Remember when I said I was thinking about starting a monthly baking project? Well, I’m giving it a shot.
Here is the first official project, in April.
Since Easter is this month, the stores are full of sugary treats. Peeps are one thing I cannot resist buying when I see them. I don’t like eating them, they are far too sweet to ingest, but I am inspired by those cute shapes and colors! Last year, I made Dr. Who Peeps which were precious, but I’ve done it, so this year had to be different. I achieved different!
Since Peeps are marshmallows under all that colorful sugar, I decided to make S’mores Peeps(=Smeeps). My problem was graham crackers. The rectangle shapes from the store completely hide the cute bunny peeps and defeat my idea. So, I found a recipe for graham crackers off the internet and made my own, using a Peep bunny shaped cookie cutter to cut my crackers out. The dough was a moderate undertaking for me, in my small kitchen, but I got it done with success. Those are tasty crackers! After that, the rest was easy. A bottom bunny graham cracker, a layer of dark chocolate and smush a Peep bunny into it before it sets (to fix it in place) and allow them to cool. Then, another drizzling of dark chocolate over the Peep bunny and place the top bunny graham cracker on before it sets and allow to cool again.
Thus, Smeeps! That one on the right got a bit burnt – I rolled those too thin.
When it is time to eat, put the Smeep in the microwave for 10-20 seconds and watch the fun. On the one I ate, the head swelled up enormously, but the bubble butt and ears stayed normal. I then went into a state of sugar-shutdown and had to sit on the couch and hold my head for a while. If you eat these, be ready for the sweet overdose, or maybe split one among multiple people.
What happens at 30 seconds in my microwave. The marshmallow swelling broke the bunny graham cracker before the chocolate released its hold.
I used Ghirardelli dipping, dark chocolate for the first time and it was Very Melty! There was no suitable in-between stage I could find, the chocolate was either solid chips or pure liquid, hence the drippy strips all over. I do not think this detracts from the fun deliciousness of the treat, but you might stick with a melting chocolate you are comfortable with if you make them and want a neater appearance.
Since I wanted to give away most of these, I wrapped them up in neat little bags as single or double servings for easy transport to our workplaces.
And now, the recipe with my notes. I almost always adjust recipes to accommodate my purposes and tastes, and for high altitude (Cheyenne sits about 6,000 ft above sea level – the air is 15% less dense here which changes baking and cooking noticeably) as well as for any ingredient substitutions due to availability. Your recipe mileage may vary. Also, I’m not bothering to credit where I find the recipes, unless I make it without significant changes. Usually I take two or three recipes and combine them into one for myself, which further muddles any origins. If you make these, please, please send me a picture! I’d love to share this monthly baking project with others – I mean, besides doling them out to coworkers.
Makes over 3 dozen bunny graham crackers or traditional-size rectangles and takes about five hours total to complete.
Ingredients for Dough:
1.5 C rounded; unbleached, high-altitude all-purpose flour
1 C rounded; graham flour (Red Mills brand at King Sooper/Kroger, or get it off Amazon)
1 C level, dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1.5 tsp baking soda
.5 tsp salt
7 TB butter, cut into .5″ cubes, chilled
.33 C honey (I use local-Cheyenne made, purchased at the Bread Basket)
3 TB heavy whipping cream
2 TB skim milk (if you have fatty milk, just use that – I had skim milk and whipping cream, so …)
2 TB vanilla bean paste (if your grocer doesn’t have it, Michael’s does)
1 TB vanilla extract
2 TB Godiva liqueur (my go-to flavor add)
Ingredients for Topping:
2 TB white sugar
1 TB cinnamon, plus sprinkles of your fav sweet spices (like garam masala, allspice, coriander – whatever your thing is)
Combine the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in bowl and mix together.
Add chilled butter cubes, use pastry blender to combine to a crumbly mixture. Butter cubes should end up the size of peas or smaller.
In another bowl, mix together the honey, milk, vanilla bean paste, vanilla extract and Godiva liqueur.
Add liquids to the flour mixture and mix together. Don’t overmix, you want it barely together. It will be soft and sticky.
Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap and dust it lightly with flour combo*, then dump dough out onto it and smush it about an inch thick.
Wrap it, then chill it until firm, about two hours or so.
When the dough is cold and firm dust a flat surface and roll half the dough out, leaving the other half in the chiller.
Use flour combo to dust as necessary, this is sticky dough.
Roll to about one-eighth to one-fourth an inch thick**, cut your desired shapes.
Using a blunt toothpick or such, pierce bunnies with eyes and nose – or whatever fits your shape best.
Combine last ingredients: 2 TB white sugar and1 TB cinnamon, plus sprinkles of others.
Sprinkle dough bunnies with the combined sugar spices. I ran a finger over mine to impress the topping into the dough a little.
Heat the oven to 350°F.
Stack the cut, sugared, and pierced dough bunnies on layers of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and keep them in the fridge until ready to bake. You want them to be firm, not floppy, when they go into the oven. Might take 30 minutes or so in the fridge.
Bake a test sheet with few bunnies to see how they do, and adjust your process as needed.
While the first batch bakes and cools, repeat roll, cut, pierce & sprinkle work with second half of dough, incorporating any rolling or baking tips you learned on the test sheet.
Bake sheets for 12-15 minutes, until barely starting to brown on the edges.
Remove from oven, allow to set for a minute or two, then remove from sheet to wire racks for cooling.
Once cool, they’re ready to assemble into Smeeps. They’re also damned delicious on their own, with a cup of tea or coffee, or slathered in chocolate icing for a little sugar high.
* When I need to roll stuff out, I add aside a half cup or so of flour(s) and add the complementary spices to it (in this case cinnamon and sugar) at the beginning. I don’t like the extra-flour taste you get when you have to roll out dough repeatedly and the sugar & spice additions help keep that taste at bay even with the very-last-rolled-and-rerolled-from-scraps crackers.
** Some of my one-eighth thick bunnies burned and some of my one-fourth bunnies were a bit soft. Try a few thicknesses on the test sheet to see what you like.
Next time, I should take some in-progress shots. Or maybe have Slick take in-progress shots so I don’t have to stop the baking mess and get my camera greasy.
Thoughts? Feedback is appreciated!