When The Baltimore Sun inaugurated its Peeps Recipe Contest this year, it was a way to acknowledge the unstoppable force that has become the Peep.
[See photos of all Peeps recipe contest entries here.]
Once, the marshmallow treat was mere Easter candy. Those days are over.
Peeps are cultural touchstones with fan clubs, a clothing line and even a store devoted to them at National Harbor. They've inspired people to make sculptures and videos, and even to write books and songs. So on this, their 60th birthday, we wanted to see what else folks could do with these bunnies and chicks.
Baltimoreans had already been celebrating Peeps.
Regi's owner Alan Morstein said the restaurant's Charred Peep Tini has become one of his most popular dessert drinks. When they light the marshmallow right in front of guests, it's a charming conversation starter that gets customers talking and laughing.
At a recent Bolton Hill neighborhood soup night, one of the co-hosting couples didn't just bring dessert, they brought Peeps attached to cookies to make the get-together feel more festive.
One recipe contest entrant, Eleanor King, told us that after Easter, she's been known to treat her family to chocolate chip and marshmallow pancakes, repurposing her stale Peeps.
Peeps are evidently inspiring. Contest entries arrived slowly at first, then multiplying — bunny-style — from across the Baltimore region. The youngest entrants were mere chicks themselves, only in elementary school. The eldest was a near-centenarian in Baltimore County, Josephine DiNenna, who says she's not too old to appreciate a Peep.
There was the sophisticated: How about a savory butternut squash soup drizzled with a sour cream and Peeps sauce? Or coconut lemongrass soup with chicken and broiled Peeps? Anyone for wings with a horseradish, mustard and Peeps glaze?
There was the winkingly creative — sweet spins on classic dishes, but with Peeps. Spaghetti and Peepballs. Split Peep soup. Peep-a-roni pizza.
And hard as it might be to believe, not one but two contestants found a way for Peeps to meet the Maryland mainstay: crab.
Though it wasn't a winner, one of our favorite entries came from the Hopkins family, who submitted their Peeps Plop. It was less recipe than a how-to guide for disposing of leftover Peeps — by drowning them in wine, tequila or, when feeling fancy, Prosecco.
"Plunge your pink Peep, beak first, in wine," they wrote. "Swirl, allowing Peep to fully enjoy the plop, ignoring the Peep's pleas for mercy. Once the pink Peep is properly primed, partake of the pink Peep."
We had a lot of fun and thank all of the entrants for their contributions on behalf of Peepskind. Though competition was as stiff as a marshmallow-based competition can be, it ultimately came down to which recipes were the most creative, the most potentially scrumptious and best at highlighting the star ingredient.
Winners, who will each receive $50 Peeps prize packages from the candy maker Just Born, are:
BEST SWEET: Peep R Nutter cupcake
BEST SAVORY: Pork loin stuffed with peaches and Peeps and drunken Peeps sauce.
MOST CREATIVE: Peep pot pie
BRAVEST: Peeps crab nuggets