Nobody knows when marshmallow was first invented, but history tells us even the ancient Egyptians enjoyed the gooey, sugary treat as early as 2000 B.C. Of course, it was only for gods, royalty and the Kardashians, and it probably wasn’t even as good and fluffy as ours is nowadays because it was made with pieces of root pulp and honey.
The mighty marshmallow has transformed over time, shape-shifting into Circus Peanuts, Peeps, miniature puffs, large puffs, extra-large puffs, burned and smashed between two graham crackers, semiliquid fluff or a river that runs between mounds of nuts and chocolate chips in the popular Rocky Road ice cream flavor.
Louisville is even famous for its majestic modjeskas made by Muth’s, but we’ll get back to that in a second.
We have a soft spot for the soft, spongy candy, so when we noticed an uptick in marshmallow-themed treats in the NuLu area and slightly beyond, we hopped on a Bird and started our sugar-soaked investigation straight away. No Bat Signal needed.
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We made our first stop at Ehrler’s Ice Cream, which isn’t quite in NuLu, but it’s on the way. They’ve been teasing us on Facebook with lewd photos of their new S’mores Sundae ($6), made with chocolate ice cream, hot fudge, pieces of graham cracker, a marshmallow that is torched on top, as well as a small piece of Hershey’s chocolate.
This s’more in a cup is decadent and delectable, and sadly, it’s only available for a limited time. The smooth chocolate ice cream works well with the bits of graham cracker and marshmallow. We finished it in about three minutes — four if you count scraping and licking the bowl.
Melanie Hill, co-owner of the downtown ice cream shop, firmly believes in the perfect union of chocolate and marshmallow.
“I’ll never turn down a toasted marshmallow, which is why we really wanted to take the extra step to toast the marshmallow cream used in our sundae,” she says. And regarding the lack of respect the marshmallow often gets, Hill believes it has more to do with timing — or time of year.
“I’m not sure marshmallow is necessarily overlooked, just maybe becoming more of a seasonal flavor,” she says. “I think toasted marshmallow is a great flavor to pair with ice cream in cooler weather.”
So does that make marshmallow the new pumpkin spice? Certainly in NuLu, because our next stop led us to …
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Feast BBQ — which also has been tempting us on Facebook with diet-busting photos of their S’mores Bourbon Slushie ($6-$9, $34 for pitcher) — is another spot mad about the marshmallow. The adult snack is November’s Slushie of the Month.
It’s no coincidence that the flavor notes in bourbon are often compared to a toasted/charred marshmallow, but Feast is the first to put the two treats together.
The slushie is made with Heaven Hill (white label) bourbon, chocolate, house-made toasted marshmallow syrup and graham cracker crumbles, and this heaven in a jar also is only available for a limited time. Gasp!
The boozy concoction is delicious, as you might imagine, but as we Dirt Deviled the bourbon-chocolate cream, we noticed the ’mallow was a little too mellow. We could use more, please! The graham cracker crumbles on top were a nice touch, though.
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Next up were our beloved ice cream scientists over at Louisville Cream. The flavors they come up with each month always keep us on our toes, and even their take on the traditional Rocky Road ($4) is one-of-a-kind. Plus, they have this homemade whipped marshmallow cream that can be added — and toasted! — on top of each scoop.
We pressed co-owner Darryl Goodner about his love of marshmallow, and he says the fluffy flavor has been in fashion at the shop in one form or another ever since they opened. He loves the versatility of the candy, and he enjoys trying new things with it.
What possibly can you do to a treat that’s older than America? Infuse it with various flavors, of course. And in fact, this month’s Rocky Road features bourbon-infused marshmallow cream with dark chocolate ice cream and house-smoked walnuts.
They’re also serving Toasted Marshmallow Cookies & Cream as well, so you might want to go for a double scoop ($6).
And as we mentioned earlier, the ooey-gooey marshmallow cream that Goodner can top the scoop with is well worth the $1 upcharge. My eyes saw whipped cream, but my mouth tasted every toasted marshmallow I’ve ever cooked in a campfire. The perfect consistency of this fluff stuff will haunt our taste buds for decades.
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We didn’t have to travel far for the next marshmallow mania experience, as Muth’s Candies is located right next door to Louisville Cream. Muth’s is known far and wide for their little marshmallow masterpieces called modjeskas ($10.50 a bag) — a soft, homemade ’mallow that’s been dipped in caramel.
Although Muth’s has been in the candy business since 1921, they didn’t start making modjeskas until around 1947, when another Louisville candy maker, Edgar Busath, lost his father’s shop in a fire and decided to partner up with Rudy Muth — or at least just borrow her kitchen every now and then.
As an offering of thanks, he gave her his father’s modjeska recipe, a candy he invented and named after the Polish actress Helena Modrzejewska, who had performed in Louisville from time to time.
Current Muth’s manager Sarah Blazin tells us modjeskas are tied with their bourbon balls as their No. 1 seller, and they make more than 165,000 of them each year. Each piece is hand-dipped and hand-wrapped, so it’s no wonder those ladies stay busy in the back room.
“This candy is my favorite and has been since I was a little girl,” says Blazin. “It is so delicious because it is made with real cream and butter — and the marshmallow center makes it the perfect texture. It is a special marshmallow, and I would be in trouble if I gave the family secrets away.”
Well, we had to ask.
Blazin, like Goodner of Louisville Cream, praises the marshmallow for its adaptability.
“I think people expect all marshmallows to be like the ones you buy in a bag at the grocery store, but there is lot you can do with a marshmallow,” she says. “And in my opinion, everything tastes better when caramel is involved.”
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Our final stop took us up the street to Please & Thank You, where they’ve celebrated the magnificent marshmallow since their beginning with their Ganache Latte ($4.25).
This is a hot chocolate on laughing gas, because it takes your mind off the day’s cavities and is totally legal. Plus, it give you a boost of energy from the espresso, house-made dark chocolate, milk and, of course, marshmallows thrown on top for good measure.
Hot chocolate: A hug for those who don’t hug people.