Adventures in DIY Easter projects
At some point, every do-it-yourselfer has to face the question: But why? Why would you make that when you can buy it cheaply at Wal-Mart? The answer is that the DIY mentality is only one part thriftiness-is-next-to-godliness to several parts handy-because-I-can-be. We do it ourselves because homemade projects look better, taste better, and fit better than store-bought — or at the very least, are more interesting — but also for the fun of it and the short-lived thrill of our own cleverness. If the project flops, the payoff is sometimes elusive, but as my sainted mother says, every failure, no matter how abject, is just another fucking opportunity for growth.
|One of these Peeps is not like the other: If achieving precision marshmallow fowl proves too frustrating, a glue gun, a dozen hardboiled eggs, and a few notions can fill your Easter basket with joy. (Photos by Susan Pagani)|
I didn’t dream up the idea of homemade Peeps; it was delivered to me via an e-mail from William-Sonoma. The Marshmallow Chicks Kit included molds, pastry bags, and special sugars, and made the whole thing look simple by portraying small children in the act. But, when I visited the store a week later all of the kits had sold out. “I don’t need your stinking kit!” I told the clerk defiantly. Apparently, I did.
I couldn’t find chick molds anywhere, but, in my Peeps fantasy, I would just pour the fresh marshmallow into a pastry bag and pipe out the individual chicks. I couldn’t find the super-fine pastel sugars either, so to get that crunchy yellow exterior, I planned to pipe the Peeps into a bed of sugar, sprinkle the tops with same, and spray them down with canned food coloring.
Step one went smoothly and sweetly: There are many recipes for marshmallow out there — I used Martha Stewart’s, a combination of sugar and gelatin that is designed specifically to be piped, and it came together in about 10 minutes. After that, things went awry: My pastry bag was too small — so I couldn’t twist the top closed — and so were the tips. As I squeezed, marshmallow squirmed out of the top of the bag, through my fingers, and onto the counter and floor. What made it through the tip was too thin and spindly to make anything but a twisted worm and the marshmallow was too sticky to mold with another tool. I had better luck when I removed the tip, but if the shape was more reasonable the texture was more turd-like than ever.
Yet, in some far off universe, the marshmallow lumps did slightly resemble chicks. Paint is the answer, I thought. But, when I sprayed my Peeps, holding the can the recommended 6-inches away, the sugar bed was blasted from hell to breakfast, while the actual chick was piebald at best.
Needless to say, my Peeps were ugly. But they tasted amazing. Homemade marshmallow is dense yet melt-in-your mouth fluffy, sweet, and gooey — like the inside of a roasted store-bought marshmallow. Next winter I plan to make some and pipe it directly into my hot cocoa and s’mores. And I may try making Peeps a second time using a larger bag and at least a size-12 tip.
In the meantime, craving success and high on whipped sugar, I moved onto decorating eggs. My inspiration for the eggs was another great icon of my youth, the pet rock. Admittedly, I never understood or loved pet rocks, but I might have had they been edible. And wearing googly eyes.
First step, hard-boiling the egg. I like to start the eggs in a pot of cold water. Heat the water to boiling and then turn it off and put a lid on it. After 10 minutes, remove the eggs from the heat and place under running water to stop the cooking process. Cooked through and nary a gray ring around the yolk!
For decorations, I went to Michael’s. The doll section is a veritable treasury of delightful accoutrement, but my 99-cent rule meant I had to pass on wigs, tiny John Lennon glasses, and the jumbo bag of leopard-print mini pom-poms. I did, however, find a multi-pack of googly eyes, diminutive cowboy hats, giant fake eyelashes, feathers, pipe cleaners, pastel pom-poms, and — a splurge at $1.99 — a mini hi-temp glue gun.
It’s amazing how many things need glue when you’ve got a hot glue gun in your hand. Half a dozen eggs came together in minutes — an extra-large googly eye and a mono-lash turned one egg into a giant flirtatious eye; a sky-blue plastic gem and a bright-red swirl of feathers made another look like a Fraggle — and I was soon making finger puppets with the extra googly eyes and a box of Band-Aids, hanging strange fruit in the rubber plant, and trying to give the dog a bindi. A couple of notes: You may be tempted to keep the eggs, like the pet rock, under your bed, but remember they do have a tendency to rot. And, if you apply the glue to the egg and then press the eyes into it, rather than the other way around, you’ll burn yourself less often.
But with all that glue, are the eggs still edible? I couldn’t find any evidence that the glue had soaked through the egg shell and the eggs didn’t taste funny, so I don’t think they are toxic. On the other hand, I’ve just been sniffing a lot of glue ... •