Fads come and go throughout the restaurant world, and the pastry kitchen is no exception. In the dessert world, fads are generally fueled by good old fashioned nostalgia. Generally I try to excuse myself from the parade of childhood-inspired simple treats, but sometimes I can't help it and I feel like I have to contribute.
In the past year, I've seen all but the most high end pastry chefs take on the campfire classic s'mores. I, not being an outdoorsy person, don't think I ever had as much as a single s'more growing up, but I do love a gooey, toasted (ok, charred to a blackened ash) marshmallow. Which was something that I noticed many interpretations seemed to lack.
Sure crunchy, honeyed graham crackers, melty milk chocolate, and fluffy white marshmallows are a perfectly fine combination, but what is a campfire staple without the campfire? Isn't the toasted marshmallow flavor part of what makes s'mores so special? And yet I saw so many iterations of the theme with pale marshmallows and not a hint of char.
I didn't go so far as to actually put a full-blown s'mores dessert on my menu, but I was making petit fours for lunch service and had been making bite-sized rice krispie treats in several variations. I torched the marshmallows that were in what I called my "dirty krispie treats" (browned butter, burnt marshmallows, cocoa nibs and a small handful of salt) so I figured I could easily tweak the recipe to give it a full-blown s'mores experience without the camping gear.
I kept the fabulously burnt marshmallows and added a little honey to simulate the graham cracker element. That clearly wasn't enough, so I added some cinnamon and a little graham flour as well. Satisfied with the toasty, graham crackery flavor I achieved, I needed a chocolate element.
A classic s'more, as anyone who has been to a grocery store between June and September knows, utilizes a sweet Hershey bar as part of its melty inner layer. At work I only had fancy Valrhona chocolate to work with (poor me) so I used the milk chocolate variation to approximate the flavor as well as I could. On my first try, I chopped the chocolate into little bits and dispersed them throughout, but for all subsequent batches I melted it and spread what seemed like an excessively thin layer over the top of the little treats. All it takes is a hint of chocolate flavor, but it ties the whole thing together.
The result? Two great nostalgic tastes that taste great together.
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About the Author: Anna Markow is a pastry chef obsessed with doing things that no one else does and giving unusual ingredients their time to shine. You can follow her sometimes-pastry-related thoughts on Twitter @VerySmallAnna.