Posted in baking, candy, foam

S’more bars

This summer, foodgawker was inundated with recipes for s’more bars and I’ve been dying to make some.  My friends’ housewarming seemed like the perfect opportunity.  But when I looked at the recipes (the ones that didn’t involve strange ingredients like granola), they were all exactly the same: it’s essentially a cookie dough with some of the flour replaced with graham cracker crumbs, topped by chocolate and marshmallow fluff and more of the same cookie dough.  I don’t know where it originated or I’d link to it.  Anyway, delicious as that sounds, I decided to try to go a little more traditional with it and use a graham cracker crust like you’d make for a cheesecake – just graham cracker crumbs and butter – topped with chocolate and homemade marshmallow.  I omitted the top graham cracker layer so I could flambe the marshmallow, because I don’t know about you, but I like my marshmallow seriously singed.

I based the graham cracker layer on this recipe, ending up with the following:

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (12 crackers)
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • Bake at 350F for 10 minutes.

Based on the ubiquitous s’more bar recipe, put 6 Hershey bars on top of that.  I put this in the turned-off but still hot oven for a few minutes to melt them.

Instead of using marshmallow creme like the s’more bar recipe says, I made marshmallows according to Chef Thomas Keller’s recipe via Cooking For Engineers.  (The Keller link no longer leads anywhere, but that’s what CFE cites.)  It’s really easy: make a hard-ball stage candy while you bloom gelatin, then beat both together until it gets opaque and thick and voluminous.  Then I poured it over the chocolate and let it cool.  I didn’t use the whole recipe on the s’more bars – I saved enough to fill one of those short square Gladwares because it just made too much.  I still think I ended up with more marshmallow on the bars than I should have had, but I guess that just makes it indulgent.

I took the bars to my friends’ place and flambeed them, which melted the top of the marshmallow but didn’t get it really burnt like I like it.  I tried to take a picture but the picture put the fire out somehow!  Next I’ll try setting the reserved marshmallow on fire.

If I made the s’more bars again, I think I’d go with different chocolate – something darker.  I stuck with Hershey’s milk for tradition’s sake, but it really was a little too sweet for me.  I must be getting old.

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Posted in custard

Key lime mini-pies

Served in a regular-sized pie plate.
Served in a regular-sized pie plate.

It is a well-known fact that miniature things are cuter than regular-sized things.  When it comes to food, they are also really good for parties.  I make itty bitty key lime pies in a mini muffin tin, and yes it is a pain in the butt to press the crust into all those little holes, but it is so worth it when everyone tells you how adorable they are.  Plus they cook a little faster.  Unfortunately, the generally accepted way to tell if a custard is done is to jiggle it and take it out of the oven when only about a quarter-sized part in the middle still jiggles.  This is called le jigglage in French.  You must learn all the proper French terms to be a good cook; no one will take you seriously if you don’t say “le jigglage.”  Despite the precision of this technique, it is useless when the entirety of your pie is the size of a quarter.  But that’s what thermometers are for.  In fact, as far as I’m concerned, thermometers are for everything that happens in the kitchen, with rare exceptions like buttering toast.  An egg yolk custard is done at about 160 degrees F.  Unfortunately, my thermometers didn’t seem to be working so well when I made these, so I still had to do a little guessing.  Perhaps I’ll start a Thermapen fund.

But ironically, the part I had the most trouble with was not burning the stupid crusts when I baked them before adding the filling.  I plain old forgot about them the first time.  The second time, I had a pan of water in the oven to help my custard cook slowly, and I didn’t want to risk taking out a pan of hot water, so I put the water on one side and slid in the crusts on the other side.  They touched the wall of the oven, and the ones on that side of the pan got positively black.  Don’t let your pans touch the oven wall.

Key limes are smaller, rounder, and yellower than regular limes.
Key limes are smaller, rounder, and yellower than regular limes.

I may have had to stay up until 3am to get them all baked properly, but my efforts paid off when my dessert was the first to be wiped out at my department’s picnic.  Yay for Florida’s state pie.  I used what appears to be the most popular key lime pie recipe on the internet, available here, for instance, in which the filling consists of only key lime juice, sweetened condensed milk, and egg yolks.  If you ignore the fact that you have to juice approximately a million key limes to get the juice, this is deliciously simple.  It does leave you with extra whites, though, which I froze in my blue ice cube trays, designated as Not Actually Ice.  I’m even trying to get another use out of the squeezed limes, but that’s another post….