A marshmallow hole, also known as a marshmallow drop or marshmallow crater, is a phenomenon that occurs when melting a marshmallow over an open flame. As the marshmallow heats up, the sugars begin to caramelize, creating a molten center inside the marshmallow. If the marshmallow is held at the perfect distance from the flame, the molten center will drop out, leaving a hole in the middle of the marshmallow.
What Causes a Marshmallow Hole?
Marshmallows are made up of sugar, corn syrup, modified food starch, gelatin, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, and artificial flavor. When heated, the sugars and corn syrup melt into a molten, lava-like substance. Gelatin gives the marshmallow its squishy structure. As the gelatin melts from the heat, it can no longer support the weight of the liquefied center, causing it to collapse and ooze out of the marshmallow.
Additionally, as the sugar caramelizes, it creates tiny air pockets that expand under heat. This expansion puts pressure on the weakened gelatin structure of the heated marshmallow, essentially blowing a hole right through the center. The result is a marshmallow with a gaping cavity.
The Perfect Marshmallow Hole
Creating the perfect marshmallow hole is an art that requires precision and timing. Here are some tips for making picture-perfect marshmallow holes:
- Use a long skewer or roasting stick to hold the marshmallow at least 6 inches from the flame. Holding it too close will incinerate the marshmallow before a hole forms.
- Slow and low is the key. Rotate the marshmallow evenly over medium heat. If the flame is too hot, the marshmallow will blacken and burn.
- Watch for the initial swell. As the marshmallow heats, it will expand in size. Shortly after, the center will begin to sag and drop.
- As soon as the hole opens up, pull it away from the heat source. The hole will continue expanding for a few seconds after removed from the flame.
- Do not squeeze or prod the marshmallow as the hole forms. This can close the hole or make it overflow to the sides.
- Patience is a virtue. Wait for the marshmallow to develop a molten center before quickly inverting over the flame. Rushed timing will only result in a melted mess.
The Science Behind Marshmallow Holes
The formation of a marshmallow hole is based on some interesting science involving the ingredients and how they respond to heat:
- Sugar – Sugars are hygroscopic, meaning they attract water molecules. As the sugar heats up, the water bound to the sugar molecules converts to steam, creating air pockets that expand and burst through the gelatin structure.
- Gelatin – Gelatin gives marshmallows their squishy, spongy texture. It is made up of collagen fibers that form a matrix that holds water. When heated, the protein structures unravel, causing the gelatin to liquefy and lose its ability to hold shape.
- Corn syrup – The corn syrup provides sweetness and a sticky, molten texture when melted. It has a lower water content than sugar, so it caramelizes rather than steaming when heated.
- Air bubbles – As the marshmallow cooks, tiny air bubbles are formed throughout the matrix. The bubbles expand and contract with heat, eventually bursting through weak spots in the gelatin structure.
Understanding these chemical processes allows you to master the art of crafting perfect marshmallow holes.
Different Types of Marshmallow Holes
Not all marshmallow holes are created equal. Depending on technique and degree of doneness, you can achieve different shapes and effects. Here are some of the possibilities:
This is the ideal marshmallow hole. The center drops straight through, leaving behind a clean, round opening. The sides will be lightly browned with no oozing or collapse.
With an oozer, the molten center slowly drips downward as the hole expands. This often happens when heat is too low or the marshmallow isn’t rotated evenly. Oozers will have messy strands of syrup hanging across the hole.
A ruptured hole occurs when the air pockets expand too quickly before the center liquefies. This causes the marshmallow to essentially explode open from the inside. Ruptured holes have ragged, uneven openings.
Experts can create a double hole by first making a clean drop, then quickly reheating the marshmallow to drop the sides. Doubles have two holes stacked on top of each other.
Rotating the marshmallow horizontally over the flame can create a tunnel-like hole passing through the center. Worm holes form when the top bubbles and melts while the bottom remains intact.
Marshmallow Hole Techniques
Marshmallow holes don’t have to be limited to roasting over a campfire or fireplace. As marshmallow art has evolved, methods have been created to make holes and other shapes in creative ways.
Small butane blow torches allow very precise control for making marshmallow holes. Slowly sweeping the flame over the rotating marshmallow gives a clean drop every time.
Placing a marshmallow on a baking sheet 4-6 inches under the oven broiler creates a top-down drip hole. As the top bubbles and caramelizes, the center falls through the bottom.
Heating up a knife over a stovetop burner and then plunging it into a marshmallow makes a sliced hole. Twist the knife to open up the hole wider.
Zapping a marshmallow for 5-10 seconds can create small holes, but it’s hard to control the outcome. Best for making marshmallows puff up to double their size.
Marshmallow Hole Variations
Marshmallow holes can be taken to the next level by using different types of marshmallows or adding extra ingredients:
- Jumbo marshmallows – Large marshmallows make for even more impressive hole formation.
- Flavored marshmallows – Try strawberry, caramel, or chocolate marshmallows for more exciting ooze.
- Marshmallowed treats – Roast s’mores, roasted marshmallow bars, or marshmallow-topped brownies to get oozing holes of molten chocolate.
- Stuffed marshmallows – Inject melted chocolate, caramel, or jelly into a marshmallow before roasting.
- Spiked marshmallows – Soak marshmallows in alcohol or inject booze in with a syringe for adulthood s’mores.
Marshmallow Hole FAQs
Are marshmallow holes safe to eat?
While slightly burned on the outside, the center of a marshmallow with a hole is still raw and uncooked. Roasting thoroughly until the inside is fully molten eliminates any food safety risks. Additionally, you can roast until just browned, then place on a s’more to finish cooking in the heat of the other ingredients.
Do vegan marshmallows work for holes?
Most vegan marshmallows are able to form holes, but the consistency may be slightly different. Gelatin is replaced with ingredients like agar, carrageenan, and tapioca in vegan versions. Store-bought vegan mallows tend to work better than homemade.
What can you do with the marshmallow hole oozings?
The molten center of a marshmallow hole is made of sweet, concentrated, caramelized sugar. It can be drizzled over ice cream, fruit, or other desserts as a sauce. For an extra decadent treat, use a marshmallow hole oozer as the “glue” to stack s’mores together.
Why do some marshmallows refuse to hole?
If a marshmallow stubbornly refuses to open up, chances are the gelatin content is too high. This creates a rubbery marshmallow that doesn’t melt smoothly. Old, stale marshmallows also have more difficulty holing. The fresher the mallow, the better the holes.
Fun Ways to Use Marshmallow Holes
Once you’ve mastered the art of making marshmallow holes, here are some fun ways to put them to use:
- Make s’mores with doubled, tripled, or overflowing holes.
- Create “egg in a hole” with marshmallows and bread or donuts.
- Use holes as edible bowls and fill with ice cream, pudding, or fruit.
- Float marshmallow holes in hot chocolate with the centers melted out.
- Stack marshmallows with holes on a skewer for a campfire kebab.
- Roast holiday shapes like hearts, shamrocks, and jacks-o-lanterns.
- Melt marshmallows into waffle cones to create ooey, gooey ice cream cones.
The History of Marshmallow Holes
Marshmallows themselves have been around for centuries, but marshmallow holes are a more recent phenomenon. Here’s a brief look at the history of marshmallow holes:
|Year||Marshmallow Hole History|
|2000 BCE||Egyptians were the first to enjoy sweet marshmallow treats made from the marshmallow plant root.|
|1800s||Marshmallows transitioned to using gelatin and sugar. Campfire favorites like s’mores became popular.|
|1970s||Packaged marshmallows like Jet-Puffed entered the mainstream, making them widely available.|
|1990s||Gourmet marshmallows from niche brands emerged, featuring fun shapes and flavors.|
|2000s||The rise of social media and trendy food brought marshmallow art into prominence, including marshmallow holes.|
|2010s||Marshmallow holes went viral online through Instagram and YouTube. Roast-off contests began.|
While marshmallows themselves aren’t new, their transformation into an art form through marshmallow holes and sculpture is decidedly modern. Social media brought this campfire pastime into the mainstream as a way to add flavor and fun to treats.
The Psychology of Marshmallow Holes
Why does forming a hole in a marshmallow bring people so much joy and satisfaction? Some psychological factors that make the experience so enjoyable include:
- Nostalgia – Roasting marshmallows triggers happy memories of childhood and camping for many people.
- Novelty – Marshmallow holes present something new and different from an ordinary roasted marshmallow.
- Mastery – Learning the technique gives a sense of skill and control in manipulating the marshmallow.
- Curiosity – Watching the transformational process sparks curiosity and interest.
- Surprise – The marshmallow hole reveals a hidden surprise inside with its oozing center.
- Sweetness – Sugary foods like marshmallows light up the brain’s reward system.
Overall, marshmallow holes tap into many of our psychological drivers, which explains their popularity as a food trend and social media sensation.
Marshmallow holes magically emerge when roasted over an open flame at the ideal distance. Mastering the technique to get a perfect hole every time takes precision, patience, and a scientific understanding of the ingredients. Getting creative with flavors and presentation opens up many fun possibilities too.
While marshmallows themselves have always been a treat, marshmallow holes take it to the next level. Now an art form and point of pride for expert roasters, marshmallow holes continue to enchant people through their theatrics and sweet, molten surprise filling with every bite.