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Where’s my peeps?

Every Easter it rarely fails. The Easter bunny leaves children a basket chock full of goodies.

However, more often than not, there lying in wait in the basket itself is a sweet and puffy treat known as Peeps.

Peeps are marshmallow candies, sold in the US and Canada, that are shaped into chicks, bunnies, and other animals and have long been a staple of Easter baskets nationwide.

he yellow chicks were the original form of the candy — hence their name — but then the company introduced other colors and, eventually, the myriad shapes in which they are now produced.

Peeps in Cooking

While many people eat marshmallow Peeps straight out of the package, they can also be used in a variety of recipes. Peeps can be used as ingredients in such desserts as marshmallow crisp treats, fondue, and s’mores.

Peeps are also put into mugs of hot cocoa; the chicks will float upright until the increasing warmth causes them to dissolve. Although they are made of marshmallow, it is difficult to toast Peeps over a campfire, as the sugar coating tends to burn and become bitter.

One way to eat Peeps is to “age” them by leaving an open package in a cupboard for weeks or months. This gives the Peeps a crisper density, similar to meringue cookies. Another is to eat them frozen.

Peeps can also be eaten out of the microwave. This is often done in conjunction with “Peep Jousting,” a game in which two Peeps are placed in the microwave with toothpicks stuck in them.

The Peeps expand in the microwave, the player whose Peep pierces the other Peep gets the honor of eating both hot and gooey Peeps.

Americans devour more than 700 million Peeps per year. Peeps have been around since 1953, when they were hand-squeezed using a pastry bag, a process that took 27 hours to “hatch” each Peep.

Do-it-yourself Peeps; how to make Peeps at home

Vegetable oil (for the pan)

Powdered (confectioner’s) sugar

2/3 cup cold water, divided

2 envelopes (2 tablespoons) unflavored gelatin

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Colored sugar for decorating

Tiny amount of melted chocolate for decorating

Chick-shaped cookie cutter

Line the bottom and sides of a 13- by 9-inch baking pan with plastic wrap; oil and then generously dust bottom and sides with some powdered sugar.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, place 1/3 cup cold water; sprinkle the gelatin over the surface.

In a heavy saucepan with a tight fitting lid, add sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/3 cup water; stir to dissolve sugar. Cover the pan and place over moderately low heat. Remove the cover after 4 to 5 minutes. The steam will have caused any sugar crystals to dissolve and the syrup will be bubbling lightly. Increase the heat to high, insert a candy thermometer, and boil the syrup, without stirring, until it reaches 240 degrees F. Immediately remove from the heat.

Fit your electric mixer with the whisk attachment. slowly and carefully pour the syrup into the gelatin while the mixer is beating constantly at medium speed.

When all of the syrup has been added, increase the speed to high and whip for approximately 10 minutes until the mixture is lukewarm very white, and the consistency of marshmallow cream. Add the vanilla extract toward the end of mixing.

Pour the marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan; smooth the top and sprinkle liberally with colored sugar of your choice. Let the pan stand, uncovered, at room temperature to dry. out. NOTE: Depending on the humidity, this may happen in several hours or take up to 8 hours. Generally speaking the longer you let it set up, the easier the marshmallow sheet will be to cut.

When ready to cut, invert the pan of marshmallow onto a clean cutting surface; remove the plastic wrap and coat the top with colored sugar (it should adhere easily).

Use cookie cutters to stamp out your peeps (or bunnies) and toss them in a bowl of sugar to coat the edges. If you find your cookie cutter getting sticky, was it and lightly coat with vegetable oil. With a toothpick apply a dot of chocolate to form an eye.

Store the marshmallow peeps in an airtight container.

Makes about 80 marshmallows.

Peep Waldorf salad

10 Peeps, whole, preferably pink or yellow

3 just ripe bananas, 1/2 inch dice

2 large navel oranges, sectioned, 1/2 inch pieces, and juice from one more

12 maraschino cherries, halved

1/2 cup shredded coconut

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon orange-flavored liqueur

1/4 cup finely chopped macadamias, or pecans, or almonds

Mix all the ingredients, allow to macerate for a couple of hours, stirring a few times.

Serve as dessert with coconut cookies.

Blue Danube Peep Bavarian Cream Pie

1 cookie crumb or graham cracker pie crust

1 four-serving box blue gelatin

1 cup boiling water

1 cup whole milk (or half-and-half/light cream)

3 cups cold, but thawed non-dairy whipped topping

2 tablespoons Curacao or similar blue liqueur

15 (1 package of 3 boxes) blue Peeps

1 cup fresh blueberries for garnish

Freeze crust while you prepare the pie filling. Pour one cup boiling water over gelatin in heat proof bowl. Stir to dissolve gelatin. Add 1 cup cold milk and liqueur. Blend well and refrigerate until gelatin has thickened, but not set firm. Fold in thawed topping to chilled gelatin mixture. Mix completely so that no streaks remain, but avoid overworking. Spoon filling into frozen crust. Snip apart each family of Peeps. Arrange in concentric circles atop pie filling. Use fresh blueberries to fill in gaps between Peeps. Refrigerate for at least three hours. Peeps refrigerated for longer than 36 hours will begin to “weep” and ooze melted sugar. Serve with Blue Genie cocktail or blue Kool-aid

Rice Krispy Peeps

Decapitate 20 peeps, reserving the heads. (Fresh peeps work best). Make Rice Krispy Treats according to package directions, substituting peep bodies for the marshmallows. Pour mixture into pan and press into place.

Mentally divide the pan into squares and press one peep head into each “square” while the mixture is still warm. Cool and cut into squares. So festive!

Information and recipes courtesy wikipedia.com, peephut.org and Epicurious.com.