Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Made from Scratch S'Mores (Graham Crackers and Marshmallows)

For our 2nd anniversary last December, my in-laws gave JJ and I a standing fire pit. I was thrilled for two reasons. First, because JJ wanted to dig a hole in the ground and make that a fire pit... which sounded a little unsafe and not exactly aesthetically pleasing. And second, I love sitting around the fire and cooking things... or just throwing random things in the fire to watch it burn (don't we all?). We hadn't had an opportunity to use it until my birthday party, so I have been trying to find another reason since then. With John and Vickie visiting, I knew we'd have to light it up. 
Vickie is a big s'mores lover, so I instantly thought sitting around the fire pit on the 4th of July with s'mores would be perfect. And it was. 
Last summer, I mentioned to Vickie that she should try using Peeps in her s'mores, which she did and loved. So I figured I'd have to up the ante with my s'mores. I decided to not only make homemade marshmallows, but also make homemade graham crackers. 
I have to admit I'm a huge geek about things like cooking and gardening and the likes. To see plants sprout and grow to 6 feet from a tiny seed just amazes me. To see a bunch of random ingredients come together and create a dish (especially baked goods) also amazes me. Every time I make marshmallows, it's like magic! I first made them a couple years ago when I participated in Tuesdays with Dorie, so that's my go-to recipe.
For the graham crackers, I used this recipe on 101 Cookbooks. It was very simple, and spot on graham cracker. I used a pizza cutter and haphazardly sliced mine, but a pastry cutter would make them look especially pretty, or a square cookie cutter.
For the chocolate, I settled on the classic Hershey's Bar. Since it's about a hundred million degrees in Florida, the bar was already really soft and pliable so the chocolate melted quickly. 

I have to say these are probably the best s'mores I've ever had. The homemade marshmallows were so gooey that you just had to stick them in the fire and char the outside rather than hold it over a low flame and rotate for 5 minutes to get the perfect s'more marshmallow. The graham crackers were crisp, but still buttery and moist. And in true Florida fashion, boy scout JJ went into the woods behind our house and picked some palm tree branches to use as skewers.
I guess summer in Florida isn't too bad! 

Made from Scratch S'mores!

Marshmallows, from Dorie Greenspan:
About 1 cup potato starch (found in the kosher foods section of supermarkets) or cornstarch
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 1/4-ounce packets unflavored gelatin
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar

GETTING READY: Line a rimmed baking sheet -- choose one with a rim that is 1 inch high -- with parchment paper and dust the paper generously with potato starch or cornstarch. Have a candy thermometer at hand.
Put 1/3 cup of the water, 1 1/4 cups of the sugar and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar is dissolved, continue to cook the syrup -- without stirring -- until it reaches 265 degrees F on the candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.
While the syrup is cooking, work on the gelatin and egg whites. In a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the remaining cold water (a scant 7 tablespoons) and let it sit for about 5 minutes, until it is spongy, then heat the gelatin in a microwave oven for 20 to 30 seconds to liquefy it. (Alternatively, you can dissolve the gelatin in a saucepan over low heat.)
Working in the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in another large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until firm but still glossy -- don't overbeat them and have them go dull.
As soon as the syrup reaches 265 degrees F, remove the pan from the heat and, with the mixer on medium speed, add the syrup, pouring it between the spinning beater(s) and the sides of the bowl. Add the gelatin and continue to beat for another 3 minutes, so that the syrup and the gelatin are fully incorporated. Beat in the vanilla.
Using a large rubber spatula, scrape the meringue mixture onto the baking sheet, laying it down close to a short end of the sheet. Then spread it into the corners and continue to spread it out, taking care to keep the height of the batter at 1 inch; you won't fill the pan. Lift the excess parchment paper up to meet the edge of the batter, then rest something against the paper so that it stays in place (I use custard cups).
Dust the top of the marshmallows with potato starch or cornstarch and let the marshmallows set in a cool, dry place. They'll need about 3 hours, but they can rest for 12 hours or more.
Once they are cool and set, cut the marshmallows with a pair of scissors or a long thin knife. Whatever you use, you'll have to rinse and dry it frequently. Have a big bowl with the remaining potato starch or cornstarch at hand and cut the marshmallows as you'd like -- into squares, rectangles or even strips (as they're cut in France). As each piece is cut, drop it into the bowl. When you've got 4 or 5 marshmallows in the bowl, reach in with your fingers and turn the marshmallows to coat them with starch, then, one by one, toss the marshmallows from one hand to the other to shake off the excess starch; transfer them to a serving bowl. Cut and coat the rest of the batch.
SERVING: Put the marshmallows out and let everyone nibble as they wish. Sometimes I fill a tall glass vase with the marshmallows and put it in the center of the table -- it never fails to make friends smile. You can also top hot chocolate or cold sundaes with the marshmallows.
STORING: Keep the marshmallows in a cool, dry place; don't cover them closely. Stored in this way, they will keep for about 1 week -- they might develop a little crust on the outside or they might get a little firmer on the inside, but they'll still be very good.

Graham Crackers adapted from Nancy Silverton:
2 1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp. whole wheat pastry flour 
1 c. dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
7 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut in small cubes, frozen
1/3 c. clover honey
5 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In the bowl of a food processor with the blade, pulse flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt to mix.
Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is like a coarse meal.
In a small dish, whisk honey, milk and vanilla.
Add to the flour mixture and pulse until dough comes together (it will be soft and sticky).
Turn onto a lightly flour surface and pat into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for 2+ hours.

Preheat oven to 350*
Flour a work surface, divide the dough in half and roll to 1/8-1/4" thick.
Use a pizza cutter or pastry cutter and slice into squares (or any desired shape).
Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. 
Continue rolling and slicing dough to fill baking sheet.
Gather all scraps and place back in the refrigerator.
Make a small line down the center of each cracker, pierce the sides with a fork.
Bake for 22-25 minutes, until browned and crisp, cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.
Work all scraps back into a ball, re roll and slice, transfer to cooled baking sheets and bake second batch, if necessary, follow cooling instructions from first batch.

Leave graham crackers on cooling racks to harden, then store in a plastic bag. Humidity will soften them, so let them sit out uncovered to crisp back up, if necessary (in Florida, it was necessary!)


Dawn said...

Girl you always outdo yourself! Homemade marshmallows AND grahams?! I must defer to my naan pizza post.....

Debbi Does Dinner Healthy said...

I have always wanted to try to make marshmallows! I need to try this, thanks!

Natalie said...

I bet these were the best tasting ever, partially because of all the love that went in to making them! I'm always super satisfied when I make something from scratch instead of buying!! Great job!

Joanne said...

WHOA! I'm so impressed that you made your own marshmallows and graham crackers! You are crazy :P Love it!

Cara said...

We have a fire pit too. I'm one of the biggest s'mores lovers, in history, I think. And we never use said fire pit. What's wrong with this equation? Dude I need to make some homemade graham crackers and get out there!