Wednesday, July 17, 2013


These. Are. Epic.  

Sometimes when I get it in my head that I need to tackle every single industrialized supermarket sweet to see if the homemade version really can be that much better then what you buy in the big box stores, I question my sanity.  Spending entire weekends baking something I can easily buy at any corner bodega makes me wonder if there may be a better use for my time (maybe visiting the gym?).  But then I make something that exceeds every expectation I had and I suddenly feel pretty impressed with myself.  (It doesn't take much to impress me.)

As I stated in the beginning of this post, these are epic.  This is how a s'more should be - a messy love affair of chocolate, marshmallow, and graham cracker.  The graham crackers here are bold and flavorful, snapy but not not hard, sweet but not cloyingly so.  The marshmallows are fluffy and springy with a taste of pure vanilla.  The chocolate is the high quality kind that melts into a smooth cocoa butter puddle on your tongue (because this is the time to splurge on the good chocolate).  The three components together are perfection, they way they have been for almost a 100 years not, but here they are elevated into an almost transcendent state.  This is summer dessert perfection, the kind of thing that's worth spending time on.  The kind of thing that makes for an epic summer evening.  

Graham Crackers
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 10 4 x 4.5-inch graham crackers or 48 2-inch squares


2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (375 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour (a swap of 1/2 cup with whole wheat flour or 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour works well here, too)
1 cup (176 grams) dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon (6 grams) baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt (4 grams)
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces or 100 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup (114 grams) mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons (77 grams) milk, full-fat is best
2 tablespoons (27 grams) pure vanilla extract


3 tablespoons (43 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) ground cinnamon

Make the dough: Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal. (Alternately, if you don't have a food processor or electric mixer, you can cut the ingredients together with a pastry blender. Just make sure they're very well incorporated.)

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky. Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap and dust it lightly with flour, then turn the dough out onto it and pat it into a rectangle about 1-inch thick. Wrap it, then chill it until firm, about 2 hours or overnight. Meanwhile, prepare the topping, if using, by combining the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and setting aside.

Roll out the crackers: Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers. (This makes a traditional graham cracker shape.  But you can use a cookie cutter to cut other shapes to make things really pretty.)

Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes in the fridge or 15 to 20 minutes in the freezer. Repeat with the second batch of dough. Finally, gather any scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and re-roll.

Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350°F.

Decorate the crackers: Mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough (again, this is for the traditional cracker shape). Using a toothpick or skewer (I like to use the blunt end of a wooden skewer for more dramatic dots), prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 inch for each side of the dividing line.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.

Amazingly Fluffy Marshmallows
Recipe from Gourmet Magazine

About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
½ cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
½ cup hot water (about 115 degrees)
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Oil bottom and sides of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners' sugar.

In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over cold water and let stand to soften.

In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, hot water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F., about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.

With standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about 6 minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer. In a large bowl with cleaned beaters beat whites (or reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and sift 1/4 cup confectioners― sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least 3 hours, and up to 1 day.

Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up 1 corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and let drop onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into roughly 1-inch cubes. Sift remaining confectioners' sugar into a large bowl and add marshmallows in batches, tossing to evenly coat. Marshmallows keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature 1 week.


You may be questioning the addition of sea salt, but don't question it, just try it and report back because I think you will find it to be a genius addition.  

1 graham cracker broken in half
2 marshmallows
2 squares of good quality chocolate (if you just made graham crackers and marshmallows then this is the time to splurge on something other than Hershey bars.  I love Lindt or Theo organic)
A wooden skewer for toasting the marshmallow
Sea salt for sprinkling (optional)

Toast the marshmallows until golden brown and melty. If you are not blessed with an outdoor grill or fire pit you can toast the marshmallows over your gas stove (it works amazingly well just watch to make sure they don’t catch on fire.)  Place the marshmallows on the cracker.  Top with the squares of chocolate, a sprinkle of sea salt, and the other graham cracker.  Serve with wet naps because this will get messy in the best possible way. 

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