Thursday, March 13, 2008

Highbrow Meets Lowbrow: Salted Caramel and Dark Chocolate Covered Peeps

In a fit of extreme boredom, my dear friend Kristen challenged me to a food blog throwdown of Jerz (her) vs. Lawnguyland (me). The first challenge: Peeps.

Why Peeps? Because...
  • it’s almost Easter and Peeps are everywhere
  • I think Peeps are simultaneously disgusting and awesome
  • I got an email from Jacques Torres the other day (ok, not really from Jacques himself) advertising chocolate covered Peeps bunnies and I thought “I could totally make those at home, Jacques! Why should I give you my hard-earned cash when I can make mine for mere pennies and use classic Peeps chicks instead of making Cyclops bunnies
I forwarded the email to Kristen, and before I knew it, war had been declared on me.

I decided that I couldn’t make an ordinary chocolate covered Peep, as that would be far too pedestrian. What could I add…I quickly ran over a list of recent food trends and then it came to me: sea salt caramel. The saltiness and crunch of the caramel would balance out the diabetes-inducing sweetness and smushiness of the sugar-coated marshmallow chick, and the dark chocolate would be a sort of buffer for the two: rich, strong, and firm yet yielding.

And thus a highbrow Peep was born.

I have to admit that I was surprised by just how good these are! I was actually somewhat disgusted by the concept, but I decided to go ahead and make them for the sake of making them. Well, it turns out they're really really good. So good, in fact, that I have to start giving them away before the bf and I eat them all.

For more Peeps awesomeness, check out last year’s finalists in The Washington Post’s Peeps contest.

Salted Caramel and Dark Chocolate Covered Peeps
(makes 18-20)

18-20 Peeps Chicks (I used the purple ones, of course)

Salted caramel:
½ cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ¼ teaspoons coarse sea salt
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Chocolate shell:
16 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used Ghirardelli 60% chips)
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt


Line a large baking sheet with foil. Separate the Peeps. Insert a toothpick into the tail end of each Peep, leaving about 1” of the toothpick out, and place the Peeps on the lined baking sheet. Set aside.

Put the cream, butter, and salt in a small saucepan set over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and remove the pan from the heat.

Put the sugar, water, honey, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Stir the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook until the mixture is a light golden brown (this will take about 3-5 minutes).

Reduce the heat to medium low. Slowly pour in the cream mixture while stirring constantly. The mixture will bubble violently, so make sure you pour in the cream VERY slowly and stir constantly the whole time. Continue stirring until the temperature reaches approximately 254° F (hard ball stage); this will take about 12-14 minutes. [Note: if you want to make chewy caramels, you can use this exact recipe, but heat the mixture to 244° - 248° F – this will ensure it is still in the firm ball stage.]

Remove the pan from the heat. Working quickly, dip each Peep into the caramel, making sure to coat the entire surface. (Be careful – if you dip them for too long, the marshmallow will melt and you will end up with a deformed gooey Peep – and no one wants that.) Let the excess caramel drip off and place each Peep onto the foil-lined baking sheet. Repeat until all of the Peeps are coated. Note: if the caramel starts to get thick (and it will), stir the caramel over low heat for up to 30 seconds to thin it out, then resume dipping. Let the caramel coating cool until it is hard (at least an hour and a half).

When the caramel is hard, melt the chocolate in a medium sized bowl set over simmering water or in the microwave. (I did this in the microwave – heat the chocolate on medium power for about 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds.) [Note: If you want to be proper, you can temper the chocolate; do this by melting ¾ of the chocolate as directed above. Remove the chocolate from the heat, then add the remaining chocolate and stir until all of it is melted. The temperature should drop to 88°– 90° F.]

Dip each caramel-coated Peep into the chocolate and let the excess chocolate drip off. Place the dipped Peeps onto the foil-lined baking sheet and sprinkle each one a pinch of salt. Let the shell cool until hard and shiny, about 2 hours.

Store the coated Peeps in an airtight container for up to 1 week (but they’ll probably be devoured by then).

Endnote: these highbrow Peeps were featured over at Serious Eats on the Friday before the Easter weekend!


kristen said...

well arent you fancy!

you better be sending me a sample of your 'highbrow' peeps!

i may actually get home before 3am tonight and start mine...

i still promise to be complete redneck trash with mine ;)

Unknown said...

These things are dangerously good. Whether or not you like Peeps, I'm pretty sure you'll like these.

Anonymous said...

Yes!! Drown these chickies in caramel and chocolate!! We didn't know this has been going on. Thanks for the link on the Peeps contest. Geez, what will foodies come up with next? :)

Rachel said...

That's really cute, I didn't realize that Peeps were vegetarian friendly. I thought they contained gelatin. That opens up my Easter treat plans.

K8teebug said...

They might not be completely vegetarian, but everyone has to cheat a little every once in a while.

Especially at Easter.

roopa said...

Rachel – Many vegetarians (myself included) do not have a problem with gelatin, as it is a by-product of meat production and not the actual flesh of the creature. Gelatin is certainly not vegan or kosher, and I make no claims that these little dipped chickies are either of those things. But Peeps are perfectly ok for most vegetarians.

kristen said...

re: the vegetarianness of peeps...

1. they are more vegetarian than leather shoes, which 98% of vegetarians wear...

2. if the world stopped eating meat and wearing leather, i am willing to bet a gazillion dollars that NO ONE would kill any animals inorder to make peeps... for that reason, i agree with you, roopa, that there is no harm/no foul in eating them...

regardless - if i was concerned that roopa was accidentally violating her own eating ethics, i'd email her directly rather than post a passive-aggressive comment on her blog...

malini said...

I must say that I will never be able to make this. Like you don't know!
However I must say that I enjoyed reading all the conversations and events that inspired you to make this chocolate covered peeps.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could eat peeps, 'cause these look yummy. but I don't eat gelatin, so I'll just look and drool.

Rachel said...

Roopa. I wasn't implying that you said they were vegetarian, I just know you are and this is a vegetarian blog, so I (wrongly, obviously) thought that Peeps must be gelatin free. I personally don't know any vegetarians who eat gelatin (besides you) and was trying to think of some vegetarian/vegan treats for a friend and was excited by the prospect of making something with Peeps for them since they love marshmallow and most marshmallows have gelatin in them.

I can't imagine what someone could possibly think that the comment was passive agressive at all. I was just expressing my excitment that they were vegetarian.

kristen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kristen said...

Rachel, if you dont think you are being passive aggressive, i suggest you get yourself a dictionary...

John said...

These sound tasty. Certainly a more appetizing use than the Peeps Pictures for the Washington Post!

Meghan said...

these look awesome.

i imagine that being a vegatarian your entire life, you'd know to look into what food you were eating.

toro said...

I live in japan.
I am studying about ice cream and sugary foods.
And I would especially like to collect data about ice cream.

Because of the link to your site.
We hope to link this site please!

Karyn said...

I never liked Peeps, so I don't mind too much that they're not vegetarian.

It would be hilarious, though, to make homemade marshmallows in chick shapes, then go from there.

I think that would be beyond my skills, though.

chio said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chio said...

My sister was sharing your blog with me and I got very excited to see these peeps. I am definitely making these next Easter!
I had 50 peeps this year (10 in each color, five colors), and my bf and I battered and deep-fried them. FRIED PEEPS
You have to keep a good eye on them though, or the marshmallow starts leaking and burns in the oil. Tastes like an airy donut with a gooey surprise inside.

thanks for sharing,

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