When I was younger, I always wanted to like Peeps — they were so cute and colorful and looked so festive it was hard not to want to bite their little heads off. But even as a kid, I’d get halfway through the pack and lose interest. They just weren’t as delicious as their bright candy colors made them seem. (They were still better than Cadbury Eggs, with their creamy yolks that still give me the creeps, but a far cry from my favorite Easter candy, mini-Whopper Robin Eggs.)
And yet, this year I became obsessed with making my own. After all — homemade marshmallows are infinitely better than store-bought ones, so it would seem that homemade Peeps would follow the same logic.
I did some recipe and technique research before I began, which led me to trying out Alton Brown’s recipe for marshmallows. Normally I am a big proponent of Martha Stewart’s recipe, but it seemed like as good a time as any to try something new. (Personally I still find Martha’s recipe to be fluffier and sweeter, but feel free to use whatever recipe you like best.)
If you are a newbie at marshmallow making, make sure you have a candy thermometer that is calibrated and that actually works (mine broke and I ended up having to test for the soft ball stage using a cup of water. Effective but not very fun). Also prepare yourself for the mess, especially if you try to color part of your mixture like I did. Imagine yourself in a stringy web of sugar — it gets everywhere!
And in hindsight, dying the marshmallows was pretty silly. The sugar covers them anyways, I was just experimenting.
After the marshmallow mixture is made, scoop it into a greased pan and press it down with greased hands or a spatula. You will be cutting them out with cookie cutters so you don’t want it thicker than the cutter you plan to use. Don’t worry if they look bumpy or a little wrinkled. The sugar will hide any blemishes.
Then let the pans sit for 4 hours or overnight. This gives you plenty of time to clean the sticky sugar mess off your counters (though really why bother…it’s about to get worse) and turn your entire kitchen inside out looking for every bottle of sanding sugar you own. As a note — the finer the sugar, the better.
Then comes the fun, incredibly messy and occasionally frustrating part — decorating the Peeps.
The sugar won’t really stick to the front and backs of the marshmallows as most recipes will have you dust them in a combination of confectioners sugar and cornstarch so you can handle them. This means the sugar will only coat the sides where they have been cut.
I learned that by dipping a pastry brush in water and gently dabbing the ‘mallows that the sugar would stick fairly well. Which meant I had water, a brush, dishes of sugars plus the marshmallows all. over. the. place.
Sugar will most likely get everywhere. I promise you. You will need way more than expected and so you’ll keep dumping it into plates, realizing that the cute little dishes you poured it in won’t work at all. Really, what were you thinking?
But in the end, you will be greeted with adorableness and every granule of sugar lodged into your skin, your socks and in your hair will have been worth it.
Now are you ready for the bad news? They tasted terrible! Like weird metallic grossness. The marshmallows themselves were fine and dandy but the sugar coating made them awful. I googled as much as I could but didn’t really find a good answer, though a friend of mine told me it was most likely some form of anti-caking mixture added to the sugar that would make them taste “off” when used in large quantities.
It seemed like a reasonable answer since I’ve used the sprinkles before, in much lesser amounts, without ever noticing anything weird.
So these Peeps will get to keep their heads. I’m seeing if they dry out well enough that I can coat them in something (Modge Podge? Shellack? any suggestions?) and have them last a few years as fun Easter decorations.
Even though I didn’t eat them, I still feel like mission “make Peeps” has been accomplished. Next up on my candy bucket list is to make black licorice.
Have you ever tried to recreate an old childhood favorite? Did it work out or were you disappointed in the results?