In December of 2015, the Rabbinical Assembly, an international council of Conservative rabbis, had a meeting and decided that the 800-year-long prohibition against eating corn, rice, and legumes on Passover had gone on long enough. No one knew why it started and no one could provide a solid reason to continue, especially since a lot of Jews, particularly Mediterranean Jews (including Israelis) and Reform Jews, had already given up on it. Plus, it seemed unkind to ask vegan Jews to go without a major source of protein for eight days. So, huzzah! Tacos for everyone (except the Orthodox)!
The end of the prohibition also means that we can have food with corn syrup during Passover. Do you know how many foods contain corn syrup? Now future generations will be spared intense lunchroom debates over the appropriateness of drinking chocolate milk on Passover. (Yes, this was part of my adolescence.) And now we can eat Peeps!
Just Born, the manufacturer of Peeps, has, however, so far ignored this great change. Yes, it’s true, there have been some problems in the Peeps supply chain this year and we should be grateful to have the traditional chicks and bunnies back. But chicks and bunnies are inextricably tied to Easter. Is it wrong for Jews to want a little something of their own?
Then it occurred to me that I could make my own damned Peeps. Peeps are essentially marshmallows coated in sugar. Homemade Peeps recipes abound on the internet. How hard could it be? (Going by my previous experiences with marshmallows, very.) But I didn’t want to make chicks and bunnies. I wanted Peeps that reflected my own culture. In a flash, it came to me: I would make Peeps in the shape of the Ten Plagues!
I spent an afternoon canvassing Peeps recipes. I considered using a vegan recipe because gelatin is, technically, not kosher at any time of year. But, as Sharrona Pearl taught us all the other day, plant-based gelatin doesn’t hold its shape very well, and, aside from sugar, the whole point of Peeps is the shape. Also, I don’t keep kosher. So I decided to go with a recipe posted by Molly Yeh on Food52, supplemented with instructions from The Kitchn for the best way to cut out shapes. (Yeh also included advice about flavoring the Peeps, but I am boring and just used vanilla.) I watched piping videos on YouTube, which were very soothing and, like all internet cooking videos, did not translate to real life at all. And then I plotted the best way to recreate the plagues in marshmallow form. Late at night, when I couldn’t sleep, I imagined elaborate piping strategies.
Making homemade Peeps is very fun and I highly recommend it, even if you lack piping skills, as I do. If it’s important to you to make recognizable shapes, pipe the marshmallow into a silicon mold and wait 10 minutes for it to set. Or you can spread the marshmallow out into a cake pan, let it set, and then cut out shapes with a cookie cutter. (You can also, in theory, pipe the marshmallow directly into the cookie cutter, but I didn’t try this.) It’s also very easy and enjoyable to make your own sanding sugar by tossing gel food coloring and sugar together in a plastic baggie and then letting it dry out for a few minutes. To make designs, like faces, melt some chocolate and apply it to the Peeps either with a toothpick or by spooning it into a plastic sandwich bag and cutting off a corner for piping. As you work, sing songs you vaguely remember from your days of Jewish nursery school like the immortal “Frog Song.” (A note: you will need an electric mixer, preferably a standing one.)
And now the moment of truth:
This activity is, of course, completely adaptable to Easter and other occasions that do not involve Jews. The Peeps themselves, in my humble opinion, taste fairly good, except that I overdid the cooking spray on the flat batch, so the backs are a bit oily. The piped batch was good, though, if slightly mushier than factory-made Peeps. In the future, perhaps I will celebrate all holidays with homemade Peeps. A whole world of celebration awaits!
P.S.: The cleanup was not as terrible as I’d feared, largely because marshmallows are really nothing but sugar and dissolve in hot water.