Cereal marshmallows are pieces of crunchy marshmallows that are sometimes included in sweet breakfast cereals. Unlike regular marshmallows, which remain soft and fluffy even if they become slightly stale, cereal marshmallows are dense and crunchy. They soften when they are placed in a liquid, such as milk, and take on a spongier consistency more reminiscent of regular marshmallows. This type of marshmallow is made from a combination of gelatin, corn syrup, sugar, and flavorings such as vanilla.
The original idea for cereal marshmallows came from the combination of breakfast cereal and a candy called circus peanuts. This type of candy is similar to a marshmallow, though gooier when fresh and crunchier when stale. When a product developer at General Mills threw a few stale circus peanuts into a bowl of cold cereal, he invented the first cereal with cereal marshmallows.
There is not much difference between cereal marshmallows and regular marshmallows. Both are made from sugar, corn syrup, and gelatin and set to form a slightly gooey candy. Flavorings, such as vanilla, orange, or chocolate may also be added to marshmallows. Though regular marshmallows are usually white, food dye is often added to cereal marshmallows.
The main thing that distinguishes cereal marshmallows from regular marshmallows is the texture. A cereal marshmallow needs to harden into a small, firm, sugary candy. Altering the recipe used in regular marshmallows, by adding corn starch or using a corn syrup that readily crystallizes, can help transform fluffy marshmallows into crunchy ones. Cereal marshmallows also need plenty of exposure to air so that they can dry out properly.
Many people enjoy the flavor of cereal marshmallows. These candies do not usually have a strong or distinctive flavor, aside from being very sweet. When combined with a breakfast cereal, the marshmallows will sweeten the milk because some of the sugar in them dissolves as they sit in the milk. They do not, however, provide much extra sweetness to the cereal itself, which is why many cereals that make use of these candies are also sugar coated.
The use of cereal marshmallows in children's cereal has come under criticism. While the high amount of sugar in them will give children an energy boost in the morning, as the sugar leaves the body it can cause drowsiness and irritability. Diets high in sugar can also contribute to the development of type two diabetes, a condition that is sometimes observed in children.