some candy in exchange for posing for this photo.

These shaggy looking treats are pretty plain by our candy standards. Today you can still buy “Toasted Mallows” or “Toasted Coconut Marshmallows” as a specialty confectionery item, although they seem more popular in Canada and Australia than in the U.S. Kraft makes a “Jet-Puffed Marshmallow” with toasted coconut. But it’s not the kind of thing you see flying off the shelves, at least not in any of the places I know. In fact, until I was researching this post I didn’t know of the existence of this product.

This bag puzzles me. I think I would find this bag in the grocery store and not really know what to do with the contents.  Do you just eat it out of the bag? Or do you do something else with it? For the Darby girls and boys, Toasted Mallows was clearly a candy. But this Kraft bag poses the mystery of the marshmallow: is it candy? or is it some other kind of grocery item?

Source: 1907 ad for the Darby Candy Company of Baltimore, Maryland appeared in Confectioners Journal.

May 31, 2010 at 7:22 am 10 comments


Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

Welcome to Candy Professor

Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

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