For most of us, an Easter basket simply isn’t complete without a box of Peeps. The colorful marshmallow candy brand is celebrating its 60th anniversary, and the popular chicks are to Easter what candy corn is to Halloween.
Of course, Peeps are probably just as famous for what people do with them, and I’m not just talking about fluorescent-tinted s’mores or a post-apocalyptic trip in the microwave.
A quick Internet search will give you Peep “sushi” (“peepshi”) and “peepza” (add Peeps to pizza during the last minute or so of baking). You’ll find fluffy re-creations of famous art (Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe), and no Easter season is complete without the annual Peeps Diorama Contest.
But I was never a big fan of actually eating them — until I tried homemade. While commercial Peeps have a devoted following, others find them to be overly sweet, tough and chewy. But freshly made, “peeps” are soft, each bite light and fluffy.
They’re nothing more than homemade marshmallows, a simple combination of sugar, water, gelatin, corn syrup and flavoring. Basic cut-out peeps are easy to make: Spread freshly made marshmallow on a baking sheet, let it set up and cut out peeps in holiday shapes, dipping the little creations in colored sugar for decoration.
Piped chicks are a bit more challenging. After tweaking a bunch of recipes, I found that the right marshmallow consistency — along with a bit of practice with a piping bag — is key. That said, don’t be embarrassed with your first batch of piped chicks. They take practice. (I tested almost 75 dozen before getting it right.)
The thing I like best about homemade peeps — well, beyond the pillowy soft texture — is that I can flavor them however I’d like. Vanilla is classic, but try adding a touch of almond or lemon extract, perhaps mint or a touch of ground cinnamon. My favorite was a little rose water — it added a hint of floral sweetness to the marshmallows, perfect for spring.
Then go crazy. Make enough peeps for a diorama, Easter bonnet or demolition derby. Who knows? You might even find you actually prefer to eat them.