Boo! Spiders are taking over this Halloween! Don't be scared, these arachnids are the friendly, candy-loving sort and they'd love nothing better than to march across your buffet table and perch on the edge of your plate. So grab your sugar googly eyes and pick up some licorice — your Halloween is about to get crafty.
I am not normally the crafty sort, but discovering candy googly eyes on a visit to Target combined with a nostalgia-induced craving for grape-flavored Nerds sparked my inner Martha Stewart. You could really use any candy here, but I particularly like the nubbly, cartoon-ish texture of the Nerds. I tried crushed Whoppers as well, and consider these "hairy" spiders a close second to the purple ones.
You do need to use homemade marshmallows for this particular edible craft project. Store-bought marshmallows are already coated with powdered sugar so the candies won't stick. Homemade marshmallows, however, are powerful sticky! Candy sticks to them like — ahem! — fly paper. If any candy falls off while you're assembling the spiders, just patch them back up again. I found that the candy also sticks better if you let them stand for an hour or so before attaching the legs or serving.
One thing to note is that the finished spiders are rather fragile. The candy coating sticks just fine, but the legs have a tendency to comically fall away if jostled too much. I suggest using a skewer to make sure the licorice "legs" are firmly poked into the marshmallow. It's also best if you assemble the spiders on the serving tray or individual plates on which you plan to serve them.
Alternatively, you could really serve these without the licorice legs and call them candy-coated ghouls! They're adorable either way — and just as delicious.
Candy-Coated Marshmallow Spiders
1 batch Fluffy Vanilla Marshmallows
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
48 to 72 candy eyeballs (see Recipe Notes)
1 cup grape-flavored Nerd candies, or 1 cup crushed Whoppers (or other candy, see Recipe Note)
16 black licorice ropes
Special Equipment: 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, paring knife
Set the tray of marshmallows close to your work surface. Mix together the powdered sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Sprinkle a few spoonfuls of the powdered sugar mix over the marshmallow block and rub it into an even coating with your hands.
Using small round cutters dipped in warm water as needed to keep it from getting too sticky, cut rounds of marshmallows from the marshmallow block. As you cut each round, flip it upside down on a work surface so the side with the powdered sugar is down. Gently press 2 to 3 candy eyeballs near the top of each round.
Pour some of the Nerd candies onto a shallow dish. Coat each marshmallow on the top and sides through a combination of dipping the sticky surfaces of the marshmallow in the shallow dish and sprinkling the candies over the top.
As you finish coating each marshmallow, set it on a serving tray. The "spider legs" on the finished marshmallows are very fragile and it's best not to move the spiders once attaching the legs.
Cut each length of licorice crosswise into 3 "leg-length" pieces. Cut each piece lengthwise into 4 thin strips. Score each strip about 1/3 of the way down — do not cut all the way through. Bend each licorice strip and poke the end closest to the bend into the marshmallow close to the top — attach 4 legs on each side of the spider. The legs should arch up with the tips resting on the serving tray. It can be difficult to secure the legs to the marshmallows — I found it helpful to use a skewer to push the end of the licorice into the marshmallow.
Some of the candy pieces might have fallen off while attaching the legs. Once the legs are attached, patch up any spots.
Marshmallow spiders can be prepared several hours in advance of serving, but the legs are very fragile, so individual spiders shouldn't be moved until ready to eat.
Candy eyeballs: Candy eyeballs are available at most craft supply stores and at stores like Target around Halloween.
Candy options: Almost any candy can be used to coat the marshmallows. Crush larger candies to small pieces in a food processor before using.
Storing leftover marshmallows: The marshmallow leftover after cutting out the rounds can be cut into bite-sized pieces, tossed with the leftover powdered sugar mix, and stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several weeks.