When The Baltimore Sun inaugurated its Peeps Recipe Contest this year, it was a way to acknowledge the unstoppable force that has become the Peep.
[See photos of all Peeps recipe contest entries here.]
Once, the marshmallow treat was mere Easter candy. Those days are over.
Peeps are cultural touchstones with fan clubs, a clothing line and even a store devoted to them at National Harbor. They've inspired people to make sculptures and videos, and even to write books and songs. So on this, their 60th birthday, we wanted to see what else folks could do with these bunnies and chicks.
Baltimoreans had already been celebrating Peeps.
Regi's owner Alan Morstein said the restaurant's Charred Peep Tini has become one of his most popular dessert drinks. When they light the marshmallow right in front of guests, it's a charming conversation starter that gets customers talking and laughing.
At a recent Bolton Hill neighborhood soup night, one of the co-hosting couples didn't just bring dessert, they brought Peeps attached to cookies to make the get-together feel more festive.
One recipe contest entrant, Eleanor King, told us that after Easter, she's been known to treat her family to chocolate chip and marshmallow pancakes, repurposing her stale Peeps.
Peeps are evidently inspiring. Contest entries arrived slowly at first, then multiplying — bunny-style — from across the Baltimore region. The youngest entrants were mere chicks themselves, only in elementary school. The eldest was a near-centenarian in Baltimore County, Josephine DiNenna, who says she's not too old to appreciate a Peep.
There was the sophisticated: How about a savory butternut squash soup drizzled with a sour cream and Peeps sauce? Or coconut lemongrass soup with chicken and broiled Peeps? Anyone for wings with a horseradish, mustard and Peeps glaze?
There was the winkingly creative — sweet spins on classic dishes, but with Peeps. Spaghetti and Peepballs. Split Peep soup. Peep-a-roni pizza.
And hard as it might be to believe, not one but two contestants found a way for Peeps to meet the Maryland mainstay: crab.
Though it wasn't a winner, one of our favorite entries came from the Hopkins family, who submitted their Peeps Plop. It was less recipe than a how-to guide for disposing of leftover Peeps — by drowning them in wine, tequila or, when feeling fancy, Prosecco.
"Plunge your pink Peep, beak first, in wine," they wrote. "Swirl, allowing Peep to fully enjoy the plop, ignoring the Peep's pleas for mercy. Once the pink Peep is properly primed, partake of the pink Peep."
We had a lot of fun and thank all of the entrants for their contributions on behalf of Peepskind. Though competition was as stiff as a marshmallow-based competition can be, it ultimately came down to which recipes were the most creative, the most potentially scrumptious and best at highlighting the star ingredient.
Winners, who will each receive $50 Peeps prize packages from the candy maker Just Born, are:
BEST SWEET: Peep R Nutter cupcake
BEST SAVORY: Pork loin stuffed with peaches and Peeps and drunken Peeps sauce.
MOST CREATIVE: Peep pot pie
BRAVEST: Peeps crab nuggets
Peep R nutter cupcakes
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed bananas
Chocolate frosting filling:
1/2 cup melted butter
2/3 cup dark chocolate powder
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg whites
11/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoon water
6 Peeps, quartered
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. For the muffins, mash the bananas and milk together in a large mixing bowl. Then add vegetable oil and egg and mix together. Finally, add the flour, brown sugar, salt, and baking powder and mix until the mixture is moist but still lumpy. Put into lined muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool and mix the frosting.
For the chocolate frosting, mix the melted butter and chocolate until smooth in an electric mixer. Then add the powdered sugar and milk. Mix at medium speed until smooth. Finally, add the vanilla until incorporated.
For the Peep frosting: add the egg whites, sugar, and water and mix on a double boiler until the sugar dissolves. Then add the Peeps and mix with an electric mixer for 10 minutes. The mixture will thicken at this point to soft peaks. Remove from heat and add the cream of tartar. This prevents the sugars from crystallizing again. (I added extra food coloring as the Peeps were melting to enhance their color)
Take the cooled cupcakes and use an apple corer and remove some of the middle of the cupcake. Spoon in some of the chocolate frosting. The top with the Peep frosting. Decorate with extra peeps and colored sugars.
—Melissa Merrill, Forest Hill
Pork loin stuffed with peaches and Peeps, with drunken Peeps sauce
11/2 pounds pork loin butterflied
14 ounce can peaches drained, diced and divided (half reserved for sauce)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 red onion diced
2 Peeps chopped
Salt and pepper
Coat pork loin with olive oil and season to taste. Mix stock, peaches and red onion in a skillet and simmer until onions are translucent. Cool and add Peeps. Stuff pork and tie string around loin to hold stuffing in. Saute in a little olive oil until meat is brown on all sides. Bake pork loin at 375 degrees until done.
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup rum
2 garlic cloves
1/2 red onion chopped
reserved diced peaches
4 chopped Peeps
Salt and pepper
In a skillet, simmer chicken stock, add rest of ingredients and bring to a boil except rum, lower heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add rum and simmer until sauce reduces by half and thickens. Pour over pork loin and serve.
—Kathleen Ward, Pylesville
Peep pot pie
2 boxes of vanilla instant pudding, made according to the directions (needs milk)
1 prepared graham cracker crust
1/4 cup yellow Peeps ("corn"), dice into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup green Peeps ("peas"), dice into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup orange Peeps ("carrots"), dice into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup white Peeps ("potatoes," "cauliflower" or "chicken"), dice into 1/2-inch pieces
or substitute with jelly beans and diced orange circus peanuts
1 package pound cake, cut into 1/4-inch slices
Bunny Peep to use as a garnish (optional) or any other Peep
12 ounces butterscotch chips
1/3 cup light corn syrup
3-5 tablespoons flour, plus extra to flour cutting board
In mixing bowl, add prepared vanilla pudding. Stir in diced Peeps (and other candies/ cakes) OR you can layer candies-pudding-candies-pudding-candies.
Slice pound cake and put one layer on top of the prepared graham cracker crust. Pour pudding/candy mixture into prepared graham cracker crust on top of the pound cake. Set Peep pot pie in refrigerator to set (per pudding instructions).
Meanwhile, prepare the top "lattice" crust by melting the butterscotch chips in microwave (stopping every 15-20 seconds to stir). Keep warming until it is a smooth consistency. Mix in the corn syrup into the melted butterscotch. Let mixture sit in bowl to cool (about 1 hour).
Mix in 3 tablespoons of the flour and stir. You can then try to handle and work the "dough" like Playdo. Add more flour if still too sticky to handle. On a floured cutting board, roll out the dough. Using knife, pizza cutter or pastry cutter, cut into 1-inch strips.
(Tip: the dough might look too white once you add the flour, but if you keep handling the dough, the butterscotch color comes through).
Remove Peep pot pie from refrigerator. Place the butterscotch strips on top of pie and weave to create lattice look (see picture). Garnish with Peep of your choice.
—Anna Lawson, age 11, Glenelg
Peeps crab nuggets
1 pound crab meat
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
1/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup soft bread crumbs
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 cup flour
Oil for frying
2 3-ounce packs of Peeps Chicks
Pick over crab meat; remove any bits of shell and cartilage. Flake crab meat; place in mixing bowl. Put Peeps in freezer and freeze. Melt butter in small sauce pan. Add seasonings except for Old Bay, bread crumbs, and egg yolks to crab. Add melted butter. Put frozen Peeps in food processor and process the Peeps until they are gooey. Scrape out of processor and put in microwave safe bowl. Microwave the Peeps for 10 seconds and stir in Old Bay, then add to the mixing bowl and mix all of the ingredients. Put in ice box or freezer to firm up the mixture. Heat your oil to 360 degrees. Form mixture into nuggets the size of walnuts and dredge in flour. Makes about 20 or more nuggets depending on how you size them. Fry in heavy saucepan or deep fryer until golden brown.
The sweetness of the Peeps combined with the Old Bay give the nuggets a real taste kick.