Buzz Lightyear: " . . . in just a few hours you'll be sitting around a campfire with Andy making nice hot shmoes." Woody: "They're called s'mores, Buzz." -- Toy Story
So, now that it's winding down, let's do a little recap of our summer, shall we? Have a seat and we'll begin.
Did you go to the beach? Yes? Okay, good, check that one off.
Did you watch fireworks for the Fourth of July? Great, check that one too.
Did you eat watermelon outside and spit out the seeds? Check.
Did you pick fresh fruit or veggies at a farm, or from a garden? Check.
Did you take a lot of nice walks? Check.
Did you read at least a couple frivolous and/or trashy novels? Check. Check. Check.
Did you take about a zillion photos of your family and/or kids frolicking in the sun? Check.
Did you assemble and enjoy your fair share of nice hot shmoes this summer? . . . What?! You didn't??
Well, don't despair--all is not lost. The fact is, you don't need a campfire or a flaming grill to achieve a reasonable facsimile of the s'mores experience, and you don't even need summertime, truth be told. You can get that ooey, gooey, sticky, chewy vibe any time of year with cookie bars like these. All the requisite ingredients are in there to help replicate the total s'mores taste experience--milk chocolate Hershey bars, graham cracker crumbs, and marshmallow creme.
Just close your eyes as you bite into one of these bars and you'll see what I mean. Wiggle your toes in the imaginary sand while you're munching and listen to the gentle waves lapping the pretend shore . . . just ignore those nonexistent kids who keep whining over there by the invisible picnic table. (Ahh, yes . . . isn't creative visualization fun?) While it's true s'mores are a critical component of a well rounded summer, it's comforting to know that they can be enjoyed--albeit in a slightly altered incarnation--all year long.
About this recipe . . .
Of course, if s'mores were never really your thing, you might want to fiddle around with this recipe and do some tweaking. I love s'mores, but I fiddled just a little bit anyway. My main tweak involved the addition of a small amount of coarsely chopped honey-roasted peanuts, and a reduction in the amount of marshmallow creme. But, tweaked or untweaked, these are pretty darn good. Were I to make them again, I think I might ponder using dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate to dial down the sweetness factor just a smidgen.
This quick recipe came from the latest issue (September 2010) of Disney Family Fun magazine. Though my kids are not so young anymore, whenever I happen to get my hands on a copy of this, I still flip through it prowling for ideas, and I always look for the recipes. I liked the looks of these bars right away. S'more cookie bars aren't an original concept by any means, but not all formulas are created equal and this was the first one I've seen that I was motivated to make.
I decided to double the recipe and, as I mentioned above, I added in chopped honey-roasted peanuts, sprinkling them over the chocolate layer (just a half cup). I also halved the amount of marshmallow creme indicated, but if you're a maniacal marshmallow lover, go to town and double what I've written in the recipe below; your bars will be insanely gooey, in a good way. I increased the amount of salt slightly (I used kosher salt). I used a 9" x 13" pan, which probably made the bars a little thicker than the original recipe. My batter was too soft to handle in the way that the original recipe indicated (it was a hot day and the butter I used was awfully soft), so I had to adjust accordingly. As usual, I reworded most of the directions.
All in all, these babies were a hit in my house. And, unlike genuine "nice hot shmoes," these can travel quite safely in a lunchbox. (As Buzz Lightyear would say, "To infinity, and beyond!")
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
1 egg, large
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers (I used plain honey grahams)
1 and 1/2 cups All-Purpose flour (I used unbleached)
3/4 tsp. salt (I recommend kosher)
2 tsp. baking powder
6 - 1.55 oz. Hershey milk chocolate bars (this is six standard size bars)
1 (7 oz.) jar of marshmallow creme (I used Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme, what I had on hand)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9" x 13" baking pan.
In a large mixer bowl, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add in the egg and vanilla extract, and beat to combine.
In a separate bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking powder, and salt. Pour all of this into the butter mixture and beat until well mixed.
Spread two-thirds of the batter into the bottom of the pan. If the batter is quite soft, wet your hands with cold water, shake off the excess water, and pat the batter into place. Over this layer, break up the chocolate bars into small pieces and scatter them evenly. Sprinkle the nuts evenly over the chocolate. Spread all of the marshmallow creme on top of this, again using wet hands to urge the creme into place as best you can. (Overall, this will be a messy procedure, but don't worry about it. It doesn't have to look neat.) Spoon dabs of the remaining batter over the top, and spread them out as best you can to cover as much of the marshmallow as possible. Don't worry about gaps.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and the sides of the bars start to pull away from the pan. Let the bars cool in the pan, on a rack, for at least 20 minutes before you attempt to cut into them.
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Jane's Sweets & Baking Journalwas born of my ever increasing desire to learn more about the baking and pastry arts, and of my love for anything and everything related to baking. Just as food is meant to be shared, so is knowledge among bakers and among those who enjoy delicious foods prepared from scratch. So, please partake, and feel free to share your thoughts and comments. I'd love to hear from you.
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JANE'S FAVORITE BAKING BOOKS
About Professional Baking: The Essentials, by Gail Sokol. This is a textbook, but not one that's intimidating. It contains lots of useful info, including interesting personal profiles of professional chefs.
All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. Another winner of the IACP award. Loads of good looking cookie recipes with lots of very appetizing photos. (Don't you love cookbooks with tons of pictures? I do.)
All-American Dessert Book, by Nancy Baggett. Wonderfully detailed, with very reliable recipes, Baggett does it again in this valuable cookbook. Definitely worth your time!
Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet. This large Gourmet Cook Book Club Selection is a feast for the eyes. I love the page layout, the photos, and the author's reassuring tone. Recipes range from the quotidian ("classic sugar cookies") to the ridiculous ("Moroccan-spiced sweet-potato tiropetes") to the absolute sublime ("duo-tone chocolate pots de creme"). Worth acquiring.
Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, by the Culinary Institute of America. This is a heavy duty textbook, not for the faint of heart. Intimidating, sure, but also kind of fascinating if you're an obsessive bake-a-holic like me.
Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan and based on the PBS series hosted by Julia Child. Yet another hefty and dazzling coffee-table-worthy cookbook. Wonderful to have around. (My copy was autographed by Julia herself!)
Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, published in 1950 and available in a facsimile edition, holds a special place in my heart. This is the book my mom primarily used, or so it seemed, when I was a kid. The photos are such period pieces, and the little notations that accompany recipes are pricelessly cute and corny. I have an ancient copy that I still use. Every girl needs a copy of this in her house, for good karma if nothing else.
Bitter Sweet -- Recipes and Tales From a Life in Chocolate, by Alice Medrich. Much more than just a cookbook with a focus on fine dark chocolate, this is also a memoir of sorts from a legendary chocolate-dessert creator. Medrich is often credited with awakening American tastes to the finest aspects of superior chocolate. Very interesting read!
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes,by Jeffrey Hamelman. An indispensable book for anyone who is seriously interested in learning to make fine yeast breads, Hamelman shares far more than just technical knowledge. Like fellow bread guru Peter Reinhart, his warmth of spirit and deep love for the tradition of bread baking shines through on every page.
Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham. Not to be confused with the character of the mom on Happy Days, the real Marion Cunningham has a long list of writing accomplishments, the most well known being that she completely revised The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. A contemporary of the late James Beard's, she is still held in high esteem.
Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Rose is really into the science of baking, which can be helpful in some respects and off-putting in others. Like gardeners who talk mostly about soil components without conveying their joy in the plants themselves. Maybe I'm too sensitive? Probably so, as many consider this to be an invaluable classic. Despite my reservations, I wouldn't part with my copy. One of several highly detailed books by Rose. Her latest book, Heavenly Cakes, is much more down to earth, loaded with photos, and truly beautiful.
Cake Book, by Tish Boyle. I've called it a treasure trove before and please allow me to say it again here. This book is jam packed with wonderful stuff that's well explained. I used the Sacher-torte recipe in the fall of '09 for a culinary school project and it didn't let me down. I can endorse this book without reservation. I love it.
Complete Book of Pastry Sweet & Savory, by Bernard Clayton, Jr. When this book appeared in 1981, famed food editor Craig Claiborne praised it in the NYT as "one of the most important cookbooks of this year, if not of this decade." No photos, but don't let that dissuade you.
Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox. In 2009, some great new cookbooks were published and this was one of them. Down to earth, straightforward without being condescending, this smart guide offers creative and simple twists on dozens of diverse and well-proven "cakes, cookies, and other sweets."
Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier. As the White House executive pastry chef for over two decades, Mesnier has a lot of wisdom to impart. He does so well in this book, which is designed specifically for home bakers. A good book!
Grand Central Baking Book, by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson. Readers are welcomed into these pages with a tone of warmth and familiarity. The photos alone will have you scribbling a grocery list. Try the berry kuchen recipe--simple and scrumptious.
Hershey's Chocolate Treasury, published in 1984 by Hershey Foods and chock full of old reliables. The recipe for Black Magic cake is one I've used again and again--invaluable!
How to Bake, by Nick Malgieri. The writing style is matter of fact and fairly informal. That's one of my favorite things about Malgieri's books.
Magical Art of Cake Decorating, by Carole Collier. Sometimes at a used book sale you find an old gem like this. Published in '84, I found it very encouraging when I first began decorating cakes. The recipes are rock solid reliable.
Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, by Maida Heatter. Famed baker (apparently her "Palm Beach Brownies" are known far and wide), whose work has centered on wondrous chocolate desserts, Heatter received a James Beard award for this book, one of many she's published over several active decades.
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, by Martha Stewart. Beautiful photos, but I must admit I've come to have reservations about the reliability of some of the recipes. Is it just me? Though I love flipping through the book for ideas, I'm a bit on the fence with this one when it comes to actual usage.
Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes by Martha Stewart. Talk about a stunning and inspiring book! Chances are you may never decide to actually make one of the cakes from this glorious volume, but it's enough just to page through the gorgeous pictures and interesting recipes. Expensive? For sure, but worth it.
Passion for Baking, A by Marcy Goldman. If you're curious about how professional bakers manage to make things come out nicely every time, you'll appreciate this book. Goldman, in her highly approachable style, divulges many of their simple--but enormously helpful--tricks and techniques, and shows readers how to implement them throughout the wondrous array of down-to-earth recipes that pack this great book. Loads of enticing photos, too! I love this book!
Perfect Cakes, by Nick Malgieri. Can't say enough about Malgieri's books. Absolutely worth using, versus just reading! The white and dark chocolate cheesecake is to die for; I've made it a few times, along with many other recipes from this book, and it is superb.
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday, by Peter Reinhart. This book is a revelation for anyone who approaches yeast recipes like a vampire approaches the dawn. Talk about down to earth, encouraging, and flexible! This guy knows how to talk to rookie breadmakers. Well worth reading, and using, this volume will find a comfy place in your cookbook collection--a worthwhile purchase, undoubtedly!
Professional Cake Decorating, by Toba Garrett. I get the impression that this book is perceived as the most thorough and comprehensive text available for serious students of cake decorating. This is the text that we used for my culinary school Beginning Cake Decorarting class (which means I finally own my own copy!).
Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, by Sarabeth Levine. Almost too pretty to use, but use it anyway! This big book is so appealing, and the photos so remarkably enticing, you'll want to pick it up like a sandwich and bite right into it. Fine recipes for updated classics, well explained, from the famous Manhattan bakery. Worth buying. (You'll love it!)
Secrets of Baking, by Sherry Yard. A must have, bakers! This cookbook's forte is the way it's organized; master recipes are presented with full explanations of how they can be used, and related recipes follow, section by section. An exceptional manual to refer to. Get your own copy!
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. Huntsman is the professional pastry chef behind this beautiful book, filled with many tempting recipes, all designed specifically and scaled perfectly for three layers. I've made the Devil's food cake thus far, and it was exceptional--it rose well, was very moist, and had great depth of flavor. I'll be using this book more in the future, without a doubt. Love the photos also!
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. . . to never endorse a product of any kind on Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal that I do not believe in. I've never done so thus far, and I vow never to do so. If I tell you I think something is great, or that I think it is worth spending real money on, then I mean it, rest assured. I promise. And, if I ever talk about a product that I've been given to review or try out, I will disclose that in the post.
I'm a mom with two great sons (both now in college), and a really nice husband. I left a long editorial career in reference publishing a few years ago and I've had nary a regret. I recently finished (after four part-time years!) a Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate program in the Culinary Studies Institute at a local community college. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and I am so glad I did it. These days, I do a lot of freelance editorial work, something that I really enjoy.
"Jane's Sweets" was the name of a very small baking enterprise that I started in late 2007. It bloomed a bit, for a little while, with encouragement from my husband, my aunt, and my first cake decorating teacher, Cindy. Because my Aunt Lydia was my most ardent female supporter in this baking endeavor (she was a lifelong independent business owner herself), this blog is dedicated to her memory. If heaven is real, then I know she's there with my mom, baking up a storm. Like Lydia said one day, just before her 80th birthday, while she and my mom and I were baking in my mom's kitchen, "It's been a fun ride. I'd do it all over again!"
If my house were on fire, I'd grab my family, then I'd grab my KitchenAid mixer.
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