Marshmallow Peeps are an Easter staple – or, at least, they were for me. As much as I like chocolate, I was always excited to get a package of Peeps in my Easter basket. They were cute, colorful and light enough to be the perfect contrast to a heavy chocolate egg. I still buy lots of Peeps around Easter and I’ll always have a soft spot for them, but these days I’m also introducing Homemade Peeps into my Easter rotation.
Homemade Peeps are made with my favorite homemade marshmallow recipe, which is piped into the shape of Peep chicks instead of being pressed into a pan to create square marshmallows. The fluffy marshmallow is easy to pipe while it is still slightly warm and it will start to firm up quickly once it has been piped, so it holds the chick shape well without the need for any special molds. I will warn you that it takes a couple of tries to get the Peep shape just right, and it helps if you have some “real” Peeps to look at to keep your piping in line.
The general technique is simple: pipe a teardrop that is about an inch and a half long onto either a sugar-coated plate or a lightly greased piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Both the sugar-coated surface and the greased paper will prevent the marshmallow from sticking anywhere you don’t want it to. Pipe a second, smaller teardrop on top of the first, pulling the tip of the teardrop over to form the head of the chick. You can stick brown sprinkles or mini chocolate chips into the marshmallow for eyes after it is piped. I prefer to work with a large piping bag fitted with a round, metal tip for this type of piping, because it keeps my shapes neat and even. You can, however, still get good results simply by cutting the tip of a piping bag and not using a tip.
Peeps are coated in colorful, superfine sugar for a coating that is slightly crunchy and also prevents the marshmallows from sticking together (or to your fingers, for that matter). When you make homemade Peeps, you have a couple of coating options. You can roll them in white superfine sugar or color your own sugar for a pastel Peep. Superfine sugar, also known as bakers’ sugar, is going to give you a very fine coating that is more similar to the sugar coating on a store-bought Peep than regular table sugar will produce. Alternatively, you can simply toss them in confectioners’ sugar for a coating that has less texture and is more like a traditional marshmallow exterior. I personally like the look of the confectioners’ sugar coating, though it is less colorful, since the Peeps look pretty sleek in matte white (pictured at the top of the post). If you are using superfine sugar, the marshmallows should be coated within about 5 minutes of piping them, as soon as they are somewhat firm. If you opt for confectioners’ sugar, the marshmallows should set up for about 20-30 minutes, as they need to be firmer so that you can handle them more (and dust off the excess easily).
Store your homemade Peeps an an airtight container until you’re ready to eat them so that they stay fresh and soft. You can tuck them in an Easter basket, pop them in some hot chocolate or even make up a batch of Peep S’mores.
Homemade Marshmallow Peeps
.75-oz unflavored gelatin (3 envelopes of Knox gelatin)
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cups light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup superfine sugar
or 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
Line 9 x 9-inch pan with plastic wrap and lightly oil it. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle gelatin over cold water and stir to combine. Let stand for 10 minutes to allow the gelatin to absorb the moisture from the puree.
Meanwhile, combine sugar, corn syrup and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a rapid boil and boil hard for 1 minute.
Pour the boiling syrup into soaked gelatin and turn on the mixer, using the whisk attachment, to high speed. Add the salt and beat for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, add in the vanilla paste and beat until completely incorporated, about 1 minute.
Scrape marshmallow into a large piping bag fitted with a large round pastry tip (or with the corner snipped off). Pour superfine or confectioners’ sugar into a large, shallow bowl.
Pipe marshmallow into a large teardrop shape, about 2-inches long, directly into the sugar. Pipe a smaller, taller teardrop shape on top of the first, pulling the tip of the teardrop over to create the head of the Peep. Let Peep sit for 1-3 minutes (you can pipe multiple Peeps at one time) so the shapes firm up slightly, then gently toss with sugar to coat.
If using confectioners’ sugar, allow marshmallows to set up for at least 20 minutes, until they are fairly firm, before coating completely.
Transfer to a piece of parchment paper and allow marshmallows to set for 1 hour. Store in an airtight container.
Makes about 3 1/2 dozen chicks.