Over Easy is a weekly food column by a 20-something woman who can barely cook an egg and just wants to learn how to throw together an elegant three-course meal for her friends.
I’m about to say something that is going to sound crazy, but hear me out: This spring, you should make your own marshmallow “Peeps.”
Why, you might be asking yourself, would you want to spend any of your precious time and effort making a DIY version of a cheap drugstore candy that most of us only eat once a year? (Maybe twice if you count those Halloween jack-o’-lantern ones, which I don’t because I’m not a freakin’ sicko.) Well, first of all, homemade Peeps taste better — more like an actual marshmallow, and less like a packing peanut that fell into a vat of syrup and nuclear waste. Secondly, unlike their mass-produced counterparts, your small-batch, artisanal Peeps won’t include carnauba wax, which is the main ingredient in car wax. Unless you want to add it, of course, which is a very bad idea but hey, they’re your Peeps!
Most important, though, your Peeps will make you the center of attention of any party lucky enough to have you as a guest. People will marvel at your boldness, creativity, and culinary expertise. “I didn’t even know you could make these at home!” they’ll say. Some will fall in love with you, others will resent you for the success you’ve achieved, but absolutely everyone will be talking about you and your Peeps.
My favorite part of making my own Peeps is that I got to use this recipe by Phillip @ SouthernFATTY.com (capitalized just like that). It’s fun, straightforward, and includes a mesmerizing GIF of proper Peep-piping technique, which is like ASMR for your eyeballs. And, because I don’t own basic kitchen gadgets like a handheld electric mixer and a food thermometer, it gave me an excuse to go to Target, which is like ASMR for your Sunday afternoon.
The first step to making handcrafted Peeps is to make your own colored sugar, which you do by mixing a cup of sugar with some food coloring in a gallon Ziplock bag. Phillip @ SouthernFATTY.com didn’t specify how many drops of food coloring to use, but I used 12 drops of plain yellow because I wanted mine to be as highlighter-bright as store-bought Peeps. If you’re feeling adventurous you could maybe try mixing two colors together, but that’s way above my pay grade. Once you add the food coloring to the bag, you get to mash the sugar and coloring together. “Toss it around, roll it, throw it. Whatever you need to do,” Phillip says. I rubbed the bag between my hands while sitting on my couch watching an old episode of Vanderpump Rules, which I just started, and is excellent.
To make the bodies of your Peeps, you pour a packet of gelatin over water, and while that sits, you heat a cup of sugar and ¼ cup of water in a saucepan “until it reaches soft ball stage,” which, as it turns out, does not mean that it will form into a lump the size and shape of a softball — so don’t hover over the stove asking, “Why the hell isn’t it a ball yet??” like I did. (The soft ball stage, I learned later, is the temperature at which sugar syrup, when dropped into cold water, forms a soft, flexible ball — between 235 and 240 degrees.) To check the temperature, I used my shiny new thermometer, which is technically a digital meat thermometer (not a candy thermometer like the recipe calls for) because that’s all Target had. Less than ideal, perhaps, but these were the cards the Target gods dealt me, and I vowed to make it work.
When the sugar was ready, I combined it with the gelatin in a bowl, and blended with my new mixer for ten minutes, until the mixture was somewhat stiff. Thankfully, only about a quarter of it managed to spray across my kitchen, face, and hair.
Finally, it was time for the piping. Because I had watched Phillip’s GIF approximately 632 times, I was confident in my Peep-forming abilities. I poured the marshmallow into a Ziploc bag (somehow dirtying two bowls, three spoons, and my dog in the process) and cut the corner off. Squeezing gently, I piped my first Peep out into a bed of yellow sugar. Here’s how he turned out:
Phillip says that if the shape doesn’t hold, the mixture might be too warm, and to let it cool for a couple of minutes. BUT if it cools down too much, the marshmallow starts to solidify, so it’s a race against the clock. Ah!! Timing aside, the hole I had cut in the Ziploc bag was too big, so the rest of my chicks turned out roughly the same as the first, though a few of them seemed to have clearly defined heads.
After spooning the rest of my yellow sugar on their bodies and sticking candy googly eyes on their heads, I looked down at my ten small, misshapen, sugary children gaping up at me, and was overwhelmed with love. While normal Peeps have a slightly cold, militant air about them, mine looked like a ragtag group of misfits who are forced onto a Little League baseball team together, and even though they all hate each other at first, eventually they realize their differences are what make them truly special and pull together to win the Big Game.
Admittedly, not everyone thought my children were as beautiful as I did. One person said they were “deeply unsettling,” and another called them a “living nightmare,” but when I brought them into work, my colleagues said they were “cute!” and “possibly the best thing that has ever happened at the office.” I was so proud of my li’l guys.
Sure, making your own Peeps is sticky, and unless you’re a piping expert, they’ll probably end up looking like little marshmallow turds, but it’s also an easy, fun way to spend an hour. And, when you bring them over to your friend’s cocktail party and spot a beautiful stranger lingering by the snack table, you can sidle up to them and, eyebrow seductively cocked say, “May I interest you in some Peeps I made myself?” Who knows, after their nightmares subside, maybe they’ll call you.
My report card
Attention-getting potential: A+++!
My Overall Performance: A