This Easter, wow your brunch guests with a tray of adorable Peeps. Yes, you read that correctly—but we’re not talking about your average drugstore candy. These Peeps, or rather “Peep-a-Boo’s,” are an elevated take on the classic treat, dreamed up by none other than sugar mastermind Dominique Ansel.
Home cooks be warned: this recipe is not for the faint of heart, as it requires both marshmallows and caramel made from scratch. However, Ansel promises it’s worth the effort, telling InStyle, “Caramel adds a different level of texture and flavor to the marshmallow; whereas marshmallow is super light and fluffy in texture, caramel adds a bit of chewiness and a deeper, darker flavor.”
Up for the challenge? Try the recipe below. (Alternatively, you can pick up one of these cute chicks at Ansel’s Soho and West Village shops by pre-ordering them from his online shop ($24; dominiqueanselkitchen.com.)
Yields 12 chicks
Clean egg carton
3 uncut piping bags or 2 uncut bags and 1 parchment paper cornet
Hand blender (recommended)
Stand mixer with whisk attachment
Ateco #803 plain tip (5/16-inch/0.8 cm diameter)
For the Eggshells
12 whole eggs (large, in white shells)
Nonstick cooking spray
For the Soft Caramel
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup light corn syrup
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp fleur de sel
For the Marshmallow
4 tsp powdered gelatin
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
2 tbsp honey
1/4 cup + 1/2 tbsp water
1/3 cup yellow sanding sugar
1 tbsp dark chocolate, finely chopped and tightly packed (for decoration)
1. To prepare the eggshells: Using egg scissors, remove the narrow point of the eggshells. Make sure to remove any small fragments as you cut. Empty the eggs (you can save the yolks and whites for another recipe or for breakfast the next day). Carefully peel away and discard the inside membrane from the eggshell.
2. Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lay out paper towels on the work surface.
3. Gently place the empty eggshells into the boiling water and let them simmer for 1 minute. Carefully remove the shells with a slotted spoon. Place the shells hole down on the paper towels to drain out any excess water. Let the shells cool completely.
4. Lightly coat the inside of the eggshells with nonstick spray. Rub the spray evenly over the interior of the shells with your finger to make sure the surface is covered. This will help ensure that the marshmallow does not stick to the shell. Reserve the shells in a clean egg carton until ready to fill. (Try to avoid getting any nonstick spray on the outside of the eggshell to keep it clean.)
5. To make the caramel: Combine the cream, corn syrup, and brown sugar in a small pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat and set aside, keeping it warm.
6. Place an empty medium pot over high heat. When the pot is hot, sprinkle a thin, even layer of granulated sugar into the pot. As the sugar melts and caramelizes, slowly whisk in the rest of the sugar, one small handful at a time, until the sugar has been added. (This method of cooking sugar is called a “dry caramel” because it starts with a dry pan and no water. When caramel starts with water, it is called a “wet caramel.” I prefer the dry version because it allows you more control over the caramelization.)
7. When all of the sugar has caramelized and turned deep amber, slowly stream in one-third of the hot cream, whisking constantly. Be careful! The cream might cause the caramel to splatter. When incorporated, whisk in the next third, and then the last. (A whisk will work well here, but if you have a hand blender, using this will re-emulsify the fat quickly and give the caramel a smoother consistency.) When all of the cream has been added, turn down the heat to low and continue to whisk the caramel until it reaches 221°F, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, whisk in the fleur de sel, pour into a medium heatproof bowl, and let cool completely.
8. When the caramel has cooled, stir well to emulsify any fat that may have separated. Fill a piping bag with the caramel and refrigerate until needed.
9. To make the marshmallow: Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small bowl. Stir and let sit for about 20 minutes to bloom.
10. Combine the granulated sugar, corn syrup, honey, and water in a medium pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook without stirring until the syrup reaches 248°F. (This is the temperature at which sugar reaches the “soft ball” stage. It will hold a shape without becoming hard and brittle.)
11. Carefully pour the hot syrup into a stand mixer fitted with a whisk and add the bloomed gelatin. Let it cool for 5 minutes, until warm. Then whip on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to whip for 4 to 6 minutes. The mixture will turn white and quadruple in volume. When the marshmallow is firm enough to hold a peak, stop whipping.
12. Cut the tip of a piping bag to snugly fit a #803 plain tip. Using a rubber spatula, place 2 large scoops of marshmallow in the bag so that it is one-third full. Push the marshmallow down toward the tip of the bag. Remove the caramel-filled piping bag from the refrigerator and cut an opening about ½ inch wide straight across the tip of the bag.
13. To assemble the chicks: Working as quickly as possible, assemble the chicks one at a time. While the marshmallow is still warm, pipe it into an eggshell to fill it three-quarters full. Set the piping bag with marshmallow aside. Pipe a cherry-size dollop of the soft caramel into the center of the marshmallow. Pick up the marshmallow-filled piping bag and fill the eggshell to the brim. Then, holding the tip ¾ to 1 inch above the egg, pipe a marshmallow teardrop on top, pulling the tip away as you finish. This will form a small beak for the chick. (If the marshmallow starts to cool and set, microwave it in the bag for 5 to 10 seconds.) Immediately sprinkle with yellow sanding sugar to cover all exposed areas of the marshmallow. Continue filling the remaining eggshells one at a time. Refill your piping bag with marshmallow as necessary. (If you wait too long to sprinkle the sanding sugar, it will not stick to the marshmallow. Speed is very important at this stage.)
14. Melt a small amount of dark chocolate in the microwave. Mix it gently, making sure it is not too hot. Pour the chocolate into the third piping bag or the parchment paper cornet and cut a very small opening across the tip, about the size of the tip of a pen. Pipe 2 small tots onto each chick’s head for “eyes.” Let set at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve at room temperature.
Marshmallow chicks can be kept in a closed airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Leftover marshmallow can be spread onto a sheet pan and cut into squares for hot chocolate. Leftover caramel can last for 7 days in the refrigerator.
Excerpted from Dominique Ansel: The Secret Recipes, published by Simon & Schuster, October 2014.