Every year I make peeps to bring to church for the coffee hour following our church’s Easter service. I’ve been doing it ever since I realized ten years ago that you could actually make your own marshmallow peeps–who knew until Martha told me?
Peeps are fast, fun, and oh so not good for you. They have three ingredients–gelatin, water, sugar, and more sugar. The thing is that while they’re bad, they make people happy. Well they make me happy up until the sugar crash and then I’m not so happy, but while I’m making them and popping them in my mouth I’m very happy. My favorite comment I once overheard was,”Oh I love marshmallow peeps! I haven’t had a homemade one since I was a kid!” Wow, what kind of family did they grow up in (maybe it was Martha’s)?
Here’s the good news about this recipe–it’s so simple it’s stupid, but if you think about it that will make it complicated and if it gets complicated then it will fail. So don’t think. Just do what I say and you’ll be zooming on a sugar buzz in no time at all.
Peeps and Kisses
1 envelope Knox unflavored gelatin
1/3 cup and 1/4 cup cold H2O
1 cup sugar (pure cane sugar please)
colored sugar for coating creations
In a large bowl sprinkle the gelatin over the 1/3 cup H2O to soften. This will take five minutes or so. You don’t want any clumps of undissolved gelatin so the operative word is sprinkle.
While the gelatin is softening get your other ingredients and equipment ready. You’ll need a candy thermometer and a large pastry bag fit with a plain tip. My tip is about 1/2″ wide, just big enough for most of my index finger to point through. Also set up your mixer with a whisk attachment. It can be hand held or a stand up machine, but this is one job I don’t think you’ll want to try with just a whisk. Also sprinkle out your colored sugar onto some large jelly roll pans. Martha shows an individual marshmallow creation in a custard cup of colored sugar. Puhlease–marshmallow starts to harden somewhat quickly people. We need space here for production so a custard cup won’t cut it. Get out the big ole jelly role pans!
Now it’s time to boil the sugar to the soft ball stage. I usually dump my sugar and 1/4 cup H2O into a small saucepan and give it a stir with my finger to make sure all the sugar is wet. Then I pop a lid on it and turn the heat to medium low. The lid makes the steam roll back down the sides which should prevent crystalization. After a few minutes start taking its temperature. You want it to get to the soft ball stage–238ºF. Even in a small pan there isn’t much depth so when I want to start tracking the temperature of my sugar syrup I usually tilt the pan to get a reading. Once you reach the magic number dump the lot onto the softened gelatin. Give it a few stirs for a couple of minutes to cool things down then get ready to whip the goo into marshmallow clouds.
Whip on high for 9-10 minutes. You want soft peaks, but you don’t want the marshmallow to be too soft because your finished peeps will look like road kill after you’ve rolled them in the colored sugars. The thing to be aware of is at this point you have committed yourself. Do not answer the phone, do not check your email, stay focused on whipping and piping. Do not even talk to your kids, unless it is to ask them to help you whip, scoop, and sugar the peeps. If your own kids don’t want to help you can ask my kids, Isabelle and Russell as they are peep pros.*
Once you reach minute 9 or 10 and decide that the marshmallow goo is stiff enough then scrape as much as you can into the waiting pastry bag and start piping. The thing to remember is that you can sugar your creations any time within 5 minutes to an hour after they’ve been piped, but you can only pipe while the marshmallow mixture is somewhat soft and maliable. For peeps I do most of the bodies first then come back and do the heads. When I’m getting low on goo and it’s starting to stiffen up in my pastry bag I change from making peeps to making marshmallow kisses.
To form a peep keep the pastry bag tip in one place and pushing out a blob then as you let up on the piping pressure slowly taking away the bag to form their cute little duck’s tail. For the head repeat the process only with a much smaller blob and at the opposite end from the tail so that what was the duck’s tail on one end becomes the beak on the head end. Do not worry about mishapen ones. Somehow they have a way of dissapearing.
Then it’s just a mater of making them non-sticky by coating the marshmallow in colored sugars. After that you’re done. Easy peasy. Oh, and I don’t bother with eyes. People know they’re peeps. If they need eyes have them ask Martha for some of hers or they can buy eyed peeps from the store.
*Isabelle and Russell selflessly helped me make 4 batches of peeps and kisses for this blog, then took the extras to school so I wouldn’t sit here and eat them all day long. Thanks kids!