Campfires have always been a regular thing in my life and from early on, I have studied the art of roasting the perfect golden brown marshmallow. As most people know to get the marshmallow golden all of the way around takes patience. You can’t get too close to the flames or you’ll catch that marshmallow on fire. But you can’t hold the marshmallow too far away from the flames or the middle melts before the outside cooks and your marshmallow will fall off your stick still white all of the way around.
Many of you have heard me talk about my semi-obsessive mission to perfect the s’more whenever summer rolls around. I have always loved the golden brown marshmallow. I also love graham crackers. And I loved the idea of s’mores, but I’ve never truly loved them. A bunch of years ago, I started dissecting why, and for me, the chocolate is at fault.
I have tried many different iterations of the s’more. As a kid, I recognized the Hershey bar square as the weak link. I feel the chocolate needs to melt or soften and not be as solid of a brick. I tried stuffing the chocolate into a hot marshmallow to melt a bit before eating, leaving the chocolate on the graham cracker close to the fire to soften, breaking the chocolate into tiny bits, and other ways to make the chocolate “different,” but mostly I’d end up eating the chocolate separately or bypass it altogether.
Now that I have more creative baking and cooking experience under my belt, I thought using “good” chocolate was the key, or moving away from Hershey’s milk chocolate to “better” chocolate and/or bittersweet chocolate. This does add a layer of flavor but doesn’t necessarily work out the texture issues. I’ve tried chocolate coated graham crackers, both thick and thin layers homemade and store bought. I have enjoyed using different chocolate bars as replacement for Hershey’s bars. Something like Caramello bars and Peanut Butter cups can be amazing, but start to get pretty rich in flavor. Nutella and other chocolate/nut spreads can be a rather amazing chocolate bar substitute as well.
I’ve tried adding extra stuff to the sandwich – “designer s’mores” became somewhat of a rage last summer, and you can find pictures of flavor combinations all over with fruit and all sorts of things. S’moreos (s’mores with Oreos) have come onto the scene. I have tried replacing the graham crackers with other cookies – chocolate chip, shortbread, chocolate covered shortbread, chocolate graham crackers, etc), and while I did like trying (gingersnaps were rather delicious), the graham crackers are probably my favorite part. Plus I’m not looking to get far away from the traditional s’more, I like the challenge of solving the current problem without changing the technology much.
So after all this research and experimentation, I have started the past few s’mores seasons with this baseline recipe of goodness and at the end of the season usually concede that it was the best alternative I came up with. I use a sort of bark in replacement of the bottom layer of graham cracker, top that with a golden brown marshmallow, and then the top layer is a plain graham cracker. The bark layer is easy, quick, simple and fantastic as a stand alone treat as well.
What’s your favorite way to cook s’mores?
Chocolate Coated Caramel Graham Crackers (aka S’Mores Bark)
Recipe adapted from : Epicurious.com
- 1+ pack of graham crackers (I’ve also used saltines and matzo with this recipe, but I prefer grahams by far)
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups chocolate depending how thick you want the layer of chocolate (I use a mixture of milk, semi-sweet, bittersweet and 60% cocoa, chips, shredded or finely chopped chocolate)
- Optional: ~1 cup of topping, more or less depending on your taste preferences (I have used grahams crackers, walnuts, almonds, pretzels, sunflower seeds, and potato chips – chopped or crushed)
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a cookie sheet with foil leaving an overhang on all sides for easy lifting out (the original recipe calls for a 15″ x 10″ x 1″ cookie sheet, you don’t have to use these dimensions exactly if that’s not what you own, but don’t use a super small cookie sheet). Optional – spray or butter the foil.
- Line the bottom of the pan with graham crackers. Break graham crackers up if you need to to fit tightly and nicely all of the way around and create an even base.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar into the melted butter until the mixture is smooth (this takes more stirring than you’d think).
- Pour the butter/sugar mixture over the graham crackers and spread evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes – it should be bubbling.
- Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and sprinkle on the chocolate. Put the cookie sheet back in the oven for about 1 minute to help the chocolate melt (not too long, remember chocolate burns quickly!). Take the cookie sheet out of the oven and spread the softened/melted chocolate evenly over the graham crackers (put it back in the oven if you need to).
- Sprinkle on your topping if you are using one. Let everything cool on a rack or your counter for 30-40 minutes, and then put it in your freezer for 10-15 minutes to completely harden. Take the cookie sheet out of the freezer, peel the graham crackers from the foil and break into pieces. I like to store the pieces in a Ziploc bag back in the freezer.