Monday, June 2, 2008

s’more pie

toasting the marshmallow

A year ago, I made s’mores from scratch and brought them to the Memorial Day barbecue on my friend Jocelyn’s roof, celebrating the thousands of other hottie uniformed types that had sailed in for Fleet Week. [I just spelled that “Weak.” It’s all so telling, innit?]

marshmallowsgraham crackers

We assembled them from Nancy Silverton’s graham crackers from the La Brea Bakery cookbook, as featured on 101 Cookbooks, [which were, incidentally the most accurately-flavored homemade graham crackers I’ve baked, much closer that the ones I’d attempted a couple years ago from Retro Desserts] and Thomas Keller’s marshmallows, as featured on Cooking for Engineers, and packed them up with skewers for toasting and giant bars of Hershey’s milk chocolate (exactly what we used in summer camp).

graham crackershomemade s'more kit

Second only to the men in uniform, they were the hit of the party. And then I never told you about them, because I forgot to take pictures of the finished product. Really! I never meant to go this long. I had full intentions of making them again over the course of the summer, and actually shooting the toasting and gooey eating process, but it never happened and now I bet you’re all mad at me for holding out.

graham cracker crustsunny kitchen graham cracker crust

Or, you would be if I were not making it up to you today with something I declare an even bigger hit: S’more Pie. I brought this to this year’s* barbecue, sadly Marine-free, the same one where my friend Molly made her killer ribs. It was gone in 60 seconds. It was declared the best thing I’ve ever made. In short: people go ape schizz over s’mores.

chocolate layerwould like to swan dive in

That said, I had my doubts going into this recipe, which had been featured (oddly enough, as I consider s’mores a summer thing) in a Thanksgiving issue of Gourmet. I expected cloying sweetness, a gooey, hard to slice pie and a flavor that didn’t match the burnt-edged marshmallow, puddle of chocolate and graham cracker crunch of my summer camp memories, but I made it anyway because even an average attempt at s’more-y goodness is never a bad thing.

bubbling sugar for marshmallowsmarshmallows are messy!

I was dead wrong on each concern. This was better than real s’mores, in a grown up and awesome way. I’d skipped the salt and used salted butter in the graham cracker crust, which was a toasty and delicious contrast to the sugary topping. The chocolate layer was bittersweet, thanks to the 70 percent we used (though you could use milk chocolate if you wanted a more classic flavor). And though the marshmallow layer was indeed as sweet as you’d expect marshmallows to be, it was held in check by the other two layer’s barely-there sweetness.

And then I forgot to take pictures of a serving the gooey final product again because we were too busy eating it. But this time, I’m not waiting a year to get you all caught up. I don’t want to cause mutiny on the smittenkitchen bounty.

the last known picture of the pie

* Navel-Gazing Aside: One of the funniest things about cataloging my kitchen endeavors is seeing how cyclical my cooking inclinations are. Without realizing it before now, I have made a graham cracker dessert every May for the last three years–and not any other month–and now I realize that I brought the same dessert–s’mores–to two Memorial Day barbecues in a row (with a Strawberry-Rhubarb dessert in the days before). Wait, this interests nobody but me? Shocking!

One year ago: Zucchini Carpaccio Salad

Smore Pie
Adapted from Gourmet, November 2006

Don’t be daunted by the number of steps in this pie–it is surprisingly simple to make, yes, even the marshmallows.

The biggest trick with the marshmallows is how messy they are. You’ll be tempted to break a strand of marshmallow between the bowl and your pie with your finger, it will then stick to your finger and you’ll use another finger to clean that one off and end up with sticky cobweb hands and strings of marshmallow everywhere, so don’t do it–use another spatula instead. Trust me, this has happened to me each time.

Of course, you could take a lot of shortcuts. You could buy an already-prepped graham cracker crust and/or you could line the chocolate layer with store-bought marshmallows and toast them instead. But then how would you play “Look! I’ve Got Spiderman Hands!” in the kitchen?

For crust
5 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter, melted, plus additional for greasing
1 1/2 cups cookie crumbs (10 graham crackers or 24 small gingersnaps; about 6 oz, pulsed in a food processor until finely ground)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt (omitted if you use salted butter)

For chocolate cream filling
7 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not more than 70% cacao; not unsweetened), finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 large egg, at room temperature for 30 minutes

For marshmallow topping
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (from a 1/4-oz package)
1/2 cup cold water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Vegetable oil for greasing

Special equipment: a candy thermometer

Make graham cracker crust: Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter pie 9- to 9 1/2-inch pie plate. Stir together all ingredients in a bowl and press evenly on bottom and up side of pie plate. Bake until crisp, 12 to 15 minutes, then cool on a rack to room temperature, about 45 minutes.

Make chocolate cream filling: Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Put chocolate in a large bowl. Bring cream just to a boil in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan, then pour hot cream over chocolate. Let stand 1 minute, then gently whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Gently whisk in egg and a pinch of salt until combined and pour into graham cracker crumb crust (crust will be about half full).

Cover edge of pie with a pie shield or foil and bake until filling is softly set and trembles slightly in center when gently shaken, about 25 minutes. Cool pie to room temperature on a rack (filling will firm as it cools), about 1 hour.

Make marshmallow topping: Sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup cold water in a large deep heatproof bowl and let stand until softened, about 1 minute.

Stir together sugar, corn syrup, a pinch of salt, and remaining 1/4 cup water in cleaned 1- to 1 1/4-quart heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then boil until thermometer registers 260°F, about 6 minutes.

Begin beating water and gelatin mixture with an electric mixer at medium speed, then carefully pour in hot syrup in a slow stream, beating (avoid beaters and side of bowl). When all of syrup is added, increase speed to high and continue beating until mixture is tripled in volume and very thick, about 5 minutes. Add vanilla and beat until combined, then immediately spoon topping onto center of pie filling; it will slowly spread to cover top of pie. Chill, uncovered, 1 hour, then cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap (oiled side down) and chill 3 hours more.

Brown topping: Preheat broiler. Transfer pie to a baking sheet. Cover edge of pie with pie shield or foil and broil 3 to 4 inches from heat, rotating pie as necessary, until marshmallow topping is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Cool pie on a rack 10 minutes. Slice pie with a large heavy knife dipped in hot water and then dried with a towel before cutting each slice.

[Alternately: I browned the topping with a creme brulee torch. It took some time and didn’t get as brown as I think it would have under the broiler (the pie was still cold, and hard to heat up with a small flame) but it does work in a pinch, or when you’re away from the oven.]

Note: Pie (before browning topping) can be chilled up to 1 day.


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