Thursday, May 26, 2016

Marshmallows Vs Circus Peanuts (Part 1?) The Rice Krispie Challenge

Are Circus Peanuts marshmallows?  This is a question that crossed my mind recently.  I asked a friend of mine who happens to be a marshmallow expert and her opinion was that Circus Peanuts are not.  One person that might disagree with that Circus Peanuts are not marshmallows is John Holahan, the creator of Lucky Charms. The story is that he chopped up Circus Peanuts into a bowl of Cheerios, and Lucky Charms was born (I tried doing this myself, and you can read about it here).  According to the advertising, Lucky Charms contains marshmallows, so therefore some might consider Circus Peanuts to be marshmallows.

It's a difficult thing to really nail down, but recently I was inspired.  I thought the best way to find out if Circus Peanuts are in fact marshmallows is to compare them physically.  Sure I could do some science like stuff and compare the ingredients, but I have a better idea.  Why not try and find out if Circus Peanuts act like marshmallows.  After all if it has feathers and quacks, then it's a duck.

For my first experiment I've decided to see if Circus Peanuts work in a recipe that's tied closely with marshmallows, Rice Krispie Treats.  I'm going to make two batches of Rice Krispie Treats, one with normal fresh marshmallows, and one with an equal amount (in weight) of Circus Peanuts.
The first thing one notices when comparing the two ingredients is the way they melt.  Or more to the point, the way Circus Peanuts don't really melt.  The marshmallows melt very evenly and turn into a creamy liquid.  The Circus Peanuts do melt a bit, but they're much more globby. They also take a bit longer to melt.  In fact when I started melting the Circus Peanuts I was convinced they wouldn't melt at all and the experiment would be a bust fairly soon.

The thing is, the Circus Peanuts did eventually melt, but I'm not certain it's because of a gelatin breaking down in the heat, I'm thinking it has more to do with the sugar melting.  This means that if you're trying this experiment at home yourself, keep an eye on your Circus Peanuts because if it's the sugar melting than it's likely going to burn fairly quickly.
Eventually I managed to get both to a decent enough consistency that I could add the Rice Krispies.  With the marshmallows it only takes a few stirs to get them to blended perfectly with the Rice Krispies.  The Circus Peanuts were a bit more of an effort.  I also didn't end up needing as many Rice Krispies for the amount of Circus Peanuts I was using.

Putting the marshmallow Rice Krispie Treats into a pan is sticky, but fairly easy (particularly if you're liberal with the butter).  The Circus Peanuts were a bit more challenging, but manageable.  I should mention that I was really surprised that the Circus Peanuts worked this well, I thought they wouldn't make it our of the pot.  I eventually managed to flatten both batches of Rice Krispie Treats, however the marshmallow ones looked much more blended.
After letting them cool for about half an hour, it was time to taste.  The marshmallow Rice Krispie Treats were smooth, and each bit of Rice Krispie was coated in a fine coating of melted marshmallow. They were also very chewy, not hard.  The Circus peanuts were certainly not as well coated, and most interesting is that they were kind of hard.  It was as if the Circus Peanuts turned into a slightly chewy hard candy.  The Circus Peanuts stuck together a lot better than I thought they would, with only a few loose Rice Krispies in the bottom of the pan.

Flavour wise I was pretty happy with both treats.  I've always loved Rice Krispie Treats made with marshmallows, in fact they're my favourite way to eat marshmallows. The Circus Peanut Rice Krispie Treats were not bad either.  The cereal gave the normally strange texture of the Circus Peanuts a bit of a crunch, which is good.  It also killed the flavour of the Circus Peanuts a bit, and that's not a bad thing either.
While we  certainly can't say that marshmallows and Circus Peanuts are exactly the same, I wouldn't say that the difference is totally clear either.  At this point I would say that Circus Peanuts might be a marshmallow, but of a different breed.  I may have to try a few other experiments before I say for sure. Fortunately both Circus Peanuts and marshmallows are very abundant.  My only problem is coming up with more experiments.  I'm thinking next I may try and roast them on an open fire.


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