Eighty-plus years ago, around a glowing bonfire deep in the woods, somebody thought to stuff a toasted marshmallow and a piece of milk chocolate between a pair of graham crackers.
And an American campfire classic was born.
Conventional wisdom pins this act of culinary genius on the Girl Scouts, who’ve been cooking under the stars on camping trips since the group organized in 1912. It didn’t take long for the ooey-gooey but oh-so-yummy dessert to capture our imaginations.
A Sept. 9, 1925, article in The Norwalk Hour heralded the new “dish” served at Camp Andree Clark, a national camp for Girl Scouts in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.: “‘Some-mores’ consist of a graham cracker on which is placed a piece of Hershey chocolate, a toasted marshmallow, another piece of chocolate and a graham cracker.” In no surprise to anyone, the paper reported, they were “enjoyed thoroughly” by the patrol leaders.
S’mores, as the quickie desserts came to be known, weren’t the first treats to combine those three simple ingredients in spectacular fashion: Nabisco’s chocolate-coated Mallomars hit the market in 1913, and MoonPies, still made in Tennessee’s Chattanooga Bakery, followed in 1917. But it took the development of mass-produced marshmallows in the late teens and 1920s, notes Susan Whetzel in “The S’mores Cookbook,” for the s’more to became a campers’ favorite.
“The ingredients were easy to find and easy to transport; the simple dessert offered a wilderness luxury that had previously been unavailable,” she writes.
By 1927, the recipe had made its way into the “Tramping and Trailing with the Girls Scouts” handbook and mainstream culture, loved as much by grownups as by their sash-wearing children.
”The simplicity of preparation .... and the overall flavor combination seemed to impress everyone, and [s’mores] soon became a household name,“ Ms. Whetzel writes.
While generations of kids have celebrated summer with s’mores, it’s only recently the treat has made its way indoors into the kitchen and onto other parts of the menu besides dessert. While crouched next to a fire under a night sky remains America’s favorite way to eat ’em, pro and amateur cooks are thinking outside the box with fancier fillings, gourmet chocolates and unique preparations -- everything from s’more-inspired pies, bars. pudding and cookies to milkshakes and even s’mores pierogies. (You’ll find them at Cop Out Pierogies in Etna.)
Ten Penny on Penn Avenue, Downtown, serves a gourmet s’mores dessert flavored with raspberry and habanero; Casbah in Shadyside offers a Chocolate S’mores Cake with salted-caramel ice cream. Butcher and the Rye’s very-adult version of the childhood treat is crafted with bourbon marshmallows and brown butter-fried ice cream.
Rather drink your way to s’mores heaven? It’s easy, with marshmallow- and chocolate-flavored booze. Olive or Twist, Downtown, and Bobby Hendrix Pittsburgh on the South Side are just two of a growing number of bars with s’mores martinis on their menus. At the latter, it’s garnished with a flaming marshmallow.
This quintessential taste of summer also has been brewed into at least one beer. This past January for a Brewpub Shootout event, Off Color Brewing in Chicago concocted a 10.5-percent-alcohol Russian imperial stout called DinoS’mores that included graham flour, marshmallow fluff, vanilla bean and cocoa nibs. It walked away with first place.
Celebrity chefs, too, are putting their spin on this slice of edible Americana. Guy Fieri, for one, has five recipes for s’mores in his latest cookbook, “Guy on Fire: Grilling, Tailgating, Camping, and More!” One substitutes a Snickers bar and apple pie filling for the usual Hershey bar and another packages chocolate-covered raisins and marshmallow fluff between oatmeal cookies.
Believe it or not, you can actually buy a number of different s’mores makers and grilling/roasting racks on Amazon for your grill or microwave. But really, isn’t one of the treat’s charms, as generations of Girl Scouts and young Brownies have so aptly demonstrated, the fact that it’s so easy to make? Besides the ingredients, all you need is a flame, a stick and a bit of patience so as to not catch the small, spongy square of molded sugar on fire by toasting it too close to the flame. Unless you love your marshmallows charred and crispy, of course. (And plenty do.)
This Sunday, Aug. 10, marks National S’mores Day and to assure a proper celebration, we’re offering a few recipes to give the classic combination of chocolate, marshmallow and graham cracker its due.
Don’t feel like building a campfire? Not only can s’mores be easily made in the microwave (you won’t get that nice crispy exterior, of course, but everything still will get warm and gooey), but also marshmallows can be toasted on any type of flame -- a gas stovetop, a can of Sterno or even over a candle if you’re really, really careful.
It’s just as easy to stick them in a pan under the broiler for a few seconds, or toast them creme brulee-style with a kitchen torch. However you like it, so long as you get the job done!
Wanna start a food fight, or at least a heated conversation?
Tell someone you roast marshmallows instead of toast them. Guaranteed, the sparks will fly.
Probably the greatest American dessert ever invented.
8 metal or wooden skewers
3½ ounces chocolate, any variety, broken into squares
8 graham crackers, broken in half
Thread 2 marshmallows onto the ends of 4 skewers. (If using wooden skewers, soak in water for 30 minutes before grilling). Toast over a portable barbecue, open fire or gas flame for about 3 minutes, until golden on the outside. Don’t toast them too close to the flame or they will burn.
To make a s‘more, sandwich 1 hot toasted marshmallow and 1 square of chocolate between 2 graham cracker halves. Repeat with remaining ingredients and serve while marshmallows and chocolate are gooey.
-- “Family Camping Cookbook” by Tiff and Jim Easton (Duncan Baird, 2013, $14.95)
S’mores in a Jar
Who doesn’t like food in jars? It’s just so cute, and easy to portion.
Be careful not to put the jars too close under the broiler -- I did, and my marshmallows caught fire, creating havoc.
12 graham crackers
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted
1/4 cup sugar
4 8-ounce canning jars
3.4-ounce package instant chocolate pudding, prepared to package directions
1½ cups marshmallow fluff
12 large marshmallows
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Crumble graham crackers in bowl of a food processor and process until fine. Add butter and sugar and pulse until mixture hangs together. Transfer to a small baking sheet lined with foil and press graham-cracker mixture into the bottom.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. (Mine took about 18 minutes.) Remove from oven and allow to cool, then break into irregular chunks.
To assemble jars, layer crumbled graham crackers, then a layer of pudding, then marshmallow fluff, repeating layers until ending with the pudding layer. Place 3 large marshmallows on top of pudding, and broil on a top rack of the oven for 2 to 3 minutes or until tops begin to brown lightly. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
No-Bake S‘Mores Pie
How good is this pie? It disappeared within minutes at the office. It’s definitely on the sweet (and buttery) side, but so no counting calories! It best to wash down with milk.
You can find malted-milk powder in the baking section of your grocery store.
1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup malted-milk powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup heavy cream
For chocolate filling
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream
1½ teaspoons light corn syrup
2½ tablespoons unsalted butter
10-ounce bag marshmallows
Make crust: In large bowl, whisk together graham cracker crumbs, malted milk powder, sugar and salt. In measuring cup, whisk together melted butter and heavy cream, then pour over crumb mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold and mix the ingredients together until all of dry ingredients are evenly moistened.
Turn mixture into a 9-inch pie pan and press evenly along the bottom and up the sides of pan. Refrigerate while chocolate filling is prepared.
Make filling: Place chopped chocolate in medium bowl. Combine heavy cream and corn syrup in small saucepan and place over medium heat. Warm mixture until it is just barely boiling. Remove from heat and pour over chopped chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute, then gently begin stirring with a rubber spatula. Mix until all of the chocolate is melted and combined. Add butter and stir until melted and incorporated.
Pour chocolate mixture into chilled pie crust and spread into an even layer. Gently press marshmallows into the chocolate filling, covering the top of pie with marshmallows. Chill pie briefly (30 minutes to an hour) to allow chocolate to set. When ready to serve, use a kitchen torch to toast the marshmallows.
Makes 8 servings.
Scrumptious S’More Milkshake
A little decadent, but a step above a traditional vanilla milkshake. Not just for youngsters, though drinking one will make you feel like a kid -- I sent one on the road with my husband in a travel coffee cup and I’m pretty sure he finished it before he got out of the driveway.
12 miniature marshmallows, toasted
3 scoops vanilla ice cream
1/4 cup low-fat milk
1 tablespoon plain low-fat yogurt
1 graham cracker, crumbled, for topping
Toast marshmallows: Preheat broiler (in oven or toaster oven). Line small baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place marshmallows on sheet, and toast under broiler, watching carefully to avoid burning, until marshmallows are soft and darkened, but not black, about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from broiler and let cool.
Make milkshake: Put the ice cream, milk, and yogurt in blender and blend on medium-high until hollow core forms in the center of the shake. Add 6 of the marshmallows and blend.
Pour mixture into a tall glass. Top with remaining marshmallows, graham cracker crumbs, and swirl of chocolate syrup.
Makes 1 milkshake.
Chocolate and Peanut Butter S’Mores
Kind of like Reese’s Pieces, only better. Not to mention stickier.
4 tablespoons peanut butter
8 thin, crisp chocolate wafer cookies
Thread a marshmallow on the end of a skewer. (If using wooden skewers, soak in water for 30 minutes before grilling). Toast over a portable barbecue, open fire or gas flame for about 3 minutes, until golden on the outside. Don’t toast them too close to the flame or they will burn.
Spread 1 tablespoon peanut butter (at room temperature, for easy spreading) onto a chocolate water. Slide skewer-toasted marshmallow onto peanut butter. Top with a second wafer and squish down gently. Eat, licking fingers.
-- Sunset magazine
Frozen S’Mores Pops
So easy! They’ll disappear in minutes.
10 wooden picks
10 large marshmallows
1/4 cup graham-cracker crumbs
1/2 cup Nestle Toll House milk chocolate morsels
Line a tray with wax paper. Press 1 wooden pick into each marshmallow. Place graham cracker crumbs in small, shallow bowl.
Microwave morsels in medium, uncovered, microwave-safe bowl on high (100 percent) power for 45 seconds; stir. The morsels may retain some of their original shape. If necessary, microwave at additional 10-second intervals, stirring just until morsels are melted.
Dip marshmallows into melted chocolate using wooden picks; roll marshmallows to cover completely with chocolate. Dip into graham cracker crumbs, rolling to cover. Transfer to prepared tray.
Freeze for 20 minutes or until chocolate is set. Enjoy immediately or transfer to airtight container and store in freezer for up to 1 week. Be sure to allow marshmallows to sit at room temperature for a couple minutes prior to eating.
-- Nestle Toll House (verybestbaking.com)
The classic childhood treat is revisited in this very adult beverage.
1/4 cup chocolate chips, melted
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs, for dipping
3 ounces marshmallow-flavored vodka
3 ounces chocolate liqueur
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
6 ounces whipping cream
Ice, as needed
2 skewers toasted marshmallows (optional)
Place the melted chocolate and graham cracker crumbs on 2 separate flat dishes. Dip the rims of the glasses into the melted chocolate, then immediately into the crumbs. Set aside to dry. Combine the vodka, chocolate liqueur, syrup, and cream in a large glass or cocktail shaker. Add ice, cover with another glass, then shake vigorously to chill. Strain into prepared glasses. Garnish with marshmallow skewers, if desired.
-- “The S'mores Cookbook: From S'mores Stuffed French Toast to a S'mores Cheesecake Recipe, Treat Yourself to S'more of Everything” by Susan Whetzel (Adams, 2013, $18.95)
Lemon Meringue S’mores
This citrusy turn on the classic s’more will remind you of lemon meringue pie.
2 teaspoons lemon curd
2 heaping tablespoons Homemade Marshmallow Creme (recipe follows)
4 large graham crackers
1.55-ounce Hershey’s chocolate bar, broken into 4 pieces
Preheat grill or set up a campfire.
In small bowl, swirl the lemon curd into marshmallow cream. Be careful not to overmix.
To assemble, break each graham cracker in half so that you have 8 cracker squares. Place a square of Hershey‘s chocolate bar on top of 4 crackers followed by a tablespoon of the lemon curd mixture. Top with remaining cracker.
Double-wrap each sandwich in foil and place on grill, turning frequently to prevent burning, about 1 minute.
Makes 4 s’mores.
-- Adapted from “Guy on Fire” by Guy Fieri (William Morrow, May 2014, $30)
Homemade Marshmallow Creme
1 cup sugar, divided
4 egg whites
Pinch kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and simmer syrup without stirring until the thermometer reads 240 degrees, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush.
Meanwhile, place egg whites, salt, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment. Whip on high until frothy. Slowly add remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Whip until soft peaks form. Continue whipping until medium peaks form. Reduce speed to medium, then pour hot syrup into meringue in a slow, steady stream while whipping. Increase speed to high and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Reduce speed to medium and whip until meringue is cool.
Makes 4 cups.
-- Bon Appetit
Gretchen McKay: email@example.com, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.