Peeps!

Peeps!

This is currently, on 14 March 2021, a work in progress, after setting, covered overnight our batch came out a little wet and messy, but as you see, they’re holding shapes well. About when the three year old took two handfuls of very soft marshmallow in her hands and squished them around between her fingers, we decided to let the marshmallow set a little longer, uncovered. That got them a little firmer and easier to cut and move.

We are both currently riding out a bit of sugar high.

Updated – Verdict: This was a pretty easy way to make peeps. I think when/if I do this again I will look at possibly mixing the sugar coating with icing sugar and cornstarch to “thin it out” so it becomes less of a crust. I’ll also look into a different marshmallow recipe. These, from Martha Stewart, are super light which is nice but when they dry out, they’re sugar Styrofoam. Haven’t tried rehydration them yet and I may not, I may just let them go – it’s a LOT of sugar. Alton Brown uses corn syrup and a local shop, The Marshmallow Lady, seems to use egg whites. The latter appeals, as it might mellow the sugary-ness. This recipe from Sugar Geek show looks like a winner too.

The Recipe:

peeps

Marshmallow Peeps

Peeps! We don't have these in the UK, so I bring them back when we visit home. Soon after I moved here my mom sent me a recipe for peeps, and it's been something I've wanted to try. Not owning a piping kit, and thinking of ways to make this a more accessible activity for a 3 year old – I found this cookie cutter method for making peeps. I prepareprepared the sheets of marshmallow the night before and she and I cut out shapes in the morning.

Equipment

  • Candy thermometer
  • Pastry brush
  • Offset spatula
  • Stand mixer
  • Cookie cutters – simple shapes work best

Ingredients
  

  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  • ~1 Tbsp icing sugar
  • 14 g gelatin (1 Tbsp plus 1½ tsp)
  • 160 ml (⅔ US cup) cold water
  • 118 ml (½ US cup) room temperature water
  • 440 g (~2 cups) granulated sugar or 440g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 330 g (~1.5 cups) decorating sugar or Princess Sugar for sprinkling and rolling. This can be coloured and or flavoured.
  • 10 g 70% dark chocolate broken up into smaller pieces

Instructions
 

Can be done ahead

  • Grease a 9½-by-13-inch shallow baking sheet, or flat bottomed baking dish with cooking spray, if needed, smooth it out with a paper towel. Sprinkle icing sugar in the pan and thoroughly coat, tap and dump out excess. Prepare decorating sugar if like me you don't just keep fancy sugar around.
  • Pour 160 ml cold water in your mixer bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let stand for at least 5 minutes while you move on to cooking the sugar syrup.
  • Get out a pastry brush and a small bowl of water, have it near the stove. It's good to have your mixer close to the stove here too.
  • Heat granulated sugar and 118ml (½ US cup) room-temperature water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stir until sugar dissolves and the liquid is smooth. Wash down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush and attach your candy thermometer to the pot. Stop stirring and watch thermometer, nae stirring from here til it's off the heat.
  • Cook until syrup reaches the soft ball stage, 238 degrees Fahrenheit on your candy thermometer. Remove from heat immediately.
  • Slowly pour syrup into your mixer bowl, it will bubble up, so be careful here. Start the mixer on a slow speed. At this point you're just combining the ingredients, dissolving the gelatine and starting to cool the syrup. Keep whisking at this low speed for a few minutes. Turn the mixer up to medium high and then high speed (maybe not your top speed, but close) until soft peaks form. It's ready when the marshmallow whip makes that classic peep beak when the peak flops over. The recipe I read said 8 to 10 minutes but honestly, it was more like twice that.
  • When the bowl is cooled down and the marshmallow has gone perfectly white and you think it's nearly done, add the vanilla and whisk for another minute or two. If you're not to soft peaks yet, start up the mixer again and keep going.
  • Pour the marshmallow fluff into prepared baking sheet and smooth the top using an offset spatula. Sprinkle with sanding sugar, and smooth the sugar out using the cleaned offset spatula, shoogle the tray about too, tilting and tapping – like you're coating the bottom with the icing sugar. Let stand for at least 1 hour to set. This can be done the day before you plan to cut out your peeps.

Cut the peeps out!

  • Prepare your cookie cutters with a fine spray of cooking oil. Cut out marshmallows and lift, with and still inside the cookie cutter, using your offset spatula, gently push your peep out of the cutter into a shallow bowl or a plate of leftover decorating sugar to finish coating. Wipe and re-grease the cutters between cuts.
  • Once all your peeps are cut out, melt down the dark chocolate and either with a piping bag or a tooth pick, decorate them as you like.
  • Leave your peeps to dry and firm up a little more, then store in an air tight container.

Notes

  • If these set covered, they will be a little extra squishy/soft – uncovered, you’ll want to watch that the top doesn’t get too crusty or it’ll be more likely to crack when cutting. You can soften them back up by exposing them to humidity. My advice would be to just cut carefully, finish decorating, then put them in a deep roasting pan with either a just barely damp paper towel in a glass bowl or a slice or two of apple and watch carefully for a day. Remove the source of humidity and pack in an airtight container.
  • This is an excellent way to use Princess Sugar.  I made three colours in 1 pan in 3 flavours.  I started out making 1/2 cup of each colour:
    • Yellow – Lemon (classic Princess Sugar)
    • Pink – Cardamom (1 tsp of Cardamom Sugar for the flavour)
    • Purple – counterintuitively, this is the classic peep flavour – plain sugar.
  • You can do this with any Marshmallow recipe that will hold a shape (anything that cuts the marshmallows into cubes for example) so this should be easy to do with vegan marshmallow recipes.
  • When spreading out the whip in the baking trays, don’t fuss too much about the corners, you’ll be cutting these out, how likely are you to get your cookie cutters in the corners?
  • Don’t worry about absolutely placidly smooth top to the marshmallow whip, once the sugar is on top you’ll be able to smooth it a little more – BUT a big choppy top the sugar top will make it oddly wrinkly.
  • I was texting with a friend the first time I made this, I asked her “have you ever made Marshmallows?” she said “No, but I’ve made marshmallow fondant though. So I understand the stickiness that is about to be your life!” She was not lying. That stuff got everywhere, and where it was thin, it stuck hard. Hot water made quick work of most of the mess.
  • Have a hot cocoa after your work is done – great way to get marshmallow off the whisk and your spatula… melt it right into your cocoa.

The Waffle:

Peeps are my all time favourite candy. I mean, my best friend and I invented a holiday in our teens – PEEPMAS! And Valentines day? That’s not Valentine’s day. It’s PEEPMAS EVE! Not long after all that, year round peeps came out – Christmas peeps, Halloween peeps… valenpeeps. Outwardly we deny their existence, inwardly we eat them whenever we can, I mean, we’re both born Halloween week, you don’t expect us not to have peeps on our birthdays after a childhood of peeps only at Easter do you?

There are no peeps in the UK (maybe in these “American Sweets” stores and in the specialty online US food shops), and the description horrifies most people I tell here (I think that’s just for show though). Fortunately, people back home know me and love me and either mail them to me or stock up and hand me bags of them when we go home, and so even through a pandemic, I think I still have a 4-6 peep lollipop and a sleeve or two of peeps hidden around the house, so there was no reason to make these, except the American Women’s Club was looking for a theme for a spring kids zoom event, and so I found this kid-friendly method for making peeps. It’s from Martha Stewart’s site where they’re calling them “Marshmallow Easter Critters” but who are they fooling? Not even themselves.

The Just Born Company (who I think have been renamed, but let’s go with the name I remember and love from my teens), have gone a bit wild with flavours, I mean, Hawaiian Punch peeps were… pretty bad if I’m honest – but HOT TAMALE?! No. Just no. (I’m awaiting an “on the ground report”, but I still say “no.”). This does give us license to try something zany too, though. High on my list is to mix crushed freeze dried berries or berry powder into the pink sugar – if you get to this first – let me know how it was!!

For a traditional peep look, you can pipe them out the as they do in this Martha Stewart version (they have about 50 ways to do peeps on their site). A couple years ago, Wilton made a peep mold – they’re a hot items now as they’re no longer made, expect to pay a lot for one on ebay or elsewhere. That’s how Food52 (slightly different marshmallow recipe) did theirs.