After 50 years in the business, Peeps, America’s favorite sugar-coated, neon marshmallows, are the still the talk of Easter. Adults fill Easter baskets with them, children (and NASA) conduct science experiments with them, office workers jokingly share them, and “serious” news sources like The Associate Press, CNN and Life Magazine report on them. Fortune Small Business even tried to psycho-analyze their popularity, and interviewed experts who suggested the little eyes painted on Peeps play into America’s “arrogance” and “increasing concern with ourselves”.
While this attention and analysis seems ridiculous when considering the subject matter, it speaks to just how much impact something sweet, colorful and fun can have.
Peeps are something fun to eat, talk about, and buy, and its popularity is as simple as that. Just Born, the company that makes Peeps, has been smart enough not to over complicate the situation. Even though Peeps are now mass produced by machines, they maintain the same shape they had when squeezed one by one from a pastry tube. In an overcomplicated world this simple strategy works, and Americans spend an average of $80 million dollars on 1.2 billion Peeps each year.
So what happens once Easter ends and the Peep show is over? The sugar coated variety may be gone, but New Yorkers will still be in full supply of regular marshmallows. Fresh, homemade marshmallows are the latest trendy dessert and can be found in bakeries and grocery stores throughout the city. Some marshmallows are even too cool to mention by name, like those at The City Bakery where they simply ask you “with or without” when ordering a hot chocolate. The new Brooklyn chocolate shop, Baked, makes vanilla and chocolate marshmallows the size of small bricks. Whole Foods carries the entire line of Tiny Trapeze marshmallows in lemon, vanilla and chocolate flavors and also have an option for vegans. If you’re feeling brave you can even make your own with the recipe from Executive Pastry Chef Jason Licker listed below. Wherever you are in New York City you’re certain to find a fluffy marshmallow that will hold you over until next Easter when the neon Peeps return.
by Executive Pastry Chef Jason Licker
5 oz. light corn syrup
33 oz. sugar
8 oz. egg whites
18 gelatin sheets, softened4 tablespoons ground cinnamon
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
1. Grease and line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper, grease again, and set aside.
2. Using an electric stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whip egg whites on low speed until frothy.
3. In the meantime, in a medium saucepan, combine sugar and corn syrup and just enough water to resemble wet sand. Cook the sugar to 121°C or to “soft ball” stage.
4. While the mixer is running, pour the sugar mixture over the egg whites and increase mixer speed to medium.
5. After a few minutes, add the softened gelatin and cinnamon and continue whipping for a good ten minutes until stiffened (but not too stiff).
6. Transfer the mixture to a prepared pan and set aside at room temperature for several hours to set.
7. To unmold marshmallows, sprinkle confectioners’ sugar onto a smooth work surface and turn over the pan. Peel away and discard parchment paper. Sprinkle surface with more confectioners’ sugar to prevent sticking. Cut desired shapes in marshmallows using a round cutter or sharp knife. Store marshmallows in an airtight container until needed.