30 January 2010

Homemade S'mores

This week's amazing victory was s'mores. Yes, homemade s'mores. Yes, completely homemade s'mores. The graham crackers were a little chewier than I was expecting, but I think I could have rolled them thinner to avoid that. The chewiness made them perfect with the marshmallows, though. Just so we're clear, home-made marshmallows are amazing, and far superior in both taste and texture to their store-bagged counterparts. And, as long as you're willing to not touch the marshmallows with your fingers during preparation, they are simple to make, especially with a stand mixer. Finger touching will, inevitably, lead to strings of marshmallow web on everything you touch, including your face, eyelashes, and hair. I successfully heeded the counsel of others in this respect, and I now pass it on to you. I will admit that I did not make the chocolate sauce from scratch because we had some chocolate chips that needed to be used and I was without heavy cream. The ganache would have been better, but I did what I could. Just melt a half-cup of those chocolate bits down with a teaspoon or so of lard (YES, I used lard in cooking; so sue me) and the chocolate sauce is ready to go. Here's the recipe and photo; they were simply amazing. Keep in mind that they both take some chilling time, so plan ahead if you're going to make them.

Graham Crackers
Adapted from Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from the La Brea Bakery

Makes 48 2-inch squares

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup with whole wheat flour
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover
1 Tbsp molasses (optional—it gives a nice dark bite that I loved)
5 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Topping (optional)
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon 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.

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, molasses, 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, at least 2 hours. 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 thinner it is, the crispier your crackers will be. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Cut into 2-inch squares using a fluted pastry wheel or pizza cutter.

Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping. Be sure to space them well or they will bake together, and no one wants that. 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: Using a toothpick or skewer (I like the blunt end of a wooden skewer for more dramatic dots) prick the dough to form a pattern of dots. Don't skip this step or your crackers will puff more than they should.

Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Remove to racks to cool, and store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Adapted from Gourmet, December 1998

Makes about 96 1-inch cubed marshmallows

About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla (alternately: 1/2 of a scraped vanilla bean, 2 teaspoons almond or mint extract or maybe even some food coloring for tinting)

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. Do it well, being careful not to leave any gaps.

In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold cold water, and let stand to soften.

In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, second 1/2 cup of cold 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 six minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer. This is one of the most amazing chemical/physical changes I've ever witnessed in my culinary experience.

In separate medium bowl with cleaned beaters beat egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla (or your choice of flavoring) into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and don’t go crazy about getting it all out—you won't. Sift 1/4 cup confectioners sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least three hours.

Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and ease onto cutting board. With a large knife or oiled pizza cutter trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into roughly one-inch cubes. Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar back into your now-empty baking pan, and roll the marshmallows through it, on all six sides, before shaking off the excess and packing them away. Make sure you don't neglect covering them in sugar–if you don't do it, they'll stick to each and everything else.

These kept about a week in a zip-top bag for us.

Do I really need to tell you how to put together a s'more? I thought not.

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