Lately I’ve felt bombarded by bad food. There have just been too many events where crappy, processed food is part of the experience and there’s nothing to be done. From the Cub Scout campout that must feature hot dogs and s’mores, to the baseball game with nachos and cotton candy, to the end of the school year parties with pizza and cupcakes and bags of candy, eating healthy has been the exception, not the rule. And to demand/request/expect healthy options, like fruit or vegetables, just smacks of being a spoilsport.
What to do? And what’s to be done about iconic treats like s’mores? How fun is a campfire with fruit kebobs??
Having recently attended a Cub Scout campout where excessive consumption of s’mores had many of the scouts groaning in their bunks (and worse!), I was bound and determined not to repeat that tragedy at a Boy Scout campout just two weeks later. I like my sweets as much as the next person, but marshmallows are one of my least favorite treats. And Hershey’s chocolate has done nothing for me ever since I spent a week in Hershey and took a tour of the factory floor. (It was simply the massive amounts of chocolate I saw and the 24/7 aroma that turned me off Hershey’s for life. Except for their cherry kisses which you can only get for two weeks around Valentine’s Day – but I digress.)
So how to resolve this? You just HAVE to have s’mores if there’s going to be a campfire, but something in me rebelled at buying that soft plastic bag full of rubbery marshmallows. So I trolled the Internet for marshmallow recipes on a whim and had all the ingredients right there in the pantry. And then, if I was going to actually figure out how to make marshmallows from scratch, well then, shouldn’t I just make some graham crackers to go along with them too?
Herewith, then, are recipes for both marshmallows and graham crackers from scratch. Remarkably, they are really not that difficult to make and taste wonderful. As for chocolate bars -- well, you're on your own there. (I don't even want to get into the fact that I prefer raw chocolate bars for these s'mores!)
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup ice cold water, divided
12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup potato flour (or cornstarch)
1. Place the gelatin into the bowl of a mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water and allow it to absorb for about 15 minutes.
2. In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.
3. Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping.
While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows:
4. Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.
5. When ready, pour the well-whipped mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
6. Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
Homemade Graham Crackers:
(from the Internet and attributed to Nancy Silverton’s “Pastries from La Brea Bakery”)
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
For topping (optional):
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in food processor. Pulse briefly. Add the butter and pulse on and off until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, 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.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.
4. Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so use flour as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers. Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping. If you want to be really fancy, use a store-bought graham cracker as a guide (if you have any!) and use a toothpick to make dotted lines and holes on the unbaked dough.
Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
6. Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the tough, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.