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You can cut the junk in several classic Easter treats by making them at home!

These marshmallow chicks turned out delicious. However, they are not the easiest recipe. There is a bit of candy-making technique involved, and you’re going to need some special tools: candy thermometer, stand mixer, piping bag, tips, and patience. Are they worth it? Eh. If you REALLY want marshmallow chicks and refuse to buy the kind in stores, yes. If you want a fun project with the kids, sure. I won’t make these often, but I don’t mind the effort once a year.

The bright yellow, store-bought, marshmallow chicks are made with sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, yellow #5, potassium sorbate (preservative), natural flavors, and carnauba wax. Our homemade version will leave out the corn syrup, food dyes, preservatives, synthetic flavors, and wax. So, yes, it’s all sugar and gelatin. If you’re vegetarian, you’re out of luck. Marshmallows rely on gelatin which is made from animals. The gelatin used to make the store-bought chicks is derived from the pork industry and gets a bad rap for being very inhumane

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The good news? One of the benefits to making marshmallows at home is quality control over your ingredients. There are more humane gelatin options, and that’s what I used. I found a Kosher, all natural, grass-fed cow-derived gelatin (pictured). This stuff is awesome. Chuck out the stuff in your pantry and replace it. It’s 88-92% pure protein and has an amazing amino acid profile. Yes, it smells like ponies as you cook it, but the smell goes away and doesn’t transfer to the food.

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Marshmallow Chicks

Ingredients

  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 teaspoons gelatin
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1 vanilla bean pod (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • Lots of extra sugar for coating
  • small amount of chocolate to melt for eyes

Directions

  1. Get a pastry bag ready (I have the best luck with the large, plastic coated ones by Ateco) with a ½” plain round tip. Get a plate and pour ½” of sugar onto it. This will be where you pipe the chicks. Prepare a baking sheet and line it with parchment paper. You will gently transfer the piped chicks onto the sheet. Get a standing mixer ready to use with the whisk attachment.
  2. Pour 1/3 cup cold water into mixer bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the water. Let hydrate as you cook the sugar syrup.
  3. In a saucepan over medium high heat, cook the sugar with ¼ cup water until it boils. Lower the heat a bit and let the sugar syrup boil until it reaches 240º F on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and scrape the gelatin into the sugar syrup. Hand stir until combined. Pour into mixing bowl and whisk on medium high speed for 10-15 minutes, adding the vanilla for the last minute. The fluff should have stiff peaks. Quickly transfer fluff into piping bag to begin making the little chicks.
  4. Onto the sugar plate, pipe a flat oval shape. This is the base of the chick. Then pipe a head/neck at one end of the oval. Using your finger or a toothpick, pull a little beak shape from the head. Sprinkle the chick with more sugar. Using a spatula, gently lift the chick out of the sugar and transfer to the cookie sheet. Repeat.
  5. Once the chicks are all made, melt a few chocolate chips and use a toothpick to apply little chocolate eyes to your birds. Let set at room temp for about 4 hours before enjoying.

Notes:
-Yes, you need a candy thermometer. It’s the difference between firm marshmallows and soft fluff. Test your thermometer in boiling water for accuracy. Mine was off by 8º.

-98% of all marshmallow recipes require corn syrup. Why? It’s actually a logical addition: corn syrup prevents crystallization of the sugar, guaranteeing a smooth, fluffy texture. Without it, the marshmallow may get grainy over time as the sugars crystallize again. I left it out, because I know these chicks won’t make it more than a couple days in my house.

-I used plain, uncolored sugar for my chicks. You can use a colored sugar. I’ve seen all natural food dyes and sugars at Whole Foods, $7-20. There are some good DIY recipes online, though. I made a green sugar using chlorophyll that I had on hand.

-The kids LOVED this project. They wanted to pipe the chicks, sugar them, paint eyeballs on them, and they loved eating them.

-This project requires a good bit of space. I moved to my kitchen table for the piping.

-I’m not remotely talented with a pastry bag. Yes, you have permission laugh at my lumpy little marshmallow birds. I know they’re an eyesore, but that’s as good as I could get! If you make some with better results (or comical results), please share!

-Any piping tips from more experienced people?

Store Bought Easter Treats without Junk?
Don’t have time to home make your own Easter treats? There are plenty of candy options you can still buy without junky ingredients! Here are a few that may end up in our Easter baskets this year:

-Annie’s Organic Gummy Bunnies
-Justin’s Nut Butter Peanut Butter Cups
-Surf Sweets gummy treats
-Yummy Earth Organics Lollipops and Gummy Bears
-Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate Bars (I might melt down a few of these and mold our own chocolate bunnies!)

Do you have any more ideas to share? What about non-candy ideas?

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Perspective

Candy is candy. We’re not trying to make it a health food. What we do want is something more natural, not a bunch of preservatives, synthetic ingredients, and cost-cutting additives. These special candies are around just once a year. If you love these store-bought treats, contact the manufacturer and kindly ask them to produce a more natural version. Maybe some dye-free Peeps? Certified non-GMO Peeps? Reese’s Eggs without PGPR or hydrogenated oils? Let them know what you’d like. Who knows? They might start to listen. In the meantime, make your own treats. You’ll cut out the synthetic ingredients, genetically modified foods, and preservatives. By using organic sugar, you’re also reducing the glycemic load (45 in organic sugar vs. 85 in refined white sugar). How would you remake your favorite candy?

The following is part of an Organic Living Journey Guest Post Series now written by Mariana who has a mother’s heart and scientist’s brain. Check out Easter Treats Without the Junk, Part I to see how Mariana makes homemade chocolate covered peanut butter eggs!