Tuesday, April 7, 2009
In my joy of experimentation with Peeps and mashing their sticky innards into other foodstuffs, I’ve jumped from fun & tasty to the illogical conclusion of savory & disgusting.
(Okay, well, they’re not all disgusting.)
I like marshmallow Peeps as an idea, but not much as a confection. They’re fun to look at, pose & contemplate. But I don’t get much pleasure out of eating them. Pairing them with savory items was supposed to be a way to moderate their grainy over-sweetness.
I picked up a few things to try with my Peeps for 2009: Goldfish Crackers, Cheetos, Pepperoni (turkey for me) and Nacho Cheese Sauce.
Scroll slowly, otherwise you’ll overwhelm yourself.
Pepperidge Farms has come out with some new flavors & variations of the classic Goldfish Crackers. As a kid the Pizza flavored ones were my favorite but now I prefer the Cheddar. (Though given a choice I’d probably still opt for Cheezits.)
The new variation that I picked up is in their whole grains line. This one is Toasted Corn.
After reading over the ingredients, corn is pretty far down on the list. And they’re not really corn flavored, they taste more like those Chik’n Biskit crackers I used to like to drink with flat 7-UP in a friend’s basement as a pre-teen while we played with Troll Dolls.
The crunch and salt actually goes well with the sweet fluffy marshmallow and grainy sugar coating. It’s the dusting of garlic that the crackers seem to have that ruins it for me. A plainer cracker, like Saltines or Oyster Crackers is probably a much better and actually realistic Mash Up idea.
Nope, I went the other way:
I had trouble finding my favorite brand of plastic cheese. I usually buy Frito Lay, the stuff that comes in a squat can and probably has a shelf life of three years. All I could find is this Mission Cheddar Cheese Dip.
I’m sorry friends, I wussed out. I didn’t eat this. I thought it was fun to construct. In the future I think I might use different color Peeps than the traditional yellow. I think the green to simulate jalape?os and maybe the purple & pink to really make it jarring would have the best impact.
I did try Peeps on corn chips ... which is actually rather nice. The salty grains of the chips and the sweet sugar granules played nicely.
There’s probably a great idea in there somewhere for S’Mores Nachos using chocolate tortilla chips, chocolate chips, caramel sauce & Peeps. (All toasted under the broiler, natch.)
This is a Peep in that Mission Cheddar Cheese Dip.
The Mission Cheddar Cheese Dip is a bit too soupy and watery for me. I like a thicker, more gelatinous cheese sauce (or just real gooey, stringy cheese).
The cheese was tangy and salty and had a cheddar “flavor” to it. The combination with the Peeps wasn’t so much bad, but the tangy yogurt quality of the dip didn’t go well with the fake vanilla flavor of the Peeps. I don’t recommend you try this at home.
Cheetos now come in some insane flavors and textures. I like both the Crunchy Cheetos and the classic Cheese Puffs. (And some crazy sweet versions in other lands.)
Peeps have a definite advantage over Cheetos in several ways. Though Peeps are brightly colored, they don’t make a mess on your hands. And Peeps may actually be better when they’re stale.
It was funny how much more I tasted the corn when combined with the sweetness of the marshmallow. Corn (Grits) is a great breakfast cereal so this was like mixing my savory grits with my sweet grits. The crunchy texture was a good offset to the silky smooth marshmallow and the micro crunch of the granulated sugar.
The Flaming Hot Cheetos might be a fun experiment.
But really, when it comes to preserved meats and mashing names together, there’s nothing that can come close to Peeperoni. (It’s hilarious, I know!)
It took me a while to find turkey-based Pepperoni (as I don’t eat mammals, except for gelatin because I can’t possibly give up gummis), which I know is nothing like real pepperoni except that it comes in little disks and contains insane amounts of salt.
This Hormel Turkey Pepperoni smells like feet. I didn’t know if that was normal or not.
First, like the cheese sauce experiment, there is no “mashing the sticky Peeps into the pepperoni” action. Peeps don’t stick to pepperoni. It’s like pushing to north ends of magnets together.
So I broke out the toothpicks.
The salty and chewy texture of the pepperoni was a nice complement to the sweet fluffy chew of the marshmallow. I think part of the failure of this is the abject lack of fat in this turkey version.
As an alternative to this, I think a sweet Lebanon Bologna might actually be interesting, especially if fried and put together on some slices of sweet egg bread.
For even more Peepitude, here’s a list of some other Peep occurrences on the internet ... some you’ve probably already seen, but some you might not have. Serious Eats is also devoting this week to Peeps Week.
Here are my previous Mash Ups.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Vosges graciously sent me a full set of their adorable and tasty chocolate rabbits. Unfortunately, my UPS driver must like to drive my packages around in the hot sun all day before delivering them. The included dry ice was completely gone ... and the precious little rabbits were melted & runny.
But I’m ever the optimist and improvisationalist ... so I did another Peeps Mash Up with the pre-heated fondue!
Suffice to say, they all made my Peeps taste much better, I really enjoyed the Barcelona, which has little bits of sea salt and smoked almonds in it. The graininess of the Peeps crust and the sea salt bits made for an interesting texture and riot of activity on my tongue with all that creamy chocolate and spongy marshmallow. Guanduja was my second favorite with the only drawback being the sweetness, followed by the lemon and peppercorns of the Amalfi. The Red Fire with its dark chocolate and smoky chili flavors was great on its own but didn’t match my high hopes for the fondue (not that it was designed for that!).
Someday Vosges will open a shop in Los Angeles and I’ll be happy to stop by and pick them up in person. Until then, I think I need to swear off chocolate deliveries at home unless UPS starts guaranteeing they’ll use a refrigerated truck.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
I’ve been planning another Peeps Mash Up for a while and thought that Halloween was the perfect opportunity for a Monster Mash Up.
I even went out and bought the new Peeps Spooky Friends, thinking it’d be so fun to have the variety of the different shapes. Alas, Peeps Spooky Friends are not terribly mashable. However, the Candy Blog Candy Archives is always prepared, and I was able to pull out my trusty Peeps Yellow Bunnies as a stand in. (They also photograph better than the conjoined Peeps Ghosts.)
If you’ve never done a Peeps Mash Up, the recipe is simple. Pull a Peep apart to reveal the sticky innards. Then press that sticky puff into a dish or package of something ... consume.
First up is Oreos & Peeps which was a combo I wanted to try for a while. Cookies and Cream is a nice combo that seems to go so well with ice cream, how could it be bad with Peeps? I tried it two different ways, the first was crumbling Oreos, as shown and mashing them into the crumbs. What I found is that I didn’t care for the cream part in there ... the closeness of the texture and graininess to the Peep itself wasn’t distinctive enough. Instead, the way to do a Peep & Oreo Mash is to open your Oreo, scrape the cream off with your teeth, then place the whole Peep on one side, replace the cookie topper, mash down and consume.
The darkness of the cookie, the little hit of salt and of course the sandy crunch of the Peep makes an excellent combination. (And completely redeems my opinion of Oreos after last month’s tasting of the new Cakesters.)
I give them an 8 out of 10.
I picked up a mini-mix pack from Kellogg’s (as they seem to be the only company that still makes them). First up, Cocoa Krispies & Peeps.
Cocoa Krispies are ideal for this snack, as they’re small and adhere easily to the exposed sticky marshmallow. They’re lightly crunchy, though a little sweet without enough cocoa contribution. I give them a 6 out of 10.
I was never a big fan of Apple Jacks as a cereal as a kid. I so rarely got to eat sweetened cereals, this was pretty far down on my list. (Cap’n Crunch was my favorite, followed by Froot Loops.) Would Apple Jacks & Peeps change my mind?
The simplicity of the flavors Apple Jacks, a little apple, a little cinnamon, actually sets off the flavorless Peep really well. They larger loops though, don’t hang onto the Peep quite as well, so smashing them a little to break the Os is a big help.
It helps that Apple Jacks had a pretty good jingle. (A is for apple, J is for Jacks, Cinnamon-toasty Apple Jacks! You need a complete breakfast, that’s a fact. Start it off with Apple Jacks. Apple Jacks! Apple Jacks! Ten vitamins and minerals-that’s what it packs. Apple-tasty, crunchy, too! Kellogg’s Apple Jacks! Apple Jacks, Apple Jacks ...)
I give them a 5 out of 10.
Even though the large flakes don’t stick well, the little bits do cling and still provide a good crunch. The thing I like best about this combo is that Corn Flakes have a wonderful dark, malty taste to them, and that sets off the lightly toasted sugar flavors of the marshmallow.
There’s also a little hit of salt in there, which mellows the more overt sugar. I think I might prefer an unfrosted Corn Flake in this case. But plain Rice Krispies are probably a good bet as well.
I give them a 7 out of 10.
It’s not illustrated here with a photo, but I also tried Corn Pops & Peeps. Once Corn Pops are removed from their packaging, even in a desert they immediately become sticky and tacky, so they’re an ideal item to Mash. Though they’re very sweet, their flavor profile matches Peeps really well. They have that lightly toasted flavor, but none of the malty, salty tones of the Corn Flakes. I give them a 7 out of 10.
They make a nice combo, though they don’t really have much of a visual appeal (but then again, neither to the Corn Flakes).
The one thing that disappointed me though, was that Froot Loops have changed so much since I was a kid. Back then we only had three flavors ... Orange, Lemon and Cherry. They went together really well and looked like food. The modern Froot Loops, well, I just can’t get behind blue food. And I don’t like all my flavors mixed up, I just wanted some light citrus fruit flavors, not a whole jumble of a world-traveled fruit stand.
The fruity flavors, though, stood up very well to the sugary sweetness of the Peep.
In the future I’ll probably go with the generic brand of fruity loops that have more limited flavors ... because I’m a fuddy duddy.
I give them a 5 out of 10.
The idea of wiping peanut butter on my Peeps wasn’t quite in the cards, but Reese’s Pieces & Peeps sounded like the perfect Mash Up. I heard that Reese’s has put out minis, but I can’t seem to find them. The larger Reese’s Pieces didn’t stick well to the Peeps, but the flavor combo of the lightly sweet peanut butter, the crunch of the shell and grainy sugar was a solid combo.
The colors also went really well. You’ve gotta give props when it comes to the appearance.
I give them a 8 out of 10.
The photo there at the top of this page is Sixlets, which are mockolate spheres covered in chocolate. Sixlets and Peeps also had a great deal of visual appeal with the muted fall colors and shiny shells. Sixlets have a natural coolness on the tongue, but not a very strong chocolate flavor. They stuck well to the marshmallow, but the overall effect was too sweet and not flavorful enough. I think I’ll stick to the original idea of M&Ms Minis.
I give them a 4 out of 10.
It’s been years since I’ve had BBB, and if you aren’t familiar with them, they’re candy coated peanuts. The candy coating is pretty thick, so some of them at first seem like jawbreakers. So the mixing of two vastly different densities has an odd and scary feeling to it. I’m afraid of chomping down too hard, lest the hardness of the BBB be too unyielding, but I also felt like I was practically gumming away the marshmallow and losing the texture and flavor combo.
I give them a 4 out of 10.
Candy Cane Pop Rocks & Peeps seemed like the perfect Mash Up. Peeps is coming out with Peppermint Star Peeps later this year, but I so loved my Pop Rocks and Peeps earlier this year, I thought, what could be better than peppermint Pop Rocks and a nice mellow Peep.
Well, the main problem with this idea is that the Candy Cane Flavor Pop Rocks aren’t actually peppermint!
Say what? Seriously, what would you think if someone handed you this package? If you opened it and dumped out the contents and saw the above pile of pink and white Pop Rocks ... what flavor would you expect?
Would you expect Strawberry?
Yeah ... they’re strawberry. I have nothing against strawberry Pop Rocks and thought they rocked my Peep ... but I wanted Peppermint Pop Rocks and I’m completely annoyed that someone out there not only thinks that any pink flavor can be considered candy cane flavored, but that they wouldn’t actually SAY that on the package if it was so.
I give them a 3 out of 10 ... not because it was bad, but because I’m irritated.
The next Mash Up Round Up will focus on Savory & Spicy!
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Folks are obsessed with Peeps around this time of the year. As I’ve stated before, I love the idea of Peeps, I just don’t really enjoy eating them. So I thought I’d try to improve my experience by creating some Peeps Mash-Ups. These aren’t full-blown recipes but more of a “dry fondue” with some items I had lying around:
Peeps Rocks - here I’ve mashed my Peep into some Strawberry Pop Rocks.
First, when mashing a Peep, it helps to pull it apart. This way you have two sticky halves for picking up other candy goodness as well as alleviating the issue of “double dipping” if you’re mashing with a buddy.
When I mashed the Pop Rocks into this fresh Peep, the rocks started snapping immediately. (You can’t see the noise in the photo, but it’s cracklin’ away, trust me.)
The cotton-candy-like flavor of the strawberry goes really well with the flavorless Peep. Light and refreshing. The pops give it a little sizzle.
Peeps Nerds - when you look at it, a Peep is really just a giant spongy Nerd with a pointy nose. Oh, and eyes. Nerds may have eyes in their little cartoon versions on the packaging, but not on the real candies like Peeps do.
I wasn’t really fond of this flavor combination, or the colors. The red and green (cherry & watermelon) looked too Christmasy. The taste combo was pretty good though. The crunch of the Nerds gave the spongy marshmallow a good texture and the zap of tartness also balanced out the sweetness of the Peep.
Peeps & Mini M&Ms - this is a natural combo and the colors couldn’t look better together if I tried. The little M&Ms adhere really well to the Peep’s exposed marshmallow. The sweet chocolate has a good crunch though it might be a little too sweet.
You could probably try mini dark chocolate baking chips for a less sweet experience (though you’d lose the crunch). The little tube they come in is especially easy for mashing on the go, just press the stickiness to the opening and tip the M&Ms Minis into it.
Peep Tarts - I have to admit that I was especially proud of the name for this one. Originally I wanted to use Pixy Stix for the powder, but I couldn’t find any (I try not to keep them in the house, for sanity’s sake). So I took the powder from an extra Topps Baby Bottle Pop. The Citrus Craze powder is already less sweet because it’s also intended to be “mashed up” with the lollipop top, so it adds flavor and tartness without more throat-burning sugar.
I’m not really sold on the combo, but after eating everything pictured here within about 15 minutes I had a stomach ache. Gah, I’m getting another one just typing this up!
So, what are your ideas for Peeps Mash-ups - either theoretical ones, or ones that you actually do?
Monday, March 6, 2006
As part of this year’s Independent Food Festival and Awards sponsored by tasteEverything, I’ve been tapped as a jurist to give out an award for excellence in food. (You know it’s gonna be candy.) I decided after my mind-blowing experience touring candy factories in the Bay Area last December that it had to be something that really helped me to immerse myself in the true source of chocolate.
My 2006 Winner of the Independent Food Awards is The Best Things to Stick to your Marshmallow: Scharffen Berger Chocolate Covered Cacao Nibs.
Cacao nibs are roasted cocoa beans, what all chocolate is made from. Scharffen Berger then pan coats them with 62% cacao semisweet chocolate. They’re complexly flavored little buggers, about the size of rice crispies - they’re crunchy, sometimes fibery, sometimes buttery and nutty ... always a surprise. Some flavors are like wine, raisins, coconut, coffee, oak, banana, apricot, sweet almond, grapefruit, cherry, cinnamon, clove ... I could go on and on. They’re like a blank canvas and a symphony all at once. They take over the senses and make you forget your train of thought. The coolest part is that each little morsel is independent of the others - it might have come from a different tree, might have been harvested weeks before or after its buddies in the tube. Eat one and get a sense of the particular, eat a palmful and travel the world.
So, what do you do with these besides just eat them like candy? You can bake with them, as I saw at Tartine in San Francisco, where you can get Rochers (like soft meringues) made with cacao nibs.
But I’m not really a baker. You can’t just serve an olive boat of these morsels to guests. Then oddly enough the answer came to me in the mail the same week. I was reviewing Plush Puffs, flavored, handmade marshmallows. With proximity being the mother of invetion, I tried putting things on my marshmallow. Actually, I tried mashing my marshmallow into things.
Now, given that I have the title of jurist, it was incumbent upon me to evaluate at least several other marsh-mashables. So I ordered up more Scharffen Berger Cacao Nibs and a full array of Plush Puffs (Orange-Honey, Sam’s Sour Lemon, Maple Pecan and Vanilla Bean) and scoured my kitchen and a few stores for some options.
In the interests of trying to find the perfect thing to mash into my marshmallows, I pulled a few things out of the cupboard and ordered some others off of Chocosphere. Here are the results:
The definition of pure confection heaven has to be Orange-Honey Plush Puffs with Scharffen Berger Chocolate Covered Cacao Beans. This is the standard by which all other mashmallow-ables will be judged. (Really, why did I go on, how much better could I expect things to get?)
My second favorite thing to mash into my marshmallows has to be these Valrhona Chocolate Covered Orange Peels (Equinoxe Noir des d’ecorces d’oranges confites). They’re tiny pieces of lightly candied orange peel pan coated with 66% cacao dark chocolate. Smooth, sweet, crisp and with a great zesty orange taste. At $4.00 for 1.8 ounces, they’re even more expensive than the Scharffen Berger Cacao Nibs, but as a little dash mixed in with the Cacao Nibs, it’s a welcome little burst of citrus energy. They go really well with both the Vanilla Bean and Maple Pecan ones but unlike the cacao nibs, they don’t work with everything.
It wouldn’t be fair of me to evaluate chocolate covered cacao nibs without trying out the naked ones. So I selected the Dagoba Cacao Nibs, which are also organic. The pieces are less consistent in size and shape than the chocolate covered brethren. They have a wild, alcoholic aroma. Smoky and woodsy to the nose, they provide a huge burst of flavor when eaten on their own but they’re also incredibly acidic and sometimes acrid, astringent and puckeringly dry. When pressed into the Vanilla Bean marshmallow, the sweetness and blankness allows the subtle cacao notes to shine while moderating the overt acidity.
With the success of the malted rice krispies squares, I thought I’d just go with the source materials. This wasn’t as pleasant. The malted milk powder is a bit salty and of course dry. The milk powder, I think, is part of the issue. Milk doesn’t really belong with marshmallow. In fact, it turns out that I don’t really care for the flavor of powdered milk.
I love molasses and my favorite sugar is Billington’s Muscovado. It’s got a sort of whiskey aroma to it, a complexity that you won’t find in refined sugars. I like to let it dry out in chunk and eat it that way. It doesn’t really stick to the marshmallows very well, and frankly, it makes it too sweet.
As a final confirmation about the Chocolate Covered Cacao Nibs, I brought the array of my top contenders to an Oscars (tm) viewing party Sunday night. At the end of the night the marshmallows were nearly gone and so were the CCCN while the plain nibs were largely untouched. On top of that, people were pleased with the fun combination of flavors. (And as a capper we got to taste some new regionally-sourced chocolate ice creams. Yum!)
There is one other company that I know of that makes chocolate covered cacao beans, called SweetRiot. I haven’t tried them yet, but I imagine they too are awesome.
If you’ve stumbled across this posting without first visiting the tasteEverything, have a look at all the other incredible finds from around the globe.
Friday, December 9, 2005
Last weekend I went to San Francisco for important candy and novel writing business (the best of both worlds). On our last day, Robin insisted that we visit Tartine (18th & Guerrero). She said they were reputed to have the best chocolate croissants. So before I scrambled off to my meeting and she went to explore the Ferry Terminal we went over there. We were determined enough to give them a try that we made three ever-widening circles around the place in search of a parking spot. We ended up two and a half blocks away and found the place to be mobbed when we entered. But it looked good from the back of the line. It looked even better when we got up to the bakery case which was filled with amazing heaps of cookies, tarts, pastries and cakes.
I bring this up because that’s where I saw the Rochers. Rochers are basically soft chewy meringues, usually with nuts in them. At Tartine they had them in two varieties: almond and cacao nibs. Gah! Heaven! I wish I’d taken some photos of them, but suffice to say they were little glossy dollops of delight. I bought a half a dozen. Now I wish I’d brought more.
So, the reason I bring this up is that it sparked me to try my own mashup this afternoon. I’ve got these Plush Puffs “leftover” and of course I’ve had this tube of Scharffen Berger chocolate covered cacao nibs on my desk. too. The vanilla marshmallow was just crying out for a little something. Cacao nibs. That’s what it wanted.
So, I tore the marshmallow in half, revealing it’s sticky interior and mashed it into the nibs. Yum. Repeat as necessary (it’s my mess o’ nibs, I can double dip!). Vanilla bean and cacao was a great combo. The bittersweetness of the chocolate and crunchiness of the nibs was a nice combo with the sweety chewiness of the marshmallows. I also tried it with the cinnamon one and though not quite as pure a combo because of the spice of the cinnamon, it was very tasty. Maybe I’ll try the peppimint next. (click photo for larger version)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.