Peeps. The quintessential American indulgence of Easter for children of all ages. Originally they were chicks in bright yellow, spawning the iconic name, then they introduced bunnies, and now they come in a range of colors to delight us all.
While I prefer fresh and soft Peeps, my sister-in-law loves hers stale and hard. These may not be stale enough for her tastes, but I will be sure to send her home with a bag of them to eat when she thinks the texture is perfect!
Peeps are sugar coated marshmallows. Marshmallows are actually quite easy to make, a combination of sugar syrup beaten into softened gelatin, but don’t try to make these with a hand mixer. You need the power of a large heavy-duty mixer and a large bowl to allow for expansion.
You can pipe these by hand if you want – there are a ton of recipe and videos showing you how to do this – but I wanted something easier. I found Peep molds that have both chicks and bunnies in the same tray. Whip up a batch of marshmallow and pipe it into the molds. Easy peasy!
I love the products from LorAnn Oils. They are extremely high quality and concentrated so you need just a few drops to flavor a whole batch of candy. They are 3 to 4 times the strength of normal alcohol-based flavorings or extracts. For each 1 teaspoon of regular extract, use just 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of any LorAnn candy oil. LorAnn also carries all the supplies you need for candy making and formed chocolates as well as aromatherapy and spa products.
All their products are gluten-free, Kosher certified, and water soluble (for dilution). You can use them in candy making, cakes, cookies, frostings, ice cream, etc. They have so many flavors that I doubt they won’t have exactly what you are looking for and probably more options than you realized – like several types of coffee flavorings. Their liquors give you all the flavor without the alcohol. For more information about their products and which kind to use in which type of project (candy, chocolate, cakes, frostings, ice cream, etc) check out their website.
You can buy them in multiple size bottles and they also sell lids with built-in eye droppers to give you the ultimate measuring control. There is nothing worse than ruining a whole recipe because the bottle tipped and you added too much. (Just ask The Artist about the orange chicken I made him once, LOL). I have a bunch of these in a variety of flavors and keep them in the refrigerator for long term storage. In addition to desserts, I also use them to boost flavors in savory recipes and you can also use them to make a kitchen freshener. Bring a pot of water to a boil on the stove, add a few drops of your favorite oil(s) and any lingering cooking odors are gone in minutes.
Peeps are also adorable as decorations for your holiday table alongside your colorful dyed eggs. Mini baskets scattered down the length of the table are always bright and festive, but look what I found online. These white porcelain 6 Egg Cartons are the perfect way to display your decorated Easter eggs. At $11, they are a reasonable splurge for a fun table decoration and I may get a couple to hold the dozen eggs I usually make.
Serve these Peeps as dessert for your Easter supper or to snack on during the day. When people learn you made them yourself, they may think you are joking. But one bite and they will know that these incredibly delicious sweets are most definitely homemade by you!
Have wonderful Easter and I hope the Bunny brings you plenty of delightful treats to sweeten your day!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
While you can make your own fine colored sugars by pulsing them in a food processor and adding food coloring, for the price, buying sanding sugars is worth considering. They are perfect for many applications, come in a wide variety of colors including rich springtime colors just like Peeps come in. I used the green to decorate Monday’s St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes. They last virtually forever, just keep them on hand for adding festive color to any baked treats.
If you can, enlist the help of someone to make these, this is much easier as a two-person job. One person can push the marshmallows out of the molds while the other one coats them in the sugar and places them on the parchment-covered baking sheet. You need to work fairly fast before they set up and having an extra pair of hands will make it much more fun too! If you are using multiple colors, do one color at a time so your don’t transfer a different color to the other pieces.
Marshmallows are naturally gluten-free candy! Just be sure that the colored sugars you use are gluten-free and these are the perfect treat.
Kitchen Skill: Making Sugar Candies
When making caramels or any candy with a sugar base, you cook the syrup to the required temperature depending on what you are using the sugar syrup for. Caramels and fudge are usually done somewhere between the soft ball and firm ball stage. You cook taffy to the hard ball stage, and peanut brittle goes all the way to the hard crack stage.
Using a candy thermometer gives you both the stage markings and temperature so you can use older recipes and new. Bring the syrup to a boil and it will rise quickly to 220°F and then stall and very slowly inch its way upward. This is when the water is being boiled off – it has to be completely evaporated before the sugar can caramelize. Once it gets over 230°F keep a close eye on it. I set a chair next to the stove and keep a flashlight handy … it helps me keep an eye on exactly where the mercury is in the thermometer.
Using corn syrup when making candy helps reduce re-crystallization of the sugar. This is one case where I do not recommend you replace it with another liquid sugar. Use corn syrup and you will get much better results.
Having a non-stick saucepan with pouring spouts make it extremely easy to pour the sugar syrup into the gelatin.
- 1/2 cup colored sanding sugar (or multiple different colors if desired)
- 3/4 cup cold water, divided
- 2 packets unflavored gelatin powder
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- 2 tsp vanilla paste or pure extract or a few drops of citrus oil preferably from LorAnn
- 1 tbsp chocolate chips, melted
- Brush the indentations of the Peep molds with light vegetable oil or spray with cooking spray (without flour in it). Pour the sanding sugar into a pie plate or shallow baking dish such as a square pan. Use multiple pans if you are using more than one color.
- Set 2 resealable plastic bags next to the mixer. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, place 1/2 cup of the water and the gelatin. Whisk until the gelatin is fully dissolved, scraping the sides of the bowl often. Set aside to let the gelatin bloom. It will absorb all the liquid and become a thick soft paste.
- In a 2 qt saucepan with straight sides, preferably one with pour spouts, stir together the remaining 1/4 cup water with the sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook without stirring until it reaches 240°F (the soft ball stage) on an instant read thermometer or candy thermometer attached to the edge of the pan.
- With the mixer on low, very slowly pour the sugar mixture into the gelatin, between the edge of the bowl and the whisk in a steady, even stream. Scrape the sides of the bowl thoroughly. Slowly increase the speed to medium-high and let it beat for about 10 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Immediately scoop into the plastic bags, cut the corner, and pipe it into the molds. Let them stand for 10 minutes. Gently push the molds inside out and drop the marshmallows into the brightly colored sanding sugars. Gently roll them around until completely covered. Use melted chocolate and a toothpick to make the eyes and noses.
- Yield: 12 peeps
- SPECIAL EQUIPMENT
- Silicone peep molds
- Disposable piping bags or resealable plastic bags
- Essential flavorings, preferably from LorAnn (see above)
- Eye dropper threaded lids (optional) if using flavoring oils
- Let the peeps dry fully and then store in an airtight container at room temperature. Once dry you can stack them with sheets of parchment paper between each layer. If kept in a dry place at cool room temperature, they should last about a month.
- If you have any leftover marshmallow you can press it into a container that you have oiled and coated heavily with sifted powdered sugar. Sift more powdered sugar over the top and set aside to dry.
- Set each piece on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Work with one color at a time to keep the Peeps as clean as possible.
Create a New Tradition Today!
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