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For my entire life, all the fanfare surrounding the little yellow marshmallow chicks has eluded me. Sure they're charming, precious, cute (how can they not be with a name like Peeps?), but I've never much liked eating them. Too plain, too sweet. They were always the last thing left in my Easter basket. After a few weeks of lounging around in the plastic grass, my poor stale Peeps would be dried up and hard as a rock. Occasionally, a stealth Peep would sink to the bottom and make it back into next year's basket after getting wrapped up with the grass.
Well the chicks in Peepdom have finally won my heart. You can't beat a homemade marshmallow recipe, and chocolate soars them over the top. And I don't mean just dipped in chocolate either—these Peeps are chocolate through and though. They're light, chewy, and rich with cocoa.
After pulling out my go-to marshmallow recipe, I pictured myself simply adding a few tablespoons of cocoa to the batter, filling a pastry bag, and then piping away. Well, as with most of the "simple" recipes, it's never quite that easy. Sometimes the recipes with the fewest ingredients give the most problems. These were a case in point. Marshmallows themselves are quite easy to mix up. You start by boiling a mixture of sugar, water, and corn syrup to the soft ball stage—a candy term which means that the sugar syrup will form a soft ball when dropped in ice water. Then you simply add softened gelatin and whip the mixture until it becomes soft and billowy. Finally, you pour it into a mold until it's set.
There wasn't a problem with adding the cocoa to the marshmallows to make them chocolaty. My frustrations started when I tried to pipe the Peeps. Twice I wound up with loose blobs instead of chicks. The problem? Not waiting long enough for the mixture to thicken before piping (a pan usually holds the unset marshmallows in place). The solution? After whipping the mixture until light and fluffy, I plopped a test spoonful onto a plate. If it held its shape, I was good to go. If it fizzled into a puddle like the Wicked Witch of the West, I knew that setting the pan in an ice bath was in order. After a few minutes of chilling time, the mixture thickened up and I was in business.
Piping the Peeps takes a little finesse. You may wind up with a creature that's a cross between an elephant and a duck, but that's the fun of it. After breathing life into my little chicklets with a quick piping of chocolate eyes, I looked down on my beautiful clutch like one proud mama hen. And then I ate them.
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About the Author: Yvonne Ruperti is a food writer, recipe developer, former bakery owner, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Easy Artisan Bread. You can also watch her culinary stylings on the America's Test Kitchen television show. She presently lives in Singapore and is currently at work constructing her new blog, http://shophousecook.com/ .
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