February 15, 2016
Prior patisserie professional, Oonagh Simms, took a decadent career detour when she realised UK marshmallows hadn’t progressed since their white fluffy counterparts.
Having trained for four years at the école médéric, qualifying in pâtissière and as a chocolatier, Oonagh moved to London to work in a luxury confectioner. Whilst in London, it was then she realised that our version of the marshmallow were deflated, unhappy and borderline bland. To Oonagh, our marshmallows were saddened white and pink ‘puffs’; distastefully suspended from a stick over a bonfire in the attempt to improve their faint taste. Oonagh decided to pursue this problem, simultaneously taking the mantle of ‘The Marshammalowist’. Oonagh has since continued to pioneer refined adult flavours with soufflé-like texture.
From her training in France, Oonagh applied her adapted version of a French marshmallow recipe whilst incorporating traditional French ethics. It is common for French chocolatiers and confectioners to stipulate product provenance. From where the cocoa beans grow, right through to its destination as a chocolate bar. Similarly, Oonagh is dutifully open about the fruit from which she makes her marshmallows.
“I have a refined retail range of 6 favours but with bespoke flavours, corporate and private events and brand partnerships I often make 20 flavours a week. The colours in my marshmallows are bright and bold but I never use colourings- natural or otherwise. This all comes from the fresh fruit. I won’t use flavourings or essences in the marshmallows- I find these too synthetic and jarring for the product, which has a soft soufflé texture."
After delivery, the fruit is then segmented and removed of its kindred pith, seeds or stones. Oonagh begins by pureeing the fruit to her adapted recipe.
“I take the whole fruit and blend into a puree, this is then boiled to exactly 115 degrees with sugar and whipped using my Hobart mixer until it transforms into a soft fluff – it’s then that I add organic herbs or a splash of alcohol to accentuate the fruit flavours."
“I pour the fluffed marshmallow into large tin trays- this has to be done immediately and at pace in order to keep the consistency I need in the mallow. I then leave this to set overnight.”
Synonymous and iconic to The Marshmallowist, Oonagh then carefully cuts the set marshmallow using a specialist ‘genache cutter’ imported from France. The cutter enables consistent and accurate slicing of the springy marshmallow texture. In contrast to their organic ingredients, the geometry of the cubes is telling of the work that goes into their making.
“The marshmallows I make are cut into geometric cubes of 4.5 cm. I was the first person to create them like this and to this unique size- I imported a ganache cutter from France. This ensures that my marshmallows are perfectly cut."
Once cut, Oonagh conditions the freshly cut marshmallows leaving them overnight. The flavoursome cubes are dusted in confectioners mix to avoid them sticking together and eventually to their packaging. This is a traditional technique used by confectioners that has been used for years and can be identified in many variations of confectionary including Turkish delights and boiled sweets.
Produced in their large geometric blocks, Oonagh’s marshmallows signify their intended consumption; blissful in taste and indulgent in size. This is adult confectionery to be savoured bite by bite. We had the pleasure of buying some of Oonagh’s marshmallows last year. We sampled only but a few of the flavours offered in her range.
Extensive to her disruptive approach to our previously shameful marshmallows, Oonagh distributes and presents her foam fondants in colourful packaging. Seen amongst other artisan confectioners is increasingly predictable ‘craft’ based packaging, literature and branding. Oonagh decidedly departed from this appearance and opted for her apt palette and geometric branding.
“I started the company 4 years ago and in the last year I had a rebrand- moving away from the ‘craft’ elements that were starting to become overused in ‘artisan food’ industry. Our designer created retail packaging that plays on the bold colours of the marshmallows and the clean lines of the cut. Our boxes are made from G.F.Smith papers who are heritage paper smiths in East Yorkshire.
Selfridges were the first store to stock the marshmallows in our new packaging and I adore how it looks on their shelves. Design is really important to the brand, but I want progressive design- I want to be moving the industry forward not just through taste but also through the whole look and feel of what we do.”
Indicative to the confectionery within, the Marshmallowist’s packaging communicates the intriguing flavours that Oonagh so creatively produces. Bold pantone colours provide visual reference to what flavours are used within each marshmallow creation. For example, her Passion Fruit and Ginger mallows are accentuated by the stark combination of fuchsia and orange. Further still, a luring hexagonal ‘peep-hole’ reveals a portion of the spongy texture of the marshmallow within.
Complimentary to her design led approach and her flavoursome mallows, Oonagh recently worked in collaboration with Bluebird Chelsea restaurant. Parallel to the ‘2015 Chelsea Flower Show’ last year, they each displayed flavoursome offerings in full floral display within the Kings Road restaurant in Chelsea. Homage to the annual world renowned flower show, both the Bluebird restaurant and Marshmallowist put on a tasting event with their one-off range of ‘Mallowtails’ last summer.
Bold, decadent and deservedly playful, Oonagh has arguably forever changed the marshmallow. Delivering elevated and refined flavours , displayed in tasteful geometric packaging makes us suggest a visit to Oonagh’s social media and website. We look forward to seeing more from The Marshmallowist in the future.
Our thanks to Oonagh for talking with us.
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