Since I tackled making the iconic candy corn last Halloween, it seemed fitting to attempt another classic holiday treat: Peeps.
I am no stranger to making marshmallows, however I knew my standby marshmallow recipe really isn’t suited to piping. After some online research, I found a very simple marshmallow recipe from Martha Stewart, requiring only 4 ingredients & minimal tools (though a candy thermometer is a must). And, as a bonus, the recipe doesn’t have any corn syrup, like so many marshmallows do.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to flavoring the marshmallow base. Vanilla is the most classic flavor, but if you shopped for marshmallows in the grocery stores lately, you may have noticed how many different flavors are available today. I decided to add some coconut extract in with the vanilla & it was an excellent decision.
While gathering my mis-en-place & getting ready to make the peeps, I discovered that I didn’t have any pastel colored sugar. I could have gone out and bought some, but since only very small quantities are needed (especially if you do multiple colors for one batch of peeps), I thought it both cheaper & easier to make my own. A little sugar in a ziplock bag, plus a little food coloring is all you need. Since I was already tinting my own sugar, I figured why not make a little green coconut grass on which the peeps could rest.
Piping the iconic peeps shape does take some practice. Of course, some turn out better than others, but honestly, I don’t want them all to look exactly the same. They are homemade/hand piped, not machine made. I want them all to have character! Some just have more “character” than others :)
When piping the peeps, you pipe the base first, ending with a peak for the tail, and then you pipe the torso/head, ending with a peak pulled over for the beak. One trick I use for piping macaron shells comes in handy when piping the peeps: when you want to end the shape, stop pressure on the piping bag, but don’t stop moving it--you more than likely have enough in the end of the tip or already piped out, you just need to shape the end of the tail or beak.
Store bought peeps have that slightly stale flavor & slightly crunchy outer layer. The homemade peeps can have different textures depending on how they are stored once completed. Prefer a more pillowy, very soft marshmallow? Store the peeps in an airtight container. Want that slight crunch? Let them sit at room temperature, uncovered overnight. Just remember that regardless of which texture you prefer, marshmallows & sugar do not like humidity--it can cause them to become very sticky & the sugar to melt. Another thing I don’t recommend doing with peeps, either homemade or store bought, is roasting them over a candle. Perhaps microwaved (briefly) and turned into a S’more, yes. But I can tell you from a funny college experience that roasting them over a candle simply doesn’t work.
HOMEMADE PEEPS RECIPE
adapted from Martha Stewart
yields approximately 14 peeps
1/3 c Cold Water
1 packet unflavored gelatin
1 c Sugar
1/4 c Water
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp Coconut (optional)
Black Food coloring
- Pour the cold water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the packet of unflavored gelatin over the cold water & set aside to bloom.
- In a small heavy, non-reactive sauce pan, combine the sugar and water. Stir just to combine. Attach a candy thermometer (I used the Taylor Classic Candy and Deep-Fry Analog Thermometer) to the pot & heat the pot over medium high heat. Do not stir. Cook the sugar mixture until it reaches the soft ball stage (238 F).
- Meanwhile, attach the bowl with the bloomed gelatin to the mixture & fit the mixer with the whisk attachment.
- Once the sugar syrup reaches soft ball, turn the mixer on low & pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the bloomed gelatin. Be careful--the sugar is hot!! Once all the syrup is added, increase the speed of the mixer to medium/medium-high (I used speed 6 on my Kitchen Aid). Beat for 8 minutes, or until the mixture has cooled & significantly thickened. When the marshmallow mixture is done, it should hold a good peak. Stir in the flavorings.
- While the mixture is whipping, prepare a pastry bag fitted with a large tip. I used an Ateco 808 (like the ones found in the Ateco 6-Piece Pastry Tube and Tips Set). Line an inverted sheet pan with parchment paper. Spray the parchment with non stick pan spray.
- Transfer the whipped mixture to the prepared piping bag. Pipe out your shapes. For a peep shape, begin by first piping a tear-drop shape for the body. Then add the torso & head on top, finishing by pulling down for the peak of the beak.
- Let the peeps set for at least an hour. Once they are firm, but still sticky, roll them in colored sugar. If they have dried too much, brush them lightly with water to get them sticky again. Use a toothpick dipped in black gel food coloring to draw eyes.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container if you prefer softer marshmallows or allow them to “cure” at room temperature to establish a crisper crust & more stale flavor indicative of store bought peeps. Be careful that they do not come into contact with too much humidity or else the sugar will melt!
Piped peep base, before the torso/head/beak were added
HAND TINTED SUGAR OR COCONUT
Food Coloring (liquid or gel)
- Add sugar to the zip-top bags. Add a couple drops of liquid food coloring or use a tooth pick to add a tiny bit of paste. Seal the bag
- Shake & squish the bag to disperse the color throughout the sugar. Keep mixing until all the sugar is uniform & there are no lumps of coloring.
- Allow to dry at room temp briefly, then store in an airtight container.
coconut variation: substitute sweetened coconut flakes for the sugar. Place into the bag with a couple drops of food coloring. Shake & use.