I love living away from home while I'm at college. I'm not trying to be rude to my mom and dad or anything (really, I promise!) but living away from home is really one of the most defining moments of my college career, a fact I'm sure many people would agree with. It's such a great way to meet new people and build really lasting friendships, and learn to be more independent. One of the nicest things about living in a dorm setting is that there's always someone to hang out with, whether it's for doing homework, or just relaxing in front of the tv after a long day of classes. Study breaks are also one of my favorite things about living at school. We always have one study break a week, and two people are in charge of providing snacks or some kind of activity to help us all get a moment to catch our breaths and take a pause from whatever work and stress we have going on in our lives. One of the first study breaks we had during my junior year was a s'more night! I loveee s'mores, so I made sure that I went to this particular study break. We essentially just had graham crackers, chocolate bars, and marshmallows (duh), and we microwaved the marshmallows to get them all nice and gooey, and then sandwiched them between the graham crackers and our chocolate bars of choice. It was such a fun and simple (and yummy!) way to get to know everyone on my floor.
As much as I may love s'mores, they're not a treat that I grew up eating, or eat very often. I've only ever gone camping once (I'm not too much of a nature person, you see...bugs kind of freak me out), and I think that was the first time I ever had a s'more. That was many years ago, and I think there's only been a handful of times since then that I've made s'mores for myself. Regardless of that fact though, I know that I am totally a s'mores kinda gal, and surprise, surprise...a craving for s'mores struck a couple of weeks ago. I knew that I had to remedy it, and that whenever I got around to it, I wanted super homemade s'mores. I wanted them to be perfect, and if making them entirely from scratch was the way to get perfect s'mores, then that was what I was going to do. And you know what? They were perfect, in every possible way. My s'mores craving was wonderfully satisfied.
I've never really been a huge fan of marshmallows; there's just something about their texture that I can't really appreciate. The only instances where I actually really like marshmallows are in rocky road ice cream, and s'mores, of course. I love the entire process of making s'mores over a campfire, mostly because I like roasting marshmallows on a stick. I don't necessarily have a preference on how I choose to roast my marshmallows. Sometimes I have the patience to slow-roast them, gradually turning them every now and then so that they turn a really nice, even golden brown color on all sides, but there are also times when I just want a s'more NOW and the only way to go about making them is to place the entire marshmallow directly into the open fire, take it out, blow out the flames, and sandwich that perfectly charred and ultra-gooey marshmallow between two graham crackers and a slab of chocolate. Ahhh, perfection. I knew that in my quest for delicious homemade smores, homemade marshmallows were essential. This was my first venture into anything related to "candy-making," which was both exciting, and enlightening at the same time, and by enlightening, I don't mean anything profound or overwhelmingly amazing. I just learned that I hate working with candy thermometers, simply because I get SO impatient waiting for whatever is heating up to get to the right temperature. Granted, this is an important part of the marshmallow-making process, but ugh...I just have no patience sometimes. Aside from my personal issues with candy thermometers, making homemade marshmallows is actually much simpler than I would have ever imagined. It's definitely a very, very sticky process, but once you move past the stickiness issue, it's such a simple technique that anyone could follow. The marshmallows are fluffy and delicious, and have a nice vanilla taste to them; they're way better than the ones from the supermarket!
Making the homemade graham crackers was no big deal at all. It was no different than making any other type of rolled-out cookie! The graham crackers use ingredients that are usually staples in any pantry, a fact that I obviously appreciated, since I like baking on whims with whatever I have lying around my house. I had a couple of graham crackers left over from my s'mores, and they've been great to eat on their own, or with a cup of coffee. They had a real graham cracker taste, with a nice touch of honey flavor mixed right in. Delicious! They were the perfect addition for my homemade s'mores. Sure, you could just go buy graham crackers and marshmallows and have yourself some nice s'mores, but with a little planning, patience, and extra effort, you could have homemade graham crackers and marshmallows, and have a really incredible s'more that is just worlds above a s'more made with pre-purchased ingredients. Trust me on this; if you want a truly tasty s'more, make it for yourself, step by step! Enjoy!
marshmallow recipe from Barefoot Contessa; graham cracker recipe from A Cup of Sugar...A Pinch of Salt
For the Marshmallows
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting
For the Graham Crackers
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
milk chocolate bars (I used Hershey's milk chocolate bars)
Begin by preparing the marshmallows. Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of a standard electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment. Let the gelatin sit in the water while you make the syrup.
In the meantime, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan, and place over medium heat. Heat until the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat to high, and cook until the syrup measures 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat.
With the mixer on low speed, slowly begin to pour the prepared syrup into the dissolved gelatin mixture. Once all the syrup has been added, put the mixer on high speed, and whip for about 15 minutes. The mixture should be bright white and very thick. Add the vanilla extract, and mix in thoroughly.
With a sieve, very generously dust a 9 x 13-inch nonmetal (I used glass) baking dish with confectioner's sugar. The baking dish should be very well covered with confectioner's sugar. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan, and smooth the top with a spatula. Cover with more confectioner's sugar, and allow to stand uncovered overnight, so that the marshmallow mixture dries out.
The next day, turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board. With a very sharp knife, cut the marshmallows into squares, and dust with more confectioner's sugar. Place the marshmallows in an air-tight container until ready to use.
To make the graham crackers, begin by whisking together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.
In the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, and honey. Mix on medium speed until all the ingredients are well combined. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in two additions, making sure to incorporate well.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface and shape the dough into a log. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled, at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with silicone liners or parchment paper.
Unwrap the chilled dough, and allow it to warm up slightly. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a rectangle that is about 1/8-inch thick. With the help of a ruler and pastry cutter or knife, cut the dough into 3 x 3-inch squares. Carefully transfer the squares to the prepared baking sheets as you go. Re-roll the scraps of dough, and cut out as many squares as you can. With a paring knife, carefully score each cookie with a line down the middle. With a fork, create two rows of eight holes in each rectangle that you just formed.
Bake the graham crackers in the preheated oven, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until they are golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool slightly on the baking sheets before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
To prepare the s'mores, begin by toasting the marshmallows. You can either toast them over a fire, if you have access to one, or, simply broil them. Place the marshmallows on a baking sheet with parchment paper, and place them under the broiler, just until they have turned brown and are to your liking. Make sure to keep an eye on the marshmallows, they'll burn fast if you don't! While the marshmallows are in the broiler, get your graham crackers and milk chocolate bars ready. Place half a chocolate bar (I used Hershey's) on top of one graham cracker. Carefully place a roasted marshmallow over the chocolate, and then top it off with another graham cracker. Press the top graham cracker down slightly, and eat immediately. Enjoy!