Today's recipe is from a classic that is almost always enjoyed in the moonlight in the outdoors. I will admit that, at times, it is the sole impetus to pack the car and endure days of no showers, grit in my food, and bug bites. It is the one thing, without fail, that kids will double and triple check that parents or leaders have the ingredients for on the supply list before heading out to the great outdoors. In short, no camping trip will commence without graham crackers, chocolate bars, and marshmallows! This take on that classic is meant for the indoors - and it is indulgent enough to be classified as slightly sinful - maybe even sexy. You will dance! Indoors or out! I love the frolicking image this song has always brought to my mind. What else would they be dancing about if not s'mores?!
This past summer, to celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary, my husband and I took a drive down through Washington, Oregon, and California and then back up the Pacific Coast Highway. Prior to leaving, my oldest daughter had told me that I absolutely MUST stop in Sonoma, California. She had recently been there while visiting with her in-laws and thought it was a place that I would regret not having on my list of stops. She knows me rather well so I definitely created a path for it!
This trip was about no agendas. Most of our road trips had been with children - and we all know that their needs alone determine the path and speed of a journey! We had some key points we wanted to catch but, for the most part, it was about taking it easy - stopping where we wanted to and when we wanted. We were interested in seeing what was beyond the interstates. For this reason, I charted a route into the Napa valley via some back routes.
This back route ended up being a twisty, winding route that had me building great reserves of gratitude for those who had engineered those sleek and efficient interstates which I had been so intent upon ignoring! I found myself thinking that this Sonoma town had better be pretty spectacular because I needed something stupendous at the end of this day!
Does my daughter know me, or what?!
Sonoma was one of my daydreams brought to life! Darling boutique stores, charming architecture, friendly shopkeepers, - and some seriously good restaurants! Where to go? Where to go?
I consulted my apps and found some good reviews for a little place called Harvest Moon Cafe. They had an opening for us out on their back terrace and we snatched it right up.
Maybe it was just being glad to be out of the car but I think it was mostly that everything was perfect that evening - the setting, the company, the food. The food! Everything was delicious - that's for sure! But the dessert was, well, this -
That, folks, is a S'more with a tuxedo on! Graham cracker bottom, layer of chocolate ganache, layer of peanut butter mousse, and a toasted marshmallow top. That is what makes a memorable impression!
I have been dreaming about this dessert ever since I had it. So I finally had to recreate one of my own. And I'm sharing that recreation with you today! I made an "official" marshmallow topping using unflavored gelatin but I think a cooked Swiss meringue would work just as well.
Park the camper and pack away the tent for the winter. Leave the grit and bugs behind. But enjoy this summer friend all year round!
makes a 9x13 pan, 12 or 24 servings
15 full graham cracker rectangles
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 lb. semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 c. heavy cream
Peanut Butter Mousse:
1 1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
8 oz. cream cheese
1 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. heavy cream
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
3/4 c. water, divided
2 c. sugar
2/3 c. light corn syrup
1/4 t. salt
1 t. vanilla extract
powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9X13 pan with cooking spray and then line with a sheet of parchment, leaving the edge to hang over the long sides to serve as handles later. Give the parchment a light coat of spray as well.
In a food processor, turn the graham crackers into crumbs - it yields about 1 1/2 cups. Add the melted butter, sugar, and salt and pulse until the crumbs are well-coated and start to pack down.
Empty the graham mixture into the prepared pan and spread out evenly. Tamp down using the bottom of a glass or some other flat object. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.
Place the chocolate chips in a large shallow bowl. Heat the heavy cream until it just starts to simmer. Pour the heavy cream over the chocolate chips and let sit for about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, take a spatula and start gently stirring, scooping from the bottom up around to the top. As you stir, the chips will melt and the cream and melted chocolate will come together to form a glossy smooth mixture. Pour this over the top of the graham crust and place in the refrigerator to set for about 20 - 30 minutes.
Peanut Butter Mousse:
In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the peanut butter and beat to combine. Add the powdered sugar and mix well. In another bowl, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Scoop half of the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture. When it is combined, add the rest and stir until combined.
After the ganache has set, remove from the refrigerator and spread the peanut butter mousse evenly across the top.
Cover and return to the fridge until the topping is ready.
Place 1/2 c. of cold water into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Sprinkle the unflavored gelatin powder across the top to soften. Place the sugar, light corn syrup, and the remaining 1/4 c. of the water in a sauce pan and heat over medium high heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar then bring to a full boil and let it cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Turn mixer on low and slowly add the hot syrup to the gelatin mixture. After it is all in, add the salt and turn the mixer to medium high speed and whisk for 12 minutes. The mixture will become thick and increase in volume. Add the vanilla and mix well.
Spray a spatula with cooking spray and scoop the marshmallow topping out onto the top of the peanut butter mousse in the pan. Spread out evenly.
Sift some powdered sugar over the top and cover and place in the refrigerator to let marshmallow set - about 2 hours. If you prefer, you can use a Swiss meringue as well.
When marshmallow is set, remove the contents from the pan by using the parchment paper "handles" and place on a cutting board.
Use a long, sharp knife to cut the S'mores into squares. I found it helpful to either lightly spray the knife with cooking spray or dip it into hot water and shake off the excess before cutting. This yields 12 very large pieces. Preferably, you could then cut each square on the diagonal and create 24 triangles.
Toast the marshmallow top quickly under a broiler or use a small hand torch. Serve and enjoy!