The Ups and Downs of Homemade Peeps

Homemade Easter Peeps

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.

Pink and White Marshmallows

Pink and White Marshmallows. They look unassuming but managed to put up quite a fight.

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.

so pink!

Perfect Peep Pink!

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.

Homemade Easter Peeps

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.

This was actually the eye of the storm...

This was actually the eye of the storm…

Homemade Easter Peeps

Don’t mind the nubbins in the middle of the plate…

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.

The Blue Bunny

The Blue Bunny

Homemade Easter Peeps

The flower cutter doubles as a bunny tail!

Homemade Easter Peeps

Homemade Easter Peeps

Bunny tail!

Bunny tail!

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?

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19 thoughts on “The Ups and Downs of Homemade Peeps

      • Seriously! When people tell me they love them, I gag a little. I remember getting them as a kid and scooping out the insides so I could eat the chocolate outside! Then I finally just told my mom how much I hated them and my Easter baskets improved exponentially.

        • The texture was disgusting, they tasted awful… Not even enough redeeming about them to convince a sugar-loving kid to choke one down. Now Whopper robin eggs, on the other hand… (And Reeses peanut butter eggs, too.)

    • I know! Me too! But they are really so cute I can’t hate on them. I did make my co-workers try them to see if I was just crazy but nope — everyone spit them out. Back to the drawing board on that one!

  1. All I can say is you REALLY need to be a mom. 😉 Oh, and I dig all the different angles of the finished product. A Peep photo shoot. A Peep show!

  2. As usual, a beautiful post with excellent photos and writing. Recently, my husband was eying Peeps at Target, but I told him that if he really, really wanted them, he could buy them at the dollar store. We don’t have children, so we buy candy after the holiday. Or not. Candy is not a top priority at our home. If I’m going to get any “nutrition” out of candy, it’s going to be Reese’s in any form. For what it’s worth, peanut butter does have protein. Thanks for the heads up on marshmallow recipes and the ride!

    • Thank you! I am all for buying candy after the holidays too. No kids here, so the only time I buy it “in season” is Halloween — hard to avoid that one! And I would totally recommend trying Martha’s marshmallow sometime. I usually only make them in December for my cocoa but they are delicious year-round. Thanks for stopping by! =)

  3. huh. Love the post, but surprised by the results–they tasted bad? Wow. Sorry that you went through so much effort only to be disappointed.

    Though it sounds like a fun–though yes, messy–project. You did a bang-up job as they’re adorable. Yes to a feeling of accomplishment. Interesting comment on AB vs MS’s recipe. I haven’t tried Martha’s, so will add that to my list. Usually riff off of Alton’s and Miette for the boozy versions.

    Kudos for your dedication! Nicely done, J.

    • Well, you can’t win them all! It was still a fun experiment and I’m glad I gave it a go. I could have fibbed and said they tasted awesome, but I would have felt guilty. 😉 And they really are cute enough to make up for it!

      I don’t know what it is about MS’s recipe — it just really turns out great. I had a friend try it out this weekend and she loved it too. Next one I want to try is David Lebovitz’s recipe. It uses egg whites which is new to me. I’ll let you know how it compares!

      • yes, the differences in ‘mallow recipes. I sometimes use AB’s and sometimes the recipe from Miette (mentioned in my last post), which does contain egg whites. According to Marshmallow Madness (the book I was supposed to write, lol), the egg whites make it a French thing. My experience has been that the egg white ‘mallows have a better texture, but tend to dry out sooner. AB’s are more wet at first–which to me isn’t what marshmallows are supposed to be, but have a better shelf life. Let me know what you discover!

  4. I wonder if there are any non-metallic tasting colored sugar. Maybe diy colored sugar? One of my favorite candies as a kid was peanut butter cups, but those aren’t too hard to make. Maybe just a bit more difficult in egg form for Easter.

  5. Pingback: A Year in the Making: Springtime Sugar Cookie Nests | Attempts in Domesticity

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