DIY Peeps!

by kelly vass in ,


Those divisive, sugar-coated marshmallow chicks are (relatively) easy to make and taste way better than store bought! Marshmallow lovers, you're in for a treat!

 Homemade Peeps!

Homemade Peeps!

I have a confession to make: I'm a Peeps purist. 

I don't want red bunnies or green chickens. I don't want marshmallow carrots either. When I think of Peeps, only one image comes to mind: yellow chicks. 

yellow sugar

The other day, I was in a department store, perusing the kitchen section when I stumbled upon DIY marshmallow pans. They were designed to make knock-off Peeps using a "just add water mix," but the results were kind of weird looking. My Peeps-loving heart? Well, she shattered.

In that instant, I knew it was my duty to make my own, using real marshmallow, armed with nothing but a pastry bag and a prayer.

marshmallow

Before you start with these bad boys, you'll need a few items, like a mixer (stand or hand), a pastry bag with a 1/2" tip or a coupler with no tip, cocoa powder or brown food coloring and yellow sanding sugar--I made my own, which was really simple to do (add 1 cup of granulated white sugar to the base of a food processor, add a few drops of yellow food coloring and pulse until the color is incorporated. If you have more patience than me, blend the colored bits into the remaining sugar to work out any obvious bits. Clearly, patience is not my strong suit).

yellow sugar

Once the yellow sanding sugar is set, line a half sheet pan with aluminum foil and evenly spread the yellow sugar over the surface. Next, prepare your piping bag by cutting the tip off the plastic piping bag and inserting the coupler (no tip!). 

Once that's set: you're ready to make your mallows! 

I used the recipe by Elizabeth of SugarHero at About.com, which includes a neat photo tutorial. (Note: this recipe does not use corn syrup, so the finished Peeps have a looser consistency than regular marshmallows). You can also snag the recipe (and photos!) in my pal Casey Barber's book, Classic Snacks Made from ScratchIt's got a ton of delicious DIY recipes from marshmallow Peeps to goldfish crackers to copycat Hostess cupcakes. It's filled with homemade takes on your favorite childhood treats (okay, who am I kidding? I still love them all as an adult). Check it out!

Whichever recipe you choose, you'll follow the same basic technique, which I've demonstrated below. This is obviously my first video (there's no captions--sorry!), so go easy on me, kids! And remember, no matter what: have fun! If your Peeps don't come out perfectly the first time, you can always turn them into really sugary s'mores or puff them up in the microwave :P


Want more Easter Treats? Check out these recipes!

**Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click on one of the links and make a purchase on Amazon, I receive a tiny percentage of the purchase price, which I put towards things like ingredients and expensive things like web hosting. For those of you who choose to click & buy, THANK YOU!


Valentine's Day S'more Hearts

by kelly vass in , , , , ,


These sweet treats are perfect for sharing with your valentine, shipping to friends or for treating yo self!

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If you're a Valentine's Day hater, let me apologize now. I've got a few more posts headed your way in the next week. They're full of hearts, sprinkles, and sugar, which may or may not warrant a red-and-pink intervention on my part. SORRY NOT SORRY.

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In my last post, I told you I wanted to share some of the things I loved with you. Today, I'm gonna keep the theme going and share s'more (get it?--I told you there'd be puns! and no, not that kind). 

With that being said, it may come as no surprise that I love making marshmallows. The first time I made them, I was filled with this awesome sense of wonder that with a few ingredients, a Kitchenaid mixer, a candy thermometer and some patience, I could create the most fluffy mallows I had ever tasted. If you've never tried a homemade marshmallow, get yourself a candy thermometer and get on it! Trust me on this one: you'll never look at the store-bought kind the same way again. 

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These S'mores Hearts would make a great gift for your sweetheart or send some to your friends! I'm a big fan of sending sweets to my single friends on Valentine's Day and these were a huge hit last year. I always say that a marshmallow is like a hug in your mouth--so why not send your pals a hug sandwiched between cookies and topped with chocolate? Isn't that what any true friend would do?

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These s'mores have three basic components--homemade marshmallows, chocolate and homemade graham crackers. You can really use any recipe you'd like for the graham crackers or the marshmallows. I adapted mine from Smitten Kitchen with a nod to Alton Brown's recipe with the addition of molasses for depth. [I like that Deb from Smitten Kitchen *doesn't* use graham flour, as it can sometimes be tough to find]. I've also listed my recipe for raspberry marshmallows, but if you'd like to use a different recipe, like say, Chocolate Truffle Stout, Cinnamon, or Mint Marshmallows, go right ahead! The basic idea is to spread the mallow mixture in a pan, cut the cooled marshmallows using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut the graham cracker dough with the same cutter, bake the grahams, dip them in chocolate and sandwich the heart-shaped mallows in between. Easy peasy, right? Right.

These s'mores hearts were part of a Holiday Food Party, thrown by myself and 13 other amazing bloggers. From ice cream to cookies, plus red velvet, tarts, cupcakes & more, we've got plenty of sweets & treats for all your Valentine's needs, so be sure to check them all out! Whether you make one recipe or all 14, I have faith in you, grasshopper. Now go forth and spread heart-shaped cheer! 

Valentine's S'more Hearts

Make the mallows

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin (or, 2 packages Knox)
  • 1/3 cup seedless raspberry puree
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1/2 C light corn syrup
  • 1/4 C water
  • pinch of salt
  • pink food coloring (optional)

    For dusting the pan
  • 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/3 cup corn starch
  • 1 T canola oil or non-stick spray

Instructions

  1. Pour 1/3 cup raspberry puree, vanilla and 2 tablespoons water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Quickly stir. Sprinkle powdered gelatin over the top of raspberry mixture and allow to bloom, approximately 5 minutes. (Note, the mixture will shrivel and congeal and look gross. Don't be alarmed!)
  2. Meanwhile, combine corn syrup, sugar, 1/4 cup water in a small pan. Heat on medium until mixture reaches soft-ball stage, or 240F. Remove from heat. Allow to cool 3 minutes.
  3. Turn stand mixer on low, slowly begin drizzling hot syrup into the gelatin in a thin stream. Once combined, turn speed up to medium. Whisk for 5 minutes.
  4. Turn mixer to high. Whisk for 7 minutes. Add pink food coloring until desired color is reached. Turn off mixer
  5. Using a greased off-set spatula (It’s gonna get sticky and messy so if you want to sit and play and be messy, go for it. Otherwise, grease it up!) evenly spread the marshmallow out into the pan. Allow to set for at least 4 hours.
  6. Once set, cut into hearts with a heart-shaped cookie cutter dusted with corn starch/confectioner's sugar mixture. 

Make the grahams

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 5 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 10 ounces dark chocolate
  • sprinkles (optional, for decorating)

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, combine flours, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Pulse once or twice to combine. Add the butter and pulse a few more times until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. (You can also do this by hand using a pastry cutter and some good ol' fashioned elbow grease)
  2. In a small bowl, combine the wet ingredients--honey, molasses, milk and vanilla. Stir until it's well combined (make sure there's no honey or molasses stuck to the bottom--it's sneaky like that!). Add the wet ingredients to the flour/butter mixture and pulse a few times until the mixture starts to form a dough--it should be a little sticky. Place the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, shape into a 1" thick square and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. 
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
  4. Once the dough has been refrigerated, transfer to a floured surface. Cut the dough in half--keep one half in the fridge until you're ready to roll it out. Roll out the remaining half to a rectangle about 1/8" thick. Cut with heart-shaped cookie cutter and place the heart grahams on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and freeze for 15 minutes in the freezer. Repeat with the remaining half of the dough. 
  5. Bake 15-20 minutes or until just golden brown and firm to the touch. [Baking time will vary depending on your oven and the size of your cookie cutter--I've made 1" grahams that baked in roughly 12 minutes and larger 2" grahams that took around 18-20 minutes.] Allow to cool.
     

Assemble the s'mores!

Instructions

  1. Dip one side of the grahams in chocolate. Sprinkle with sprinkles or non-perils, if desired. Place dipped cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet and refrigerate 10 minutes to set the chocolate.
  2. Remove cookies from the refrigerator, place two graham chocolate side down and add a thin layer of chocolate to the graham side of each cookie. Place a marshmallow heart on top of one of the graham cracker hearts and top the marshmallow with the other graham cracker heart, forming a sandwich. Allow the s'mores to set for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.
  3. Enjoy!

Fall in love with all our #HolidayParty Recipes! Check them out below!

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1. Chocolate Dipped Sttrawberry Hi Hat Cupcakes (Gluten Free) from Pineapple and Coconut
2. Frosted Cream Cheese Cutout Cookies from Magnolia Days
3. White Chocolate Mousse with Frangelico from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
4. Chocolate Caramel Pretzel 'n Chip Tart from Gotta Get Baked
5. White Chocolate Cherry Brownies from The Messy Baker
6. Chocolate Champagne Cupcakes from The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen
7. Sugar-Free Blueberry Yogurt Truffles from What Smells So Good
8. Strawberry Cheesecake Heart Pie from Hungry Couple NYC
9. Red Velvet Heart Sandwich Cookies from Jen's Favorite Cookies
10. Chocolate Cannoli Cones from Created By Diane
11. Cherry Cheesecake Stuffed Cupcakes from Chocolate Moosey
12. Nutella Brownie Cheesecake No-Churn Ice Cream from Cupcakes and Kale Chips
13. Valentines Smores Hearts from Kelly Bakes
14. Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies from Roxana's Home Baking

**This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click on an Amazon affiliate link and buy something from Amazon, I get a teensy percentage of the sale, which I put towards things like buying sugar and webhosting (cuz that ain't cheap!). 


Year End Wrap Up: The Best of Y2K+13

by kelly vass in , ,


Admittedly, 2013 has been my favorite year of my life so far. It was by no means a cakewalk (no pun intended), but it's been a year of tremendous personal growth, thanks to a really difficult but seemingly simple decision to stop living life leaning on the crutch of habit.

As I mentioned last New Years Eve, 2012 was a rough one.  With that in mind, I woke up on January 1, 2013 with the conviction to make 2013 a banner year because I willed it to be. And, frankly, it was. I told myself that, regardless of whatever unwanted stress came barreling into my life, I was going to have enough gratitude, joy and self-love to deal with anything. And, to add to my optimism, I was determined not to let any dregs of anxiety from 2012 sour the new year either.

To get there, I read a lot of books on happiness, mindfulness, gratitude and self-awareness. After finishing the first book, I was first met with the familiar but ultimately flawed urge to fix all my problems NOW and AT ONCE with unrelenting gusto. But as I read more about meditation, being present and being okay sitting in discomfort, I actually started to crave the uncomfortable. Instead of curling up in the lap of passive aggressiveness and settling in, I wanted to sit down with whatever made me unhappy, grab it by the hands and stare it in its face to try to understand it better. Rather than looking for easy answers, I started looking for patterns, identifying problems and then trying to fix things at the source. For someone who hates confrontation and huge changes, this was mortifying. I approached the first challenges with a shaky voice, a pounding heart and (just once) buckling knees. But in those milliseconds before I had to face my fears, I drummed up calmness from deep in my emotional reserves and just... did it. Whether it was handing in my notice at work, having a difficult conversation with someone I cared about, or pushing myself to run just a little bit farther when I wanted to quit, I stopped wasting so much energy agonizing ahead of time. And, when I was done, I was amazed at what I was capable of.

In blogging, this meant being intentional, planning posts ahead, participating in group posts, hustling and growing my readership 5x over. My Valentine's Day chocolate raspberry torte gave me a new approach to food photography--acknowledging that learning a skill was a process and not getting frustrated and yelling "GOD I SUCK AT THIS!" when it took me a while to get things right. And a post on homemade Reese's eggs that went absolutely viral taught me that sometimes you just have to keep it simple.

I also learned I could podcast. And by that, I mean, I realized that:
a) I have things to say worth listening to 
b) I can be pretty funny sometimes
It was amazing to see people's responses to Autumn and my podcast episodes and great to get to feel like we were hanging out with people all across the country. I'm grateful that the experience brought us closer as friends and helped us to make a slew of new ones!

Professionally, I finally accepted that I'm a creative person. I need to feel like my ideas are valued and be in an environment where I have the leeway to see them into fruition. Quitting a traditional 9-5 job was the scariest thing I've done, but I've never felt happier with a decision in my life. I was truly amazed by the outpouring of support I got to follow my blogging and baking dreams. I even got a few emails from people who said I inspired them to do something similar! And, as if all that wasn't awesome, I keep learning new things about myself and discovering talents and passions I didn't realize I had.

  Toasted Coconut Ice Cream with Cajeta Drizzle  and thoughts on motivation and procrastination

Toasted Coconut Ice Cream with Cajeta Drizzle and thoughts on motivation and procrastination

Personally, I feel like a completely different person than I was in January last year. I spent my year ruminating about passion, motivation, creativity and goals--What the heck did I want out of life?--and was I in a good place to get there? The most important thing I learned this year was self-care. I was looking at photos from 6 months ago and couldn't believe how tired and unhappy I looked. Now, I make time for myself--for sleeping, cooking for myself instead of just eating what I bake, exercising, prayer, play and creative outlets. And, maybe most importantly, I make time to learn new things, like taking classes on Google Analytics, Adobe Illustrator or a refresher course in high school Math. I forgot how much I love to learn, especially when I love the subject.

As I look onward to 2014, I don't have any resolutions other than to continue what I started in 2013--to practice self kindness, make time for creativity, choose empathy over judgement and to always always always make time to learn something new. What are you looking to accomplish in the new year?

Thank you all for taking the time to read my blog this year. For following along with my crazy adventures, sifting through my ramblings, trying out my recipes and being patient with me as I took time off to get my shit together and figure out my life. I am overwhelmed with the support and encouragement y'all have shown this year and I wouldn't have kept this little piece of the interwebs going without you! So, thank you from the bottom of my grateful heart!

Wishing you a joy-filled 2014!

 

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My year, in instagrams.