Making Peeps from Scratch: Interview with Chef Brian Robinson


Homemade Peeps (and a flamingo and shark for good measure) at Restaurant 3

20090406-peepsweek.pngIf you took a nap, worked-out twice, built a hospital, and still had all the time in the world, would you then consider making Peeps from scratch? It just doesn't seem like a priority list topper, but hey. Chef Brian Robinson of Restaurant 3 in Arlington, Virginia, went for it. All week until Easter Sunday, he's treating his dinner guests to the beady-eyed confection. We had a little chat with him.

First thing's first: Why?! I always loved Peeps as a kid, but as an adult and chef, I just can’t get past all the random ingredients on the label. It's a marshmallow! Let’s leave it a marshmallow.

Why not just buy them for a few bucks at the drug store? Too much unnecessary crap on the label. Everything is better homemade.

Will they even woo the Peep skeptics/haters? Or is that a lost cause? My general thought is that there just is a group of diners (perhaps smarter than I) who just aren’t into eating sugar rolled in sugar. Can’t fault them for that. I have seen, however, that adults who loved Peeps as a kid have been into the homemade version. I’m getting a lot of them back.

Do they really taste that much different? My goal is to make them taste the same. Right now, they are a little firmer than the originals, and a little less sappy sweet due to our use of sugar in place of corn syrup.

Can you describe the process? Especially curious how long it takes to recreate the beady eyes. The eyes and molds are actually the easy part. The eyes are created from a chocolate ganache and I use simple copper cookie cutters for the bodies. The marshmallow rolled into a large sheet pan, and I cut shapes with the cookie cutters. The marshmallow springs up after it is cut, creating a spongy, 3D shape which is rolled in sugar. Making the marshmallow is a bit more involved. We mix sugar, gelatin and vanilla, beat it and pour it onto a large sheet pan. We cover the top in colored sugar and let it set before the shapes are cut. It gets sticky. Very sticky.

Is this your first year serving them? Yes, it is the first year of operation for Restaurant 3.

How much do they cost? The Peeps are actually complimentary. We give them to all dinner guests with their check the week of Easter.

Did you like them growing up? I did.

Ah, you're one of those.

Restaurant 3

2950 Clarendon Boulevard, Arlington VA 22201 (map); 703-524-4440

Bonus Video: Chef Robinson Making Peeps

Washingtonian's Best Bites blog has video footage of the Peepification, as well as a recipe.