"They both looked and smelled like they came straight from the campfire."

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[Photograph: Lucy Baker]

When I was little, someone gave me a cookbook that included a recipe for Rocky Road brownies. It was pretty straightforward, kid-friendly baking: whip up a batch of brownies and, just before their finished, top them with mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, and walnuts.

I had never eaten a brownie that wasn't plain chocolate before, and these totally blew my mind. I couldn't get enough of the sticky, slightly charred marshmallows, the gooey melted chocolate, and the crunchy nuts. I must have baked them a hundred times.

Years later, I have no idea what happened to that cookbook—maybe it was sold in a yard sale, maybe it's buried in the attic—but I still remember how much I loved those brownies. That's why I was so excited to see Stonewall Kitchen's new S'mores Brownie Mix ($10.95). No, they're not quite the same as Rocky Road, but they do combine toasted marshmallows and rich chocolate, with a buttery graham cracker crust to boot!

22100409-smoresbrownies2.jpgFirst off, let me say that this is a bit more time consuming than your average brownie mix because it needs to be baked in three parts. I tossed the graham cracker crumbs with 4 tablespoons of soft-to-the-point-of-melting butter, pressed them into the bottom of an 8-inch square pan, and baked them at 350°F for 15 minutes until the crust was fragrant and golden-brown.

Then, while the crust cooled, I stirred together the brownie mix, 4 tablespoons of melted butter, and one egg. (The package instructions said to use an electric mixer, which I found to be completely unnecessary; a fork and a little elbow grease will work just fine.) I gently smoothed the brownie mix over the crust and slid it back into the oven for another 20 minutes, until they were set but still under-baked in the middle.

For the finishing touch, I cranked the oven up to 400°F, topped the brownie layer with mini marshmallows, and baked them for a final 10 minutes.

When my brownies were finally done, they both looked and smelled like they came straight from the campfire. The marshmallows were crispy and brown on top, as if burnished by an open flame, and my kitchen was filled with the aroma of toasted graham crackers and warm chocolate.

Like real s'mores, the brownies proved to be quite messy: it was difficult to cut them without peeling away the marshmallow layer. I found that letting them sit in the pan overnight and using a hot knife (run it under hot tap water) yielded the best results.

The flavor of the s'mores brownies was very good, if not excellent. While sufficiently buttery and crumbly, the graham cracker crust was a bit bland, tasting store-bought as opposed to homemade. The brownie layer was dense and fudgy, but a bit too thin. I would have liked a thicker, more voluminous chocolate layer.

The marshmallow topping was everything you would expect: crunchy, sticky, sugary goodness. In the end, I would recommend this mix if you're organizing a spur of the moment picnic, or baking with kids. It would also make a great housewarming gift for a summer hostess.

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