Peeps can hatch out in the home kitchen

Every newspaper story about the genesis of that candy turned pop-culture phenomenon — Peeps — relate that the first marshmallow chicks were piped out by hand.

While it’s hard to imagine how that feat was ever accomplished on a commercial scale (even to meet 1950s levels of demand), piping a few marshmallow chicks in the home kitchen could constitute a fun springtime tradition. Pair that activity with our Peeps photo contest for an entry that is sure to stand out: Peeps piping more Peeps? See the photos already submitted. The deadline to enter is today.

Now that I’ve experimented with homemade marshmallows and deemed them very doable, I feel confident enough to try my hand at piping the mixture. Of course, cookie cutters also can be used with this recipe from the Los Angeles Times to produce Easter-themed shapes.

And making yellow Peeps at home would be the ideal occasion to try flavoring them with the lemon extract I just received as a sample from McCormick. With a taste of citrus redeeming the chicks, their piping could be less than perfect.

MCT photo

Homemade Marshmallow Candies

2 (.25-ounce) packages plain gelatin

2 cups colored sugar

Butter for greasing baking sheet, if cutting out shapes

2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1⁄2 cup chocolate chips

In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, sprinkle the gelatin over 1⁄4 cup water and let stand until gelatin is softened. If piping chick-shaped candies, fit a piping bag with a large, round tip (preferably 1⁄2-inch) and place the colored sugar in a bowl. If cutting out shapes, butter a baking sheet and line with parchment paper, then butter parchment paper.

In a large saucepan, combine 1⁄2 cup water with the sugar and corn syrup; cook until sugar reaches 245 F using a candy thermometer. Remove from heat.

With mixer running on low speed, slowly pour sugar syrup down side of mixer so it doesn’t splash against whisk. Slowly increase mixer speed to high and beat until marshmallow lightens in color, for about 6 minutes, then beat in the vanilla. For piped marshmallows, continue beating on high speed until marshmallow firms and stiffens in texture (similar to a stiff meringue); marshmallow should not be overly stringy and will have lost some of its sheen, and marshmallow should break off as beater is removed, after 10 to 16 minutes. For cut marshmallows, continue beating until marshmallow is fluffy and doubled in volume, for 8 to 10 minutes.

To pipe marshmallow chicks, start by piping the body: Hold piping bag over colored sugar and begin piping marshmallow out onto sugar so it is about 1 inch in diameter and approximately 1⁄2 inch thick. Continue piping body so it is about 21⁄2 inches in length, then slowly release tip from marshmallow, pushing marshmallow up to form a tail. To form chest and head, pipe on top of body, starting from front of body and piping over half of back. Continue piping, but reversing direction, to form head, slowly releasing tip to form beak. Spoon colored sugar over formed marshmallow to coat completely. Remove marshmallow to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

To form cuttable marshmallows, using a lightly greased, offset spatula, immediately spread mixture onto buttered parchment-lined sheet, spreading marshmallow so it covers pan in an even layer. Set aside, uncovered, for 2 to 4 hours to set. When marshmallow is set, cut out shapes using lightly greased cutters. Gently press marshmallows in colored sugar to evenly coat.

To form eyes, place the chocolate chips in a glass measuring cup or bowl and microwave in 10-second increments, stirring occasionally, until melted. Use a toothpick to dot melted chocolate over marshmallow candies to form eyes (and noses, for marshmallow bunnies).

Makes about 3 dozen candies, depending on size.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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