It’s summertime, also known in Canada and the United States as S’more Season. Yes, that warm gooey goodness served around campfires in North America is a favourite dessert with young and old. For those of you who have either been living on Mars or, although equally difficult to believe, have just not been exposed to the fine cuisine of the campfire, let me enlighten you. S’mores consist of toasted marshmallows and squares of chocolate sandwiched between Graham crackers. The origin of the S’more is unclear, but the first written record of this recipe was found in the 1927 Girl Scout Handbook. The name S’more appears to be a contraction of the phrase “some more”, and yes for those who have never sampled this dessert they are that good!
S’mores are so good, so popular in fact that there is a National Smore’s Day – August 10th! No longer relegated to camping, S’mores have become posh even making the menu at weddings. Hip Brides and Groom have opted for a S’more Station as a fun interactive dessert. The point here is that you don’t have to be camping to enjoy S’mores. How fun would it be to serve S’mores at your next BBQ? S’mores require zero prep time and are a self serve kind of dessert, therefore, perfect for a casual occasion. Just set up a tray with bowls of chocolate, crackers and marshmallows along with skewers for roasting and let your guests help themselves. If your affair is not casual or perhaps more upscale then why not take it up a notch? Your toasting station could be made using cans of Sterno cooking fuel nestled in a stunning fire proof box filled with river rock or pebbles. The marshmallows could be pre-skewered, displayed in an elegant sand filled ice bucket, ready for toasting, and the remaining ingredients could be nearby in decorative serving dishes.
Want to really impress your guests? Why not forgo the store bought marshmallows and make your own. Homemade marshmallows are inexpensive and can’t be beat for freshness. They are surprisingly not difficult to make. Being the “go big or go home” kind of girl that I am I think it is fun to make your own. Here is my favourite recipe for Homemade Marshmallows. Don’t let the candy thermometer scare you away – they really are easy to make.
5 Tbls. unflavored gelatin
2 cups cold water (1 cup for the gelatin and 1 cup for the sugar syrup)
3 cups granulated sugar
2 cups light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tbls. vanilla extract
Icing/Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
Stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment
- In your mixer bowl, place ½ the water. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let gelatin bloom or soften while you make the sugar syrup.
- Lightly oil a rectangular cake pan or 2 smaller square cake pans. This is necessary to help prevent the marshmallows from sticking to the pan. Do this before you make the sugar syrup.
- In a medium heavy saucepan, pour the remaining water and stir together with the sugar, corn syrup, and salt.
- Whisk the ingredients in the pan together to blend and clip candy thermometer onto the pan. The thermometer should be submerged close to but not touching the bottom.
- Bring the mixture to a boil over med-high heat, without stirring, until thermometer registers 238 to 240 degrees F. Remove from heat.
- Using the whisk attachment on the mixer, turn the mixer on to the lowest speed and very slowly and carefully pour the hot syrup into the mixing bowl. Pouring this slowly and preferably down the side of the bowl will minimize splashing of the hot syrup. Slowly increase the mixer speed to medium-high speed and beat until it becomes white fluffy goo. This should take about 12-15 minutes
7. Add vanilla extract to the mixture and mix for another 3-5 minutes. When the mixture becomes very thick and forms almost a thick ribbon when the beater is lifted you know the mixture is ready.
8. Quickly transfer the mixture to the oiled pan(s) and spread evenly smoothing out the top with a slightly oiled spatula. You must act quickly as the mixture has already begun to set.
10. Cover the counter with a large piece of wax paper.
11. Sprinkle icing/confectioner’s sugar over the top of the mixture in the pans and also on the wax paper on the counter.
12. Gently using your finger tips and a silicone spatula pull the marshmallow slab from the pan and place on the wax paper. Sprinkle icing sugar over the slab lightly rubbing to dusk any sticky surfaces.
13. Cut the slab into strips and then 1 inch squares.
14. Put icing sugar in a bowl and dredge each square through the sugar completely coating it. This helps to prevent the marshmallows from sticking to each other.
NOTE: Important tip for candy making – don’t make sugar treats on humid days. Sugar absorbs water quickly; therefore, humidity will affect cooking times and may even prevent sugar from properly setting.
If you wish to make these homemade treats even more impressive, try making gourmet flavoured marshmallows. It is as simple as substituting another extract for the vanilla and replacing some of the water with food colouring. For example, for mint marshmallows use green food colouring and mint extract, for raspberry use red food colouring and raspberry extract. Another option is to toast some coconut and roll your marshmallows in that rather than icing sugar for a crunchy coated coconut marshmallow. You are only limited by your imagination…and if you are worried about having leftovers, there is no need for concern – your efforts will not go to waste. National Marshmallow Toasting Day is August 30th.
Photos by Lyndsay Jenkinson