Easter treat

Homemade ‘peeps’? These chicks rule


How to color sugar

Colored sugars are available at many supermarkets as well as at baking supply stores, but you can make your own custom hues: Place granulated sugar in a sealable plastic bag or jar with a few drops of food coloring, and shake until the coloring is evenly distributed. Spread the sugar out onto a rimmed baking sheet for about 30 minutes to dry, then sift it to remove any lumps.


Homemade Marshmallow Candies

You need a candy or digital thermometer to make these. You may substitute almond, mint or lemon extract for the vanilla or use powdered spices such as ground cinnamon. Beat in about 1/4 teaspoon of the flavoring at a time until desired taste is achieved.

2 packages unflavored gelatin

2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups colored sugar (available at baking supply stores or make your own; see box)

Butter for greasing a baking sheet, if cutting out shapes

1/2 cup chocolate chips

In the bowl of an electric mixer (fitted with whisk attachment if available), sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup water and let stand until the gelatin is softened. If piping chick-shaped candies, fit a piping bag with a large, round tip (preferably 1/2 inch) and place the colored sugar in a bowl. If cutting out shapes, butter the baking sheet and line with parchment paper, then butter the parchment paper.

In a large saucepan, combine 1/2 cup water with the sugar and corn syrup, and cook until the sugar reaches 245 degrees using a candy thermometer. Remove from heat.

With the mixer running on low speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the mixer so it doesn’t splash. Slowly increase the mixer speed to high and beat until the marshmallow lightens in color, about 6 minutes. Beat in the vanilla (or other flavoring).

For piped marshmallows, continue beating on high speed until the marshmallow firms and stiffens in texture (similar to a stiff meringue); the marshmallow should not be overly stringy and will have lost some of its sheen, and the marshmallow should break off as the beater is removed, 10 to 16 minutes. For cut marshmallows, continue beating until the marshmallow is fluffy and doubled in volume, 8 to 10 minutes.

To pipe marshmallow chicks, start by piping the body: Hold the piping bag over the colored sugar and begin piping the marshmallow out onto the sugar so it is about 1-inch in diameter and 1/2 inch thick. Continue piping the body so it is about 2 1/2 inches in length, then slowly release the tip from the marshmallow, pushing the marshmallow up to form a tail. To form the chest and head, pipe on top of the body, starting from the front of the body and piping over half of the back. Continue piping, but reversing direction, to form the head, slowly releasing the tip to form the beak. Spoon the colored sugar over the formed marshmallow to coat completely. Remove the marshmallow to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

To form cuttable marshmallows, using a lightly greased offset spatula, immediately spread the mixture onto the buttered parchment-lined sheet, spreading the marshmallow so it covers the pan in an even layer. Set aside, uncovered, 2 to 4 hours to set. When the marshmallow is set, cut out shapes using lightly greased cutters. Gently press the marshmallows in colored sugar to evenly coat.

Form the eyes: Place the chocolate chips in a glass measuring cup or bowl and microwave in 10-second increments, stirring occasionally, until melted. Use a toothpick to dot the melted chocolate over the marshmallow candies to form eyes (and noses, for marshmallow bunnies). Makes about 3 dozen candies depending on size.

Per candy: 82 calories, 0 protein, 19 g carbohydrates, 0 fiber, 1 g fat, 0 saturated fat, 0 cholesterol, 18 g sugar; 2 mg sodium.

Los Angeles Times

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.

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