Over the past five years, retro desserts and sweets that evoke childhood memories have really made a comeback. I challenge you to visit any mid-sized town in American without finding a handful of cupcake shops dotting the strip malls, complete with pink bakery boxes and the not-so-retro $3.75/cupcake price tag. Trend-setting celebrity chef Kerry Simon taps into his customers' nostalgic side by offering gourmet twists on milk and cookies, peanut butter and jelly, and my favorite, a monstrous pink mound of cotton candy. Even the most popular food publications, like Food and Wine and Bon Appetit, have recently featured recipes for a Devil Dog Cake and Deluxe Peanut Butter Cups.
When I was growing up, I was a member of the local Brownie troop, and then I was a Girl Scout. In the good ol' 80s, in order to earn those coveted badges for our polyester green sashes, we still did traditional things like go camping, build campfires, and identify wildlife. In today's more competitive environment, Girl Scouts are probably required to construct their own shelter, Survivor style, and create a new hybrid species of edible vegetation. One of my favorite childhood treats, which I always identify with my Girl Scout camping trips, was s'mores--fun to make, simple to assemble, and heavenly to eat.
My troop's s'mores were pretty straightforward: store-bought graham crackers, Hershey Bars, and bagged marshmallows. Today's campers might require something a bit more gourmet, so this is a recipe for making homemade graham crackers (with an optional link to homemade marshmallows for all of you over-achievers out there). The flavor of these crackers is very similar to the ones that we are all familiar with, but their unmistakable homemade appearance makes them even better. Bring these to a campfire, and you'll be awarded your baking badge for sure! Here are a few extra tips for these homemade classic cookout treats:
- If you really want to go that extra made-from-scratch mile, then you can make homemade marshmallows too. Try this recipe, which I posted in December, and just eliminate the peppermint extract and red food coloring. They are much easier than they seem, and oh so impressive!
- Instead of preparing s'mores, you can also just make chocolate-covered graham crackers. Melt 6 ounces of chocolate in a bowl set over simmering water. When the chocolate is melted, stir in 7-8 drops of vegetable oil. Place about 1 teaspoon of chocolate glaze on each cooler graham cracker, smoothing it with an offset spatula or knife. Let the cookies stand until the glaze has set.
- After baking, the graham crackers can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. They can also be frozen.
- For that "authentic" look, make dots on the surface of the crackers prior to baking, similar to those found on store-bought graham crackers.
S'mores with Homemade Graham Crackers
Makes 12 s'mores
For graham crackers
1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, slightly softened
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
Chocolate bars, such as Lindt, Hershey, etc.
Store-bought marshmallows or homemade marshmallows
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, whole wheat flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter on medium speed until softened, then mix in the sugars. Mix in the honey, egg, and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing until well blended. Divide the dough in half, and for two 4-inch squares. Chill for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Lightly flour a work surface. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll it into an 8-inch square, about 3/16-inch thick. Using a pastry cutter or knife, trim the sides of the dough to leave a 7-inch square, reserving the scraps. Divide the dough into 9 even squares and place them about 1 1/2-inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Reroll the trimmings. You should have enough to make about 3 more squares of dough. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
Bake the crackers for 9-11 minutes, or until set on top and lightly browned around the edges. Let rest on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes and then transfer them to wire racks to cool.
For the s'mores, place a square of chocolate on the flat side of a graham cracker. Toast a marshmallow over an open flame, grill, or by using a kitchen torch. Sandwich the marshmallow between the chocolate-topped cracker and another graham cracker.