Friday, July 16, 2010

More S’mores

I’ve said before that tomatoes, corn on the cob and and watermelon are my quintessential tastes of summer. They’re the barometers by which I gage summer’s seasonal produce, and they’re the foodie taste sensations I covet the rest of the year long. But I have also culled a list of summertime sweet treats that reside squarely in the hot sticky months of June, July and August. Each of these indulgent taste sensations will be featured on my blog this season, and each harkens back to childhood memories made among family and friends in the Buff–like fruit pies on my Grandma’s screened-in back porch, jell-o jigglers (which later became spiked jell-o shots I snuck into high school dances) and classic campfire s’mores. They may not be seasonal in quite the same way as a brandywine tomato, but the irresistible trinity of gooey chocolate, crunchy graham cracker, and smoky-sweet toasted marshmallow seems to belong under a warm summer sky.

This summer has been no exception–in fact, I think I’ve eaten more s’mores in the past few months than I ever did as a kid! But at this age, I don’t kid around with my s’mores. Like the factory-made, processed peanut butter cups from my childhood I transformed into gourmet pudding cups last Christmas, my s’mores have grownup flavor and a real foods recipe you can trust without losing a single ounce of whimsy. Homemade marshmallows and artisan chocolate are my secret ingredients for the best s’mores you’ll ever have!

My adventures with s’mores began last month during a trip I took with friends to Fire Island. Looking for an easy, no-bake dessert (I try to avoid the oven as much as possible during the sultry months of summer, especially in an un-air-conditioned beach house!), I remembered Alton Brown’s marshmallow recipe. They literally bake themselves! It’s the sort foolproof but labor-intensive recipe that makes homemade marshmallows more of a mission than one typically has time for, but I had a “When in Rome…” moment, and decided that in name and scope, a weekend in Fire Island necessitated a batch of marshmallows charred over an open flame. I made the batter in the morning and then left them uncovered to solidify all afternoon as we worked up an appetite biking, beaching and drinking the day away. By altering Alton’s recipe slightly and using a 9×9-inch baking pan, I was able to make jumbo marshmallows that fit perfectly between graham crackers. That night, we toasted the suckers in our garden chiminea ‘til they were golden and assembled soul-satisfying s’mores sandwiches.

My love affair with s’mores continued on July 4th when I made these treats at a barbecue on a penthouse roof deck in Williamsburg. By grilling the marshmallows first over a gas flame and then finishing them off over tea lights, we were able to reach a transformative s’mores experience with the gooiest marshmallow fluff-like center surrounded by a charred, crunchy crust. With the addition of several Mo’s Milk Chocolate Bacon Bars from Vosge, this batch of s’mores was the perfect taste combination of sweet and salty, crispy and smooth. Everything tastes better with bacon, especially if you’re smothering that bacon in artisan milk chocolate, wedging it between graham cracks squares and pairing it with homemade marshmallows, all while watching fireworks with a 360° view of New York City spread before you!

Then just last weekend when Carrie, my childhood best friend, got married on a mountain top in Vermont, we once again celebrated with family, friends, and our favorite childhood extravagance–s’mores around a bonfire! As the cupcakes dwindled on the tower I made her as a wedding cake, the sweets kept coming and party kept raging well into the night with this no-hassle dessert we all gathered together to “toast” our bride and groom.  Between bites of summer and smiles scarred with marshmallow strings, I thought, “At last, Carrie married the man of her dreams and I’m roasting marshmallows over a real fire.”

S’mores (serves a crowd)

In my opinion, a fire is really the best way to get toasted, gooey marshmallows. Since this is impractical if you’re making them for a crowd–or if, like me, you call a city home–I found that skewering them on shishkebab sticks and grilling them first over low heat and then finishing them off over tea lights is the next best thing. Remember to “bake” them in a 9×9-inch pan to get really jumbo squares and cut them to fit the size of your graham crackers. Once your marshmallows have reached perfection, sandwich them between two graham crackers and a piece of best-quality chocolate you can get your hands on. My personal favorite for food-forward s’mores is Vosge’s milk chocolate bacon bar. After assembly, wait a moment before eating to allow the marshmallow to cool down and the chocolate to warm up for maximum meltiness!

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