Thursday, April 21, 2011

Friends Don't Let Friends Eat Stale Marshmallows

I hate Peeps.  However, I have several friends that seem to adore them.  I cannot in good conscience let this behavior continue.  I feel obligated to provide them a quality product.  I mean, Easter only comes once in a year, why waste good sugar on bad candy?

Taking matters into my own hands, I decided to craft a homemade version of those stale, artificial tasting creations...

Homemade Peeps
Modified from The Kitchn

cooking spray
3 packets (each packet is typically about 2 1/4 tsp) unflavored gelatin powder
1/2 cup, plus 2 Tbsp cold water
1 Tbsp lemon extract
6 - 10 drops of yellow food coloring (depends on how vivid you want your candy)
3/4 cup water
1 1/4 cup light corn syrup
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Let me start this recipe by telling you that you need a stand mixer with a whisk attachment to do this.  The handheld mixer will not be powerful enough.

Spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking spray, ensuring that there is a thin film of spray on every inner surface and corner.  Set aside.

Now you need to bloom the gelatin, or prepare it for use.  Gelatin needs to be pre-moistened to prevent clumping in your recipe.  I just do this in the bowl of my mixer, removed from the base.  Add the 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp of cold water and lemon extract to the bowl and sprinkle in the 3 packets of powdered gelatin.

Whisk the powder and water together with a fork to break up clumps.

It will start to resemble the consistency of applesauce, this expansion earns it the name of blooming.  I add the drops of yellow food coloring at this point, but you don't need to stir it in yet.  Then, attach the bowl to base of mixer and move on to next step...

Combine the 3/4 cup of water with the corn syrup, salt, and sugar in a 4-quart saucepan.  Cook on medium heat on stovetop and bring to boil.

As it is coming to a boil, you will notice sugar crystals forming on the sides of the pot.  This can make your mixture gritty, and you have a couple of ways of counteracting this.

You can wet a pastry brush in warmish water and brush it down the sides of the pot to dissolve the sugar crystals.  Or, you can just cover the pan for 2 minutes once it starts to boil and the steam can wash the sides of the pot.   Do not stir the sugar mixture once it starts to boil, however, or it may crystallize further.

Now clip on a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan and continue to boil the sugar mixture until it reaches 245 degrees F.

Turn off the burner and remove the candy thermometer.  Turn on the mixer to medium speed with the whisk attachment, and then using hot pads to protect your hands, slowly and carefully pour the hot sugar syrup into the bowl of gelatin.  The mixture may foam a little so just take your time adding the syrup.

When all the syrup has been added, cover the bowl with a towel and increase the mixer speed to high.  I use the towel to prevent any sticky splatters in my kitchen.

Whip for 10 - 12 minutes, until it looks like glossy meringue.  Check on the mixture a couple of times during this period and you can add any extra food coloring now if you need it, while the whisk is still turning.

Turn down the mixer speed to medium low and slowly lift the arm of the mixer so that some of the marshmallow mixture can spin off into the bowl.

Turn off the mixer completely and using a stiff silicone spatula scrape the marshmallow mixture into your greased pan.  It will be very stiff and sticky.  Try to work quickly before it starts firming up.

Lightly moisten your fingers with water (so the marshmallows won't stick) to smooth down the top and even out the mixture within the pan.  Let it sit uncovered for 12 - 15 hours to completely set and cure.

Once your marshmallows have cured, turn them onto a cutting board.

You can cut them into squares with a sharp knife, or use holiday cookie cutters, like I did.  I chose a bunny and chick.

NOTE: Cookie cutters will not likely use every single inch of your marshmallows, so you can trim the remainders into square shapes so as not to waste any goodies.

Marshmallows typically need to be coated in a mixture of (1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and 1/2 cup cornstarch) so they will not stick together when stored.  To make Peeps, I modified this recipe slightly.  First, I took about 1/2 cup granulated sugar and blended in about three drops of yellow food coloring.

I always have some marshmallow mixture on  hand stored in a lidded plastic container, so then I added about 2 Tbsp of that to my yellow granulated sugar and mixed well.  I used this yellow sugar mixture to coat my homemade Peeps.

These Peeps will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for several weeks.  Leftover marshmallow coating can be stored in an airtight container indefinitely.

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