Yes to Yummy

Healthier Homemade Peeps (gluten-free and naturally-sweetened)

April 6, 2014 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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Oh my goodness. It’s a marshmallow Peep, and one that won’t make you glow in the dark from the amount of chemicals beneath its friendly, squishy exterior!

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Keep paddling, peeps! You shall soon arrive in my mouth!

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…or perhaps driving there would be easier? Up to you, bunny. As long as you’re still delicious when I eat you.

Every year, those colorful, sugary critters on the corner of EVERY drugstore aisle taunt you with their supposed tastiness. While Peeps aren’t absolute calorie-bombs (each at 28 a pop), I’m more concerned with the quality of those ingredients, namely the presence of corn syrup, food coloring, and carnauba wax, which is also used in making car tires. Sounds scrumptious, right?

Oh, and a word about food coloring: I shall never, ever use it AGAIN. A few weeks ago, I was helping out in my high school’s preschool, making oobleck (that not-quite-a-solid-nor-a-liquid stuff from Dr. Seuss) with the kids, and I thought it would be cool to make the goop a color, so I let them pick out some food coloring to use.

Well, one of the little boys didn’t listen to my instructions and opened the bottles of purple and blue food coloring without permission. When I reached over to stop him and close the little plastic tubes, I got the stuff all over my hands. Naturally, I went to the bathroom to go wash it off. And guess what?

It stayed, almost in its entirety, even with hot water and soap.

After five more washes, it still hadn’t started to fade.

Needless to say, I had purple and blue fingers for the rest of the day, and the blue on my thumb didn’t completely come out until the following Saturday. I don’t know what was in that food coloring that made it so potent, but I know that I certainly wouldn’t want to eat it.

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Luckily, these peeps are colored with only natural pigments: I used freeze-dried apples and parsley for the green, mangoes for the yellow, strawberries for the pink, and blueberries for the purple. The freeze-dried fruit provides not only great color, but also a little burst of flavor when they melt on your tongue.

In the words of a taste-tester, these homemade Peeps are, “Magical.” They are incredibly delicate, melting away after only a single chew of their marshmallow-y goodness. While they may look difficult, these little guys are incredibly easy to make, provided you follow through with the instructions and keep a watchful eye on all of your ingredients.

Best of all, homemade marshmallows are revelations: they taste nothing like their store-bought counterparts. Even if you hate marshmallows, you’ll love these baby bunnies. They’re just too cute not to adore, don’t you think?

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Ready to make a healthier, naturally-sweetened treat for the spring season that EVERYONE will love? I sure am! Let’s get started.

Adapted from THIS RECIPE.

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In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together 2 1/2 teaspoons of gelatin (I recommend getting a good-quality brand online) with 1/4 cup of cold water until the gelatin dissolves and the mixture becomes pasty. Set aside while you make the simple syrup.

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In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of organic sugar (or coconut sugar or maple crystals, if you prefer) with 1/3 cup of water. Whisk often to help dissolve the sugar, bring to a boil over medium-low heat, and heat to 238 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Watch that sugar like a hawk! You don’t want it to burn: that would be AWFUL. (Trust me: I’ve burned a lot of sugar in my day.)

Once the sugar reaches the desired temperature, pour it immediately into the prepared gelatin. Using the whisk attachment on the stand mixer, beat on medium-high until light, fluffy, and almost stiff, about 8 to 10 minutes.

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If you find that the mixture gets too stiff, don’t worry! Just add a little more water to compensate: only a teaspoon or so, though, because you don’t want the marshmallows to be super loose.

Using a small ice cream scoop or two small spoons, divide the marshmallow mixture between the 24 spaces in THIS silicone mold, which you can purchase at a Michael’s craft store or on Amazon. I’m sure you can also make these marshmallows in a large glass dish, but they won’t be, you know, bunny-shaped.

If you’re worried about the marshmallows sticking, grease each cavity with a little coconut oil.

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Transfer the mold to the fridge and let set for at least 4 hours, preferably closer to 7 or 8. I would’ve liked to have waited longer to pop these out, but as we all know, I’m not the most patient person on earth.

So whenever you’re ready, pop the marshmallows out of the pan and set aside on a plate while you prepare your fruit-flavored coloring.

Using a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle, grind a handful of freeze-dried fruit with 1 tablespoon of arrowroot powder and 1 tablespoon of organic sugar (or coconut sugar or maple crystals, if you prefer). No clumps of fruit should remain and the colors should be very potent. You can make…

  • GREEN: freeze-dried Granny Smith apples with a little dried parsley or mint (don’t go overboard)
  • PINK: freeze-dried strawberries or raspberries (I prefer strawberries because they are sweeter and have fewer seeds)
  • YELLOW: freeze-dried mangoes or bananas (I prefer mangoes for a stronger tint)
  • PURPLE: freeze-dried blueberries

Once you have selected your color (or colors), place each marshmallow in the powder and use a fork to spread it all over the outer layer. Pick up the Peep with your hands to shake off the excess and place on a plate.

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To make eyes for your Peeps, combine 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder with 1 tablespoon of water. Using a toothpick, dot the chocolate mixture in a triangle to make two eyes and a nose for your critter.

Eat immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to 2 days. These are best consumed sooner rather than later, but I don’t think they’ll last too long, anyway.

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Now you can officially chill with your Peeps–and in a more healthful manner, too!

What is your favorite Easter or spring treat? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!


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