I tend to get my best ideas as I'm falling asleep. I may remember things that need to get done that I had completely forgotten about, I may suddenly know exactly what gift that person would like, and when I was still in school, just the right topic for a paper would float into my head. A few months ago, I had one of these sleepy brainwaves, and it said "Self-contained s'mores". The next morning, I decided that July 4th would be the perfect occasion to put this concept into action, especially considering that Florida in July is a rather hot place to build a campfire for traditional s'mores.
I have made my own marshmallows before, so I already had that recipe tested and ready. I knew that I wanted a graham crust, but I wanted it to be a crumb crust, not just a layer of crackers that might shatter when cut. As for the chocolate component, I know that Hershey's Milk Chocolate bars are the standard, but a homemade marshmallow is, to me, much sweeter and nicer than a Jet-Puffed, and dark chocolate would provide a better balance of flavor. With all of this in mind, I began my experiment on July 3rd. I made up a crumb crust and baked it in a greased 13" x 9" pan. After it cooled, I sprayed the sides of the pan with more nonstick spray and dusted them with a 50/50 mix of confectioners' sugar and cornstarch to prevent the marshmallow from sticking to the pan for the rest of time. I then poured the warm magma-like marshmallow on top of the crust, dusted the top with more of the 50/50 mix, and set it aside to cool for about 5 hours. After removing the marshmallows from the pan, with graham crust wonderfully adhered, I used a pastry brush to remove as much 50/50 mix as possible, then employed my sous chef (aka Hubband) to chop and melt the dark chocolate (Valrhona 70% cacao) in a double boiler. I cut the marshmallows into large squares (a little too large, as these are so rich) and quickly and carefully dipped them in the chocolate. I set them aside to drip and cool on a wire rack set over a half sheet pan. I also experimented with some Wilton Candy Melts and squeeze bottles to make some decorations. I'd say I need to keep working on that technique.Here is a shot in cross-section of the two varieties. My brother-in-law always puts peanut butter on his s'mores, so I made sure 6 of the squares had a layer of peanut butter included. The one on the right is obviously the one with the peanut butter layer, which made for a messy cut. Not particularly photogenic, but very delicious.
Now a few weeks ago, I posted (bragged) about some lovely gifts that Hubband had surprised me with, but I held one back. I wanted to keep it for a post where it would really matter, and this is it, because you can't make marshmallows without a stand mixer. The mixer itself was a wedding gift, but Hubband took it to a whole new level:
He flamed out my mixer! I love it!
adapted from Alton Brown
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 C ice-cold water
12 oz granulated sugar
1 C light corn syrup
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 C confectioners' sugar
1/2 C cornstarch
Place the whisk attachment on your stand mixer. In the bowl of the stand mixer, pour the gelatin and 1/2 c of the cold water. In a saucepan, mix the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 C cold water. Turn the burner to medium-high and cover for 4 minutes. Remove the lid and clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Be sure the probe end of the thermometer is not touching the bottom or side of the saucepan. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, about 8 minutes or so. Remember that the mixture will continue to cook off the heat, so I pull it off the burner at about 238F. It gets to 240 as I walk over to my mixer. Turn the mixer on low speed, and CAREFULLY and SLOWLY pour the hot syrup down the side of the mixer bowl into the gelatin and water, with the machine running. Once all of the syrup is in, increase the mixer speed to high. Whip until thick, glossy, and lukewarm, about 13 minutes. Add vanilla and whip 1 more minute.
While the mixture is whipping, prepare a 13"x9" pan by spraying the bottom and sides with nonstick spray. Mix the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch, and dust over the sprayed pan. This is a messy step, so I do it over the sink. Tilt the pan around to ensure an even coating of 50/50 mix all over. Reserve some of the 50/50 mix. When the marshmallow has finished whipping, pour it into the prepared pan. Lightly spray a spatula and use it to smooth out the marshmallow. Dust the top with more of the 50/50 mix. Set aside, uncovered, to cool for at least 4 hours. Turn out of the pan onto a cutting board and use a pizza cutter wheel to slice into cubes. Toss lightly with more 50/50 to prevent sticking.