Making holiday Peepers with chef Alison Barshak
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Making holiday Peepers with chef Alison Barshak
|ï¿½2009 Courtney Grant Winston|
Marshmallow Peeps, those sweet, explodable treats, are the quintessential Easter-basket filler.ï¿½ Though the Just Born Peeps will satisfy sugar craving-kiddies, homemade marshmallows are a fit for a foodie's basket.
Chef Alison Barshak has been making her own version of the classic marshmallow chicks, which she dubs Peepers, at her restaurant Alison at Blue Bell and the newly-opened Alison two.ï¿½ Barshak got interested in the many variations of the pillowy puffs when friend Eileen Talanian published her book Marshmallows: Homemade Gourmet Treats (Gibbs Smith).
"Last year when Eileen's book came out," says Barshak, "my whole kitchen did a marshmallow cocktail party and paired them with wines and passed hors d'oeuvres. We did ancho chili marshmallows, red wine fluff and apple marshmallows in bacon and cheese sandwiches.ï¿½ Everyone like the savory marshmallows best."ï¿½ For Easter and Passover sweets, Barshak makes more conventional dessert marshmallows, flavored with Meyer lemon, raspberry and vanilla bean.
Marshmallows make appearances in more than just Easter baskets this time of year. "Everyone is always looking for ways to make Passover desserts taste good," says the chef. "You can't use dairy, and the rules are kind of complicated.ï¿½ The more processed the food is, the less likely it will conform to kosher laws.ï¿½ Marshmallows work because you're making your own syrup with sugar, instead of using corn syrup.ï¿½ I taught a kosher class in New York, and did a lot of research on kosher desserts. Marshmallows are great, because you can get kosher gelatin. Eileen's book does fluff frozen like a semi-freddo with no dairy or gelatin that is amazing."
But are marshmallows hard to make?ï¿½ Barshak doesn't think so. "You have to do it all at once -- once you start you have to finish it, and you have to realize you're going to get really sticky. That's just the way it is.ï¿½ It's not more difficult than anything else.ï¿½ I think it's fun!"
If getting covered in sugar sounds like your idea of a good time, click over the jump for Alison's method to make Peepers at home, adapted from Eileen Talanian's book.ï¿½ After all, homemade marshmallows "taste so much better than store-bought," says Barshak.ï¿½ "They're softer, and have a cleaner flavor.ï¿½ We flavor ours with Meyer lemon juice and raspberry, and they just taste like spring to me."
Alison at Blue Bell, 721 Skippack Pike, Blue Bell; 215-641-2660, alisonatbluebell.com
Alison two, 424 S. Bethlehem Pike, Ft. Washington; 215-591-0200, alisontwo.com
Housemade Chick Peepers
Recipe courtesy of Marshmallows: Homemade Gourmet Treats by Eileen Talanian
As used by Chef Alison Barshak, Alison two & Alison at Blue Bell
For Marshmallow Syrup
For the syrup:
1 cup water
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Make the heavy syrup first. Place the syrup ingredients in a small heavy sauce pot over medium heat and stir mixture with high heat spatula. When the mixture starts to boil, cover sauce pan for a few minutes. Remove the lid and insert a candy thermometer increasing to high until the mixture reaches 240 degrees. Do not stir as this will cause the mixture to crystallize. Remove from heat and let cool. (Note: you can substitute light corn syrup for marshmallow syrup in the Marshmallow Base recipe if you don't have the time or inclination to make this syrup.)
For the Bloom
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unflavored powdered gelatin
For the Marshmallow Base
3/4 cups water
1-1/4 cups marshmallow syrup
1-1/2ï¿½ cups Granulated cane sugar
Colored sugar for coating the peepers
powdered sugar, cornstarch, or a mixture of the two for coating
Piping bag fitted with 3/8-inch plain decorating tube
3-D food coloring tube and food coloring
First, make the Bloom: Stir the water and vanilla together in a measuring cup. Place the gelatin in a small bowl and add the water mixture, stirring with a fork or small whisk until perfectly smooth.
Next, make the Marshmallow Base: Place the water, marshmallow syrup, salt and sugar, in that order, into a 4-quart pan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Then place a lid on the pan and boil it, covered for 2 minutes. This step is essential in order to eliminate sugar crystals on the side of the pan that may cause the marshmallows to crystallize.
Remove the lid, insert a candy thermometer, and continue boiling until the thermometer reaches 250 degrees F. Do not stir the mixture once the lid has been removed. Remove the thermometer and gently stir in the bloomed gelatin.
Pour the batter into the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Beat it on high speed for 10 to 12 minutes, using the wire whisk attachment or the paddle beater. It will take a little longer to beat with the paddle. You can cover the mixer with a clean kitchen towel for the first 3 minutes to avoid splattering hot liquid on yourself.
At first, the marshmallow batter will look very watery; as it beats, it will become thick, white, and glossy, and will increase in volume by two- to threefold. If desired, use a small amount of food coloring to make colored peepers.
For the Peepers
Prepare a surface by spraying it with oil and lightly wiping it, or by generously sprinkling it with a coating mixture. Holding the piping bag so the tip is at a 45-degree angle to the surface, pipe a mound, then push the bag back and up to form a neck, giving a slight extra squeeze to form the head. Dip the finger and thumb of your free hand in water and pinch off the end to form the beak, gently pushing it down, if necessary. Sprinkle with colored sugar and allow to cure overnight, or allow them to cure for a few hours and coat them with your favorite coating. You can place the coating in a bag with some of the peepers and shake it to coat them. Be sure to brush off excess coating.
Use a 3-D food-coloring tube to paint eyes onto the peepers. Pack them in gift boxes and tie with pretty ribbons.
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