Scientists of tomorrow, it’s time for a little kitchen experiment! Easter “peeps” are American marshmallows in the shape of chicks, which become available around Easter. Lets cut out all the nasty additives and E numbers and learn how to make these at home. Experiment with different volumes of sugar to binding agent to see how they differ in texture and taste. Take part in the experiment at the end of the page and get in touch with your results!
Leaf gelatin (or vegetarian substitute), 1/2 cup of ice water, 2/3 cup of white sugar, pinch of salt, flavorings and colors of your choice.
# 1 – Lay the gelatin or substitute in 1/4 cup of ice water. Make a syrup with the sugar and rest of the water. Heat it until the sugar has dissolved. Be careful not to burn the pan (or yourself).
# 2 – Attach a whisk head to an electric mixer (if you don’t have one of these, kids can take it in turns to beat the mixture with a manual whisk, but it may take a little longer). Pour in the gelatin mixer and slowly start to add the hot syrup.
# 3 – Whisk the mixture for 15 minutes, it should be looking white and fluffy. After the 15 minutes you can add colors or flavors of your choice.
# 4 – Splodge the mixture on to a lined baking sheet. You can make what ever shapes you like, a peep is generally a tapered body with a small blob as a head. Now you can get creative and give the chicks a good dusting in what ever you fancy. Coconut flakes, grated chocolate, chopped nuts… it’s up to you! Leave them to set for a few hours and voila, you have a deliciously cute, homemade Easter treat! Enjoy!
But wait…… what else can you do with your marshmallows before gobbling them up? How about making monster marshmallows!
# 1 – Put a couple of peeps on to a paper plate and put in the microwave. Set the timer for 60 seconds. Have a look through the microwave glass, the marshmallows can grow to up to 4 times their original size!
# 2 – After the minutes cooking carefully remove the plate from the oven and wait a few seconds. Have a play with a marshmallow, is it still squishy? Has it gone hard? Has it changed color? If you mold one of the marshmallows into a different shape and leave it for a few minutes it will set in it’s new shape and turn crunchy!
The peeps are mainly sugar and water, and because of all that whisking they are full of tiny air bubbles. In a microwave the water molecules start to vibrate, which makes the water start to heat up. This in turn warms up the sugar, which will soften a little. The heat also means that the tiny air bubbles start to get hot.
The hot air in the enclosed marshmallow start to zoom round faster and faster, pushing against the soft sugar walls, which causes the expansion.
When the marshmallow is removed from the microwave it starts to cool again very quickly, and the hot bubbles start to shrink. The warm sugar starts to harden and go crunchy. Because some of the water evaporates in the process the marshmallow never goes back to it’s original soft squidgyness but stays hard and crunchy.
What happens if you add a cup of water to the microwave at the same time? Let us know how you get on!