Bad joke aside, it only takes three ingredients to warm the heart: Crunchy graham crackers, half melted milk chocolate, and gooey marshmallow. Indeed, the s’more is a simple pleasure, easy to make and even easier to devour.
Well, I always like to kick things up a notch. Or 10 notches. Laura and I were talking about s’mores not long ago, and it gave me inspiration to put together something stunning and a little more elegant. My wife’s recent interpretation of the Hawaiian Host Caramac (wish I had pictures) further elicited images in my mind of what I was looking for in a s’more dessert. I flipped through some of my old notebooks and texts to find what I might be looking for; a graham cracker crust that would put shame to the crumbly mess found on the bottom of most cheesecakes, a milk chocolate filling soft enough to melt my heart yet firm enough to strengthen my soul, and a homemade marshmallow that could enthrall even the pickiest of marshmallow enthusiasts!
This has the potential to be epic.
I discussed it with Laura, and she had a milk chocolate ganache recipe that she thought would be perfect. She also had experience making homemade marshmallow, and dug that recipe up for me. Lastly, she actually makes graham crackers for a plated dessert where she works, and she thought, if modified slightly, would be perfect to roll out as a tartlet shell. My little pastry queen!
I think I found what I was looking for.
So let’s start with the graham crust.
Graham Cracker Crust
Makes 10 four inch tartlet shells, or 2 nine inch shells.
- 2 ounces of water
- 4 ounces of butter
- 2 and 1/2 ounces of brown sugar
- 2 ounces of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of honey
- 3 and 1/2 ounces of all purpose flour
- 2 and 1/2 ounces of cake flour
- 2 and 1/2 ounces of whole wheat flour
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1. Place water and butter in a small sauce pan and melt.
Melt the Butter
2. While butter and water are on the stove, combine brown sugar, sugar, honey, all purpose flour, cake flour, whole wheat flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and vanilla extract in a Kitchenaid style mixer bowl. Mix on speed one with the paddle attachment until well combined.
Mix Dry Ingredients
3. When butter is melted, slowly pour into the flour and sugar mixture and mix just until fully incorporated.
Add Butter to Dry Mix
Mix Until Just Combined
Ready for refrigeration
4. Remove the dough from the bowl. Place in a zip lock bag and flatten down before sealing. Place the bag into the refrigerator until fully chilled, about 20-30 minutes.
5. While waiting for the dough to chill, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease your tart or tartlet shells while you wait. I prefer to use Crisco (it’s the only thing I ever use Crisco for) and grease up my pans with my finger.
6. When dough is fully chilled, remove from the fridge. Lightly flour your work space. Remove just enough dough to roll out one shell at a time (use half if doing a full sized 9 inch tart.)
7. Use a rolling pin to roll out to about 1/8 inch thickness evenly. Use flour sparingly to prevent the dough from sticking to the work space and the rolling pin. Carefully place into the tart shell and press into the sides. If using tartlet shells, place them all on a sheet tray to make baking easier.
- Roll out to 1/8 inch
8. Cut away excess with a knife. Use a fork to generously poke holes in the bottom to prevent large air pockets from forming. Chill for 10 minutes in the refrigerator to help prevent them from shrinking while they bake.
- Cut away excess
- Hole pokin’
9. Once chilled, place them on a middle shelf in the oven and set the timer for 8 minutes. This dough will rise a bit while they bake, but then settle down once they are finished. Check after the timer goes off. If they have poofed up considerably, gently press down on the middle to push the air out. Bake for another 4 to 6 minutes until done. They will not color very much, so do a touch test instead.
10. Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing them from their pans. No further baking will be required at this point.
- Finished graham tart shells!
Moving on to the milk chocolate filling. Be sure to use a good quality chocolate. There’s no need to spend a ridiculous amount of money, but don’t use Hershey’s or Nestle. We bought Guittard chocolate chips at a local kitchen specialty shop for about $4 a bag. They’re a French based chocolate company and some of their cocoa beans are actually grown in Hawaii and shipped there for processing. It is an excellent chocolate for the price, on par with other industry favorites such as Cacoa Barry.
Milk Chocolate Ganache
Makes 24 ounces
- 16 ounces of milk chocolate
- 8 ounces of heavy cream
- Optional: 1 Tablespoon of corn syrup will make the chocolate kinda shiny for presentation
1. Heat heavy cream slowly in a small pot to a boil.
2. If chocolate is in block form, chop it up with a knife. Place the chocolate in a bowl.
3. When heavy cream has reached a boil, pour over the chocolate and begin to whisk immediately. Continue whisking until chocolate is creamy and there are no lumps. If lumps exist, place back into the sauce pot and whisk over low heat until the lumps disappear. Chocolate is very easy to burn, so be careful if this happens.
Milk Chocolate Ganache
4. Slowly pour melted chocolate ganache into the tart shells until almost to the top of the crust. This can be made easier if you have a large Pyrex cup measure to do the pouring. Immediately chill these for at least half an hour to set the ganache.
Gently pour into tart shells
Almost to the top of the shell
Almost there! Now it is time to make the marshmallow. Marshmallow is extremely easy to make, but can be kind of difficult to work with after it is made because of how sticky it is and they way it moves. Once the marshmallow is made, there are two options: You can pour the marshmallow into a rectangular style mold (like a large flat Tupperware style container or even a rectangle cake pan) and let it set overnight. Then you can cut the marshmallow into round or square shapes and place them on top of the tarts/tartlets. We opted for the second option (because Laura wanted to ensure that one of the tartlets would end up in her belly by the end of the night) which was to let the marshmallow mixture cool slightly after it was made and then put it into a piping bag and pipe a round on the top of the tartlet. This is easy to do for the tartlet, but may not be the best option for a large tart if you are going for visual aesthetics. Make your decision ahead of time, though, to make it easy on yourself.
Makes . . . more than enough 😀
- 2 and 3/4 teaspoon of powdered gelatin
- 1 cup of water
- 1 and 3/4 cup of sugar
- 3/4 cup of light corn syrup (Karo)
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
drinkin a beer right now
1. Take 1/2 cup of the water and place it a small bowl. Add the powdered gelatin and mix together. This is called “blooming” the gelatin. It will absorb the water and make it ready to use.
Bloom the gelatin
2. Combine the other 1/2 cup of water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Using a candy thermometer or a digital probe thermometer, boil the sugar mixture until it reaches 250 degrees F. Before it reaches that temperature, have your Kitchenaid style mixer with a whisk attachment ready to use.
Sugar mixture ready to cook
3. When your thermometer reads around 245 degrees F, take the bloomed gelatin and place it in the bowl of your Kitchenaid style mixer.
4. When the thermometer reads 250, immediately remove from the heat. Start your mixer with the gelatin in it on the lowest speed and slowly pour your sugar in. Once completely mixed in, whip the sugar mixture on high for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Cook to 250 degrees F
5. When whipped, the marshmallow should have about tripled in size. Turn the mixer back down to the low setting and add the vanilla to mix in completely.
Whip sugar on high speed
Almost there . . .
Ready to use
IF POURING INTO A MOLD:
1. Spray the appropriate mold lightly with pan spray. Very gently line the pan with a sheet of plastic wrap, ensuring the bottom and sides are covered. The pan spray acts as a static cling so the plastic wrap will stay.
2. Place a little powdered sugar in a hand held wire mesh sieve and use this to generously cover the bottom with powdered sugar.
If using a mold for the marshmallow
3. Pour the marshmallow into the mold. Gently push the marshmallow toward the edges with a spatula.
4. Cover the top of the marshmallow generously with powdered sugar using the same method as before. Cover loosely with plastic. Let set for several hours or overnight, but don’t refrigerate it.
This is our leftover marshmallow
5. As you can guess, the sides of the marshmallow will stick to the plastic because there wasn’t any powdered sugar to keep it from sticking. When ready to cut, lift the marshmallow out of the mold using the plastic wrap. Gently peel away from the sides, using a paring knife if necessary to cut it away.
6. To cut, place a non serrated edged knife in very hot water. Remove from the water and gently shake off excess. This will help keep the marshmallow from sticking to the knife as you cut.
IF PIPING ONTO TARTS:
1. Get a piping bag ready with a large round tip.
2. When the marshmallow mixture has cooled to about room temperature, use a spatula to scoop marshmallow into the bag. It will be very sticky at this point and somewhat difficult to work with.
Piping onto chocolate tartlets
3. Pipe a circular shape onto the top of the tartlet by starting in the center and gently squeezing out the marshmallow. As the marshmallow flows out, slowly lift up on the bag. No need to use circular motions.
Yep, it's sticky and gooey
4. Allow the marshmallow to completely set before eating, and definitely before cutting, if making large tarts. If you can’t resist the urge, I understand! It will just be a little messy 😉
It only holds its shape for a little and it will settle
If I had a butane torch, I would definitely toast the top of the marshmallow. This would increase the visual appeal and also change the flavor profile, giving it a toasty caramelized sugar aroma. The finished marshmallow has an unnatural stark white appearance, which gave me some difficulties finding good lighting while taking photos. I’m not a photographer by any means, but I did what I could with my little camera and photo editing software.
Finished S'More Tartlet
This recipe may have a slightly higher learning curve to it if you’re not much of a baker. Don’t let that discourage you! I had a little help from Laura when playing with the marshmallow. Have fun with this and let me know what your experience is!
SAME DAY UPDATE: My wife is so good at correcting me 😉 Guittard is not a French company, but rather was founded by a Frenchman in San Francisco. Also, although the beans grown in Hawaii are sent to Guittard for processing, once it is processed it is sent back to Hawaii and sold under the name of Waialua Chocolate Company, where the beans are grown. Check out this article for some extra info.