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By Susan M. Selasky

Detroit Free Press Food Writer

If you're looking for an Easter project to do with the kids, consider making your own marshmallow treats. They're cute, festive and fun to make -- for all ages.

You can use cookie cutters to cut bunny and egg shapes and then decorate them with sprinkles, edible confetti or other small candies.

Or go a step further and make your own spongy marshmallow chicks, like the 700 million Peeps typically sold at Easter by Just Born, the company that introduced them in 1954.

Making your own treats adds a personal touch to Easter baskets, and making your own marshmallows is like a super-easy science project. All you need is unflavored gelatin, water, sugar and corn syrup. Pure alchemy!

First you soften the gelatin (called the bloom) in a liquid (typically water). Separately you heat together sugar, corn syrup and water for the syrup so it reaches 240 degrees. (You'll need a candy thermometer.)

The two mixtures are gradually whipped together at ever-higher speeds (a stand mixer is recommended) until they triple in volume and become a silky batter of pillowy white fluff.

In less than 20 minutes, you have a base for making a pan of classic marshmallows or for filling a pastry bag to pipe out a couple dozen chicks or other shapes.

If you need more inspiration, check out "Marshmallow Madness! Dozens of Puffalicious Recipes" (Quirk, $16.95) by Shauna Sever. The recent cookbook is loaded with instructions for sweet and savory marshmallow treats. Even its cover is soft and puffy.

"People think it's this big crazy mess," Sever says of making marshmallows. "But it's not as daunting as people think."

Once you make the batter, all you need to do is let it set or "cure", as she calls it, and then cut it in to squares or shapes.

She points out that homemade marshmallows are gluten- and egg-free and an alternative to the cookie or dessert platter.

"They also make a good edible gift," Sever says.

The pages of her cookbook are loaded with marshmallow flavor twists, from bubble gum to root beer float. There also are dessert and craft ideas. Sever even developed savory marshmallows that use ingredients like bacon and rosemary, and cocktail-inspired-inspired marshmallows.

Margarita marshmallows, anyone?

Contact Susan M. Selasky at 313-222-6432 or sselasky@freepress.com.

More Details: How to hatch marshmallow chicks

See main marshmallow recipefor amounts and more details.

1. For colored sugar to sprinkle on finished chicks, place granulated sugar in a plastic bag and add a few drops of food coloring. Massage the color into the sugar.

2. Mix unflavored gelatin and water; set aside. For the syrup, mix sugar, salt, water and corn syrup in a saucepan. Boil until mixture reaches 240 degrees.

3. Mix the hot syrup and gelatin in a mixer bowl. Beat with whisk at ever-higher speeds, about 12 minutes total, until tripled in volume. Add vanilla and food coloring during last 2 minutes.

4. Immediately fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch tip with batter. Holding the bag at a slight angle, pipe out a 2-inch-long base, then reverse direction and pipe more batter about halfway back and reverse direction again to pipe the head and beak. (It's an S-shape motion.) After two or three, your timing and technique will improve.

5. For the eyes, use mini chocolate chips or melted chocolate applied with a toothpick. Or mix cocoa powder with water and paint on eyes

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