makes about 65 1 inch peeps
*vegetable oil, for the pan
2/3 cup cold water, divided
2 envelopes (2 tablespoons) unflavored gelatin
1 + 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
*colored sugar, for decorating) (see note #1)
*tiny amount of melted chocolate, for decorating
*chick shaped cookie cutter (see note #2)
*You also need an electric stand mixer*
Line a 9-by-13 inch baking dish with sides (such as a pyrex baking dish) using a large sheet of foil as follows: Smooth the foil over the inverted pan, folding the sides and corners down to conform to its shape. Remove the foil, turn the pan over and press the shaped foil into place. Use a brush to lightly coat the foil, including the sides, with vegetable oil or shortening.
Place 1/3 cup cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer and sprinkle the gelatin over the surface. Put the sugar, corn syrup, salt and remaining water in a heavy saucepan with a tight fitting lid, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Cover the pan and place over moderately low heat. Remove the cover after 4 to 5 minutes. The steam will have caused any sugar crystals to dissolve and the syrup will be bubbling lightly. Increase the heat to high, insert a candy thermometer and boil the syrup without stirring until it reaches 240 degrees F. Immediately remove from the heat.
Fit your mixer with the whisk attachment. Slowly and carefully pour the syrup into the gelatin while the mixer is beating constantly at medium speed. When all of the syrup has been added, increase the speed to high and whip for about 10 minutes. The mixture should be lukewarm and the consistency of marshmallow cream. Add the vanilla toward the end of mixing.
Pour the marshmallow onto the prepared pan, smooth the top and sprinkle liberally with colored sugar. Let the pan stand uncovered at room temperature to dry out. Depending on humidity, this may happen in several hours or take up to 8 hours. Generally speaking, the longer you let it set up, the easier the marshmallow sheet will be to cut.
Invert the pan of marshmallow onto a clean cutting surface, remove the foil and coat the top with colored sugar. It should adhere easily. Use cookie cutters to stamp out your peeps (or bunnies) and toss them in a bowl of the sugar to coat the edges. If you find your cookie cutter getting sticky, wash it and lightly coat it with vegetable oil. With a toothpick, apply a dot of chocolate to form an eye. Store the marshmallows in an airtight container.
Note #1: Make your own colored sugar using superfine sugar and 'luster dust', a cake decorator's tool. The color 'daffodil' captures a peep's essence perfectly. You can also use regular food coloring; add a few drops to the sugar in a plastic bag, seal the bag, and mix and shake until the color is blended.
Note #2: You can use any cookie cutters you have available as long as they are small. Chick shaped cutters are available at decorating shops and kitchen stores.
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