The Birth of the All Natural Marshmallow
How Plush Puffs Got their Start

By Ellen Walsh

What are marshmallows, anyway?
There are a lot of fond memories wrapped around marshmallows. We always had them over an open camp fire. Back then, when yards were large and old oak trees were in full supply, we'd rake up the leaves, burn them at the curb, but not before running to the kitchen for the marshmallows and finding just the right tree branch so that we could roast them over the open flames.

We had friends who were a lot fancier. They made S'mores, by melting the marshmallows between two graham crackers and a square of chocolate off a Hershey bar. You'd bite into them, and the crackers would break off and fall down, and the chocolate would dribble down your chin and ruin your clean shirt, but no one minded. After all, we were roasting marshmallows. It was our right as a child.

You never really thought of marshmallows as food. You thought of it as a tradition. They were just there. Did we have any idea what they were made out of? I don't believe that "back then" any of us gave it much thought, until we became label readers, and saw all the added preservatives and chemicals in it. Slowly, marshmallows were weeded out of our consciousness, and I don't believe my own children have ever participated in the marshmallow ritual, because as tots with hyperactivity issues, we stuck to the Feingold diet. (No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives)**

However as I was weeding marshmallows out, private chef and health food caterer Ann Hickey was weeding them back in, only with an eye to the All Natural market. Blending her own background as a former health educator at University of Southern California with her new found career as a healthy ingredient oriented chef, Ann first came up with the concept for an all natural pumpkin marshmallow while still in culinary school. Made with all natural ingredients, no artificial colors or flavors, and the highest quality sugars she could find, a career was launched to the sounds of rave reviews. Moving on to a chocolate marshmallow, the concept of Plush Puffs was born. That brings us back to my original question - what is a marshmallow, anyway?

"A marshmallow is inverted sugar," says Chef and Plush Puffs founder Ann Hickey. "It's reduced sugar and water, so it turns into caramel during the heating process, but you stop it before it gets to that point, and start whipping it. Then, during the whipping process, you add in gum, egg whites, gelatin.. Mostly gelatin is what I do, with a tiny bit of gum. But the real trick is keeping it all natural."

And keeping it all natural was the challenge indeed.

Utilizing spec sheets from all the vendors, Ann made natural ingredients her priority over the easier route of including less expensive ingredients in her final product, an issue that all new manufacturers have had to face squarely in the face. "If this product had artificial colors or flavors in it, I could have an additional 15%-20% on my margin. As it is, my price is higher than other gourmet dessert products. But I receive so much encouragement and appreciation from people who have allergen restrictions for either themselves or their children, that I stick to my guns and keep it all natural," Ann comments. "There are a lot of issues that the FDA just doesn't enforce, making it extra time consuming to make sure the ingredients I select have no added chemicals, preservatives, or artificial anything. For example, sugar. Sure, sugar is natural. But is there an ingredient or a process that isn't natural used to keep it white? It's hard to find out! What are the discrepancies that we don't know about in a product that the law doesn't require that they disclose?" Ann questioned. There is a lot of un chartered territory in the natural and organic manufacturing world, and it is up to each manufacturer to investigate thoroughly the criteria they are interested in for the production of their product, and Plush Puffs does that. Often times this journey comes with its surprises. Natural marshmallows have more difficulty in holding their shape so through trial and error they settled in on the square shaped presentation. Ironically, the unique presentation of its shape has attracted the attention of some notable chefs.

Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger of L.A.'s Border Grill, created "Sweet Potatoes S'mores" for their menu utilizing the Plush Puff marshmallows. A number of other chefs, hotels, and gourmet food & coffee shops have started carrying Plush Puffs, recognizing their unique opportunity and interest.

For a complete list of where to find this product, visit their web site at


Cook with Marshmallows
Caramel Swirl
Razzvery Berry
Rasavery Smores
Kona Coffee Crunch
Marshmallows on a Tray

For Great Recipe Ideas on How to Use this Unique Product, (Click Here)


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