Intro to Cooking: Marshmallows (and Peeps!)

Easter is here! Well, almost. For me, that means I can finally have coffee again after going without it all through Lent. I don’t even drink that much—maybe a couple of cups per week—but I am seriously going insane over here without it. Whenever I walk into a coffee shop, I inhale that deep, heady scent and realize that I have to order tea or chai or a steamer instead. You can bet that I’m going to have a pot on as soon as Easter morning rolls around.

Besides indulging in Lent-withdrawn pleasures, one of other great things about Easter is Peeps. Honestly, they don’t even taste that good, but those little, tennis-ball-colored marshmallow chickies are endlessly fascinating to me. Put one in the microwave, and it balloons to the size of a basketball. Stick one to the wall, and it will still taste fine three years later. Now that’s something not every food can boast.

If you’re the DIY type, I guarantee that homemade marshmallows won’t let you down. They’re a tad involved, but they taste about one million times better than store-bought, and you can use them to make Peep shapes and cover them with colored sugar. Oh, and they are gorgeous. See what I mean? You will need a stand mixer or electric mixer for these, so if you’re on Spring Break, use your mother’s.

Ready to give it a try? Let’s go.

• Cooking spray
• 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
• 3 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin (just over 2 tablespoons)
• 1 cup cold water
• 2 cup granulated sugar
• 1/2 cup light corn syrup
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 2 egg whites
• 1 T. vanilla extract

1. Coat the inside of a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray, and sprinkle a light coating of confectioners’ sugar (not the whole half cup) in the dish.
2. Put half of the cold water in the stand mixer bowl, and pour the gelatin over it. Let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Put the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and the rest of the cold water in a saucepan. Stir the mixture with a whisk, and cook it on low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. When that happens, ramp up the heat a little and boil the mixture. Don’t stir. Keep it at a full boil for just over 10 minutes. Then grab it off the stove and pour it over the gelatin mixture.
4. Turn on the stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or use your electric mixer), and stir gently until the gelatin dissolves.
5. Shift the mixer to high speed and beat the stuff for six to 10 minutes, or until it’s thick and almost tripled in volume.
6. In a separate bowl, beat the two egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Don’t overbeat! Add the whites and the vanilla extract to the sugar batter, and beat on medium until everything is combined.
7. Use a spatula to transfer the mixture to the baking dish. Be careful because it is REALLY sticky. Sift about 1/4 cup of confectioners’ sugar on the top. Press plastic wrap over the top of the mixture, and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours.
8. Go over the edges of the pan with a knife, and invert the marshmallow blob onto a tray or cutting board. Spray a scissors (yes) with cooking spray, coat it with confectioners’ sugar, and use it to cut cubes of marshmallow. You can also spray cookie cutters to make fun Peep shapes.
9. Coat your marshmallows with colored yellow sprinkles, and add little chocolate pieces for Peep eyes.

Adorable, tasty, special and you did it all yourself!

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