What a fun basket to make and give! (or eat...)
Chocolate-covered cherry marshmallow egg.
Marshmallows are one of those things that most people don't realize you can make at home. They are simple, pretty quick, (15 minutes if you make squares,) and superior to what you can buy. (Most homemade things are, aren't they?)
To get the actual recipe and to see photos of the marshmallow cooking- and beating- process, see this post. Egg- shaped marshmallows- fill a couple 9x13 pans (or one jellyroll pan) with 1- 2” of flour. Make egg-shaped indentions in the flour using a clean egg or the back of a large spoon. Pour, drop by spoonfuls, or pipe marshmallow into the indentations. When they’re set up, dust the tops with flour, cornstarch, or powdered sugar. Great dipped in chocolate (brush extra flour off first) and decorated. The flour can be put back in your canister and used for something else. Chick-shaped marshmallows (‘Peeps’)- Whip the mixture until it can hold a shape. Put the slightly-cooled whipped marshmallow mixture into a pastry bag, no tip needed. Or put in a gallon-sized ziptop bag, with ½” of one corner snipped off. Sprinkle a cookie sheet with a layer of granulated sugar, colored if you like. Squeeze the marshmallow sort of into an upright ‘Z’, pulling off to form a beak. Make them so the sides just touch; this gives them extra support. Sprinkle with sugar. When set, pull apart and roll in a small bowlful of sugar. Coating them with yellow-tinted macaroon coconut would be very cute, too.
The chick on the right was made when the mixture wasn't beaten quite enough. If you're not sure, scoop some on top of itself in the mixing bowl. If it flattens, it's not ready. If you already made them and they're flattening-- well, you weren't really going for realism anyway.
Don't be too hard on yourself- they still taste the same!
If you want colored sugar on your chicks: put about a cup of sugar in a ziptop bag. Add a couple drops of food color and a couple drops of water. Shake or rub the bag until the color is evenly distributed.
Shape the chicks by putting the marshmallow mixture into a pastry bag -or a ziptop bag with 1/2" of one corner snipped off. Pipe them by making sort of a 'Z'. Pull away to form a beak. (If they look more like a sleeping elephant than a bird, you can pinch of part of the 'trunk' when they've firmed. Or just call it "charm".)
Sprinkle more sugar over the top. This helps them not stick to you as much when you finish coating them.
How sticky are they without a coating? As my hubby said, "Ever hear about Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby?"
Put a chick in a bowlful of sugar, and flip it over using a fork or spoon. After it's completely coated, do the next one. If you want the external chewiness you get with Peeps, let them sit uncovered for several hours. Or a couple days.
To make marshmallow eggs:
Pour flour in a 9x13 pan. You need a layer at least 3/4" deep. Make egg-shaped depressions using an egg or spoon.
You can get the marshmallow into your 'molds' by using a spoon...
Or with a pastry bag. Make your own disposable pastry bag by snipping off 1/2" from one corner of a ziptop bag. A gallon-sized bag will fit the whole batch at once. Let the eggs sit aside at room temperature until they're firm. This usually takes a couple hours. Flip them over or sprinkle with more flour so they're not sticky. Brush off any extra, then call it good or dip them in chocolate.
Dipping chocolate or confectionary coating is the easiest option for good results. Sometimes you just don't have it, though, and a trip to the store defeats the purpose...
This is a 12-oz bag of chocolate chips, melted with 1 Tbsp. of coconut oil. (Use between 1 tsp. and 1 Tbsp.) Heat in the microwave for one minute, stir, and heat for another minute. Stir until smooth. Or heat over barely simmering water.
Chocolate chips are thicker than dipping chocolate when melted. The extra fat is to help thin them out. One downside is that it doesn't set up firm- or stay that way- unless it's chilled. So store in the fridge or freezer anything you coated with this.
Drop a marshmallow egg into the chocolate. Flip it over with a fork or your clean, DRY fingers, then lift it out, onto waxed paper or plastic wrap. If there's so much as a tiny spot not coated by chocolate, drizzle some onto it. The whole marshmallow can dry out through a small hole in the coating.
If you get even a tiny amount of water in melted chocolate, it will 'seize'- turn lumpy and thick.
If this happens, add a little more oil or shortening and try to get it to smooth out.
Put the dipped eggs in the fridge for 15 minutes, or in the freezer for 5-10 minutes, until the chocolate sets up.
If you have leftover chocolate, pour it onto waxed paper, plastic wrap, or parchment, chill until mostly set, then cut into small chunks. Use them in place of chocolate chips.
Or turn the chocolate into truffles by stirring in 1-3 Tbsp. butter. Pour into a foil-lined pan and chill until set. Cut in 3/4" squares and roll in powdered sugar, cocoa, or nuts.
An easy nest can be made with a lunch-size brown paper bag. Fold the top over, then scrunch it down to make a nest shape. Add some grass, and put in your eggs or chicks.
I saw the paper-bag idea in Family Fun magazine
They glued twigs on, but I didn't want sticks touching the marshmallows- and this way is is much quicker and simpler.