· By Oonagh Simms
The Marshmallowist x Aster
To celebrate the season of love, we hooked up with London restaurant Aster to put on a feast of mallowy treats this. I chatted to their in house magazine THE DISH about why I make marshmallows, who we love working with and our not- so secret ingredients.
How did the brand begin?
I moved to Paris when I was 18 and trained in patisserie and chocolatier. After 4 years I returned to the UK to live in London and began working for a luxury chocolate company. It was then that I realised something was missing in British confectionary. In Paris, fruit marshmallows were a common sweet treat in patisseries and luxury food stores- but not in the U.K. I loved them and spent evenings playing with different flavours – inspired by cocktails or unusual desserts pairing herbs and spices with seasonal fruits. The marshmallow recipe I created is perfect for carrying flavours because it doesn’t use egg white and is soufflé like in texture so you can taste the different layers and notes of the flavour develop as you eat them.
My business has grown from a market stall on Portobello road to being stocked in luxury stores, restaurant and bars across the UK and Europe. We also have growing online store. I now run the business along with my sister Jenny and our fabulous kitchen and event team.
How are the marshmallows made?
I normally use fruit as my base…I then compliment that with organic herbs or spices to lift the flavour. I’ve always loved science and the chemistry-lab thrills of marshmallow making – boiling the fruit, monitoring the temperature and modifying the whipping speed – are what really enticed me…The marshmallow fluff is whipped in our large mixers and poured into trays to set. You can then hand cut them into cubes.
Marshmallow lends itself to playing around with more aromatic ingredients; because you can really taste subtle flavour notes in the same sort of way that you can in a wine, whiskey or gin. My marshmallow recipe is based on the French method and produces a soft soufflé like texture. When people tell me they don’t like marshmallows this recipe often change their minds. We make mallows with a high fruit content and a softness that just melts.
Any secret/’not so secret’ ingredients used?
Not so many ‘secret’ ingredients as we like to be very open about our ingredients- we don’t use any flavourings or colourings – just the fruit. But we do use a lot of ingredients that you wouldn’t normally find in confectionery. Our current bestseller is our Cannabis + Pink Grapefruit marshmallow with each cube of mallow containing 10mg of organic CBD. We also created the world’s first Bloody Mary marshmallow. It’s absolutely delicious and is whipped from exactly the same ingredients you would find in the cocktail… including a grind of black pepper and a sprinkling of celery salt. I love discovering new flavours and pushing the boundaries of what you would expect from a sweet.
Have you worked with any major brands or celebs?
SO MANY amazing brands. We’ve been incredibly lucky that we often get asked to create bespoke mallows and are given fabulous scope. Just this week we created a box of 4 marshmallows for Givenchy beauty that matched the colour shades of their new launch. We produced a lime tea marshmallow for Crème De La Mer, a gold marshmallow for Jimmy Choo, and even used botanical extracts to make a marshmallow that changed colour for Chelsea Flower Show.
Is Valentine’s a big deal for your guys? How do you cope with the demand?
Valentine’s has always been a really busy time for our gifting boxes. Raspberry & Champagne is our bestseller (unsurprisingly) but last year we saw our CBD marshmallows taking over. I think what we offer is a lighter and more playful version of the ‘box of chocolates’ so we appeal to those that want something a more fun but still taste delicious. This year has been amazing because of our collaboration with Aster – being part of such a beautiful dessert and cocktail offering and showing how marshmallows can be used differently has been an amazing opportunity. I’ve been really inspired by the space and the team at Aster.
What’s the best bit about your job?
That I get to do things on my terms and work how I want. I love that I get to be so creative. I try and make time in the week to be creative and experiment and try sticking to it. It’s really easy to let spread sheets and emails get in the way of creativity and you have to be strict and realise that being busy isn’t what grows a business. You have to remain passionate and interested in what you do. I also run the business with my sister Jenny and we really enjoy working together – we compliment each other well and have a great relationship.
What does your average working day look like?
Well. I’ve just got a puppy, Alma, in November so my day begins by taking her for a walk. I leave my phone at home and take the time to just walk and clear my head for the day. My bakery and office space is a short drive away so I’m normally in by 9am. We have a team meeting and Skype Jenny (who is is based in London)… we drink tea and plan out what needs to be whipped up to go out to stores or what new flavours we’re working on (we’re currently planning for next Christmas!)
Our online shop sends alerts to my phone so as soon as someone places an order; it comes straight through to the kitchen. Making sure that customers come to our online store and are happy enough to order again is really important- a lot of our business is through our online shop. When I started the business I had to very quickly get out of the ‘chef’ mind-set and think about design and creative aspects of the company. How we package and wrap the marshmallows how customers feel when they get them.
Evenings can be spent catching up on emails, invoicing and accounting- this has really crept up on me. At first it was easy enough to manage but as the business has grown I had to get my head around spreadsheets a lot faster than I would have liked. I try to give myself time to switch off and listen to an audiobook or try out a new recipe for dinner with my partner. We’re both really into food and cooking so find it very relaxing.