March 20, 2013 10:37:54 AM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
More than 1 billion. That's the number of Peeps the Pennsylvania-based Just Born Inc. candy manufacturer will hatch this Easter season. The trademark candy -- those nostalgic, nigh-indestructible, spongy chicks and bunnies of our youth -- marks its 60th anniversary this year and celebrates its versatility.
As the commercial goes, you can eat 'em, smash 'em, microwave 'em, deep fry 'em, roast 'em on a stick ... you get the idea. Peeps have become a "gourmet" favorite for fondues, creme brulée and cappuccino toppings. Devotees send Peeps into battle in a microwave sport known as Peeps jousting. They enter Peeps in pop art contests, develop recipes like Peepza, a dessert pizza, and create dioramas with Peeps characters for contests and coveted titles. In other words, whether you love them or hate them, Peeps are here to stay. So, why not love them with some of today's recipes?
Suggestions for your Easter or spring table include a sunflower cake with Peeps petals, Peeps monkey bread and Peepsters cookies. The sunflower cake is so simple, but makes a big visual impact. Chocolate chips in circular patterns resemble seeds in the flower's center, while yellow chicks form the bright petals. Hershey's kisses could also be used for the center.
Peeps monkey bread might be your choice for Easter morning. It's made with pink-tinted sugar and pink Peeps. And for a snack, cookies made with Peepsters -- bite-sized dark chocolate candies filled with marshmallow-flavored cream -- make a change of pace. In fact, Peepsters are just one way the family-owned candy company generated "off the charts" sales last year. Yes, Peeps have come a long way in the past 60 years.
Russian immigrant Sam Born started his candy business in a Brooklyn storefront in 1923. The name was inspired when Born proudly displayed in his window fresh candies made daily. He declared them "just born." He acquired the Peeps brand in 1953, with the purchase of the Rodda Candy Co. of Lancaster, Penn. At that time, the marshmallow treats were made by women who hand-squeezed them from pastry bags, a time-consuming method.
Today, Ross Born is a third-generation candy maker at the company founded by his grandfather. Ross' father, Bob Born, devised the automation process in the mid-1950s that led to mass-produced Peeps, speeding up their infiltration of pop culture. Ross Born and his partner, co-CEO David Shaffer, boosted company sales by introducing chocolate-dipped Peeps and Peepsters. They also focused on Peeps for holidays other than Easter. In 2009, they opened the first Peeps & Company stores, where you can find everything from Peeps PJs to lip balm.
Food bloggers have a field day around Easter, finding new ways to cook with Peeps and posting them for the world to try. As they like to say, "never let a Peep go stale."
Did you know:
SUNFLOWER PEEPS CAKE
1 package yellow cake mix (regular size)
2 cans (16 ounces each) chocolate frosting
19 yellow chick Peeps candies
1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
PEEPS MONKEY BREAD
For the dough:
2 cans (16.3 ounces) reduced fat buttermilk biscuits (or homemade recipe)
For the coating:
3/4 cup pink granulated sugar*
16 pink marshmallow Peep bunnies
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
(Note: To make pink sugar, combine 3/4 cup sugar and 1-3 drops red food coloring in a Ziploc bag. Shake, occasionally squishing any red sugar clumps that form, until a light pink hue is reached.)
PEEPSTER STUFFED COOKIES
Makes about 24 cookies
1 bag Peeps Peepsters
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.