Friday, July 13, 2012

S’mores Week: Homemade Neapolitan S’mores

by Darla

When I was a little girl, my Grandma Mae lived so far away. This is my mom’s mom. My other grandma, my dad’s mom, lived super close.

At least, I used to think that Grandma Mae lived far away…she actually only lived, like, 45 minutes away, but when you’re little, that seems so much further. Especially when your other grandma only lives about five minutes away.

My Grandma Mae was awesome. My grandpa was a square dance caller (and still is today), and she danced. Actually, all of my family square danced.

Left to right: Mom, Dad, Big Seestar, Grandpa, Grandma; Dresses made by my Great Grandpa

There they are…my square dancing family. :) My sister’ll probably kill me when she sees this. :) I’m not there, because I was only six years old at the time, and I didn’t know how to square dance yet.

My grandma had tons of those square dance dresses, with the huge frilly petticoats and pretty skirts, the puffy sleeves, and lace trim. I was always desperate for one of my own, but never had one. You can imagine how jealous I was of my sister. :) Even her monkey has a square dance dress. Of course, I got a toy monkey, all dressed up, too, but still.

I remember visiting my grandparents and going into the spare bedroom, where Grandma kept all of her square dance dresses, and I would sit on the floor of the closet, under all of those silky, ruffly, embroidered, beautiful skirts. I was just tall enough that they barely brushed the top of my head, and I would look up into them, ruffle my fingers through the lacy hems, and daydream about twirling in them; I didn’t square dance yet, and I didn’t have any of these for myself. My mom had a few, and my oldest sister had two, but my grandma had dozens. They lined the entire closet and were the source of countless, endless fantasies for me.

What do square dance dresses and little girl daydreams have to do with Neapolitan S’mores? Absolutely nothing, but every time I so much as think the word ‘Neapolitan,’ I’m instantly transported back to those summertime visits to my Grandma Mae’s house. We would inevitably walk to the little market that was two blocks away to buy ice cream. And even though I was usually the one who would go with her, and I didn’t like strawberry ice cream, she always bought Neapolitan, because “it was more fair, since it has something for everyone.”

We would walk home, she would scoop out a big bowl for me, with out even the tiniest amount of strawberry ice cream; vanilla and chocolate only, and we would sit out on their screened porch while the birds played in their window feeder that had a two way mirror.

Those dresses and my daydreams may not be very Neapolitan, but my memories of my Grandma may will always be colored with shades of ivory, strawberry pink, and chocolate brown, and I’ll never be able to enjoy a Neapolitan treat without thinking of her. Thank goodness.

Now, about these s’mores, the most important thing, obviously, is the strawberry marshmallows. I thought and planned and thought some more about how I wanted to make my strawberries…strawberry-y. I settled on purée, because I thought it would be the only way to get a true, fresh strawberry flavor, without creating an odd or unpleasant consistency.

I was adamant that my purée be seedless, though. Some people don’t mind seeds, but they irritate me, and they drive the Hubster nuts, so after blending my berries until completely smooth, I pressed them through a fine mesh sieve.

The result was perfect, smooth, FRESH strawberry purée. And besides being perfect for strawberry marshmallows, this makes the most amazing strawberry lemonade I’ve ever had (recipe coming soon!!).

To make the strawberry mallows, I simply followed the same steps that I used when I made my original, plain marshmallows…ages and ages ago. That post has clear instructions and step-by-step pictorials, if you have any concerns.

I also bought freeze dried strawberries to mix into the mallows while they were still soft. I know this seems stupid, since they have seeds, and I just did all that work getting rid of a whole lot of seeds, but I wanted the added color, flavor, and texture. Honestly, in the end, the seeds from these are barely noticeable, but the added flavor is fantastic!

Obviously, you could easily skip the freeze dries strawberries; they’re expensive and not always available, but if you have access, and don’t mind spending a bit on them, I recommend adding them.

As for the graham crackers for these, you can easily go with store-bought grahams (I recommend plain), but I wanted something a little different, and I was really going for a gourmet s’more, so I decided to create my own crackers. In the end, since I was going for Neapolitan, I decided I wanted a vanilla “graham” cracker, in another words, no traditional graham flavor.

My crackers are honey-vanilla, and they have no graham, brown sugar, or molasses, which are all usually found in most graham crackers, but they turned out wonderful and tasty, and they were perfect with my fresh, homemade strawberry marshmallows and some rich  Callebaut chocolate.

**Disclaimer: As I still have 12 days to wait for my household goods, I had neither a rolling pin, nor a pizza cutter when I made these, so My crackers turned out a little thick and ragged. Why? Because I rolled them out with a wine bottle, and cut them with the world’s worst paring knife. I’m totally one of those women that could go into the wilderness with a bobby pin and a stiletto and build you a village (okay, not really…not even close, but whatever…nobody refused my wine rolled crackers, so there).**

Isn’t that Daisy Lid the cutest?! Check out TomKat Studio Shop (link at the end of the post) to get your own!

Now, seriously, what the what? These are amazing. I mean, I thought, “Sure, sounds good. I’ll like ‘em.” I freaking loved them, though. And here’s the real kicker: I’m not even a fan of strawberries (yes, it’s weird, I’m aware of this, moving on).

Even after toasting and roasting these mallows (totally over the gas burner of my stove), they still had a fresh, tart flavor that I was thrilled with. They were smooth and creamy, with the occasional sour zing from the dried berries.

Meanwhile, my crackers were crunchy and flavorful and perfect with the marshmallows. The addition of high quality milk chocolate took these to a whole new level. I have no doubt that they’d be tasty with any chocolate, but the Callebaut milk chocolate I used was so smooth and rich, it was the perfect choice.

Alright, facts. Although these are easy to make, they are not make today-eat today treats. I mean, I guess they could be, if you started them first thing in the morning, but the mallows need to sit at lest three hours, and honestly, I think they are best after sitting overnight, so I make these over two days.

Day one: make the marshmallows and allow them to sit overnight, make the crackers (both are easy to make, and only take about an hour, combined).

Day two: now that they have set up nicely, cut the mallows, make some tasty, tasty s’mores.

Day three: repeat, cause they’re all gone now. (Actually, you’ll still have mallows left…maybe…cause the recipe makes a lot, so you’ll probably just need more crackers.)

Enjoy!

Neapolitan S’mores
Makes about 1 1/2 pounds of marshmallows and about 30 crackers

Ingredients

FOR THE HONEY-VANILLA CRACKERS
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into small chunks
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

FOR THE STRAWBERRY MARSHMALLOWS
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 packets unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup strawberry purée (instructions below)
1/2 cup of water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 ounces freeze dried strawberries, broken into small pieces (optional)

To make the crackers: Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks sandy. Add the honey, milk and vanilla extract and process until the dough forms a ball, about a minute. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions, press the portions into 1/2-inch thick disks, wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (C).

Unwrap the one of the chilled dough disks and place it onto a large piece of parchment paper. Top with a second sheet of parchment paper, and roll the dough out until it is 1/8-inch thick. Slide the rolled dough and parchment paper onto a sheet pan. Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and cut the dough, using a pizza cutter, into 3-inch square pieces, by making vertical, then horizontal cuts across the dough. Trim away any excess. Use a fork or skewer to poke a few holes over the top of the dough. Leave the crackers on the pan and bake for 20 to 23 minutes, or until the edges just start to darken. Remove from the oven, set the sheet pan with the crackers on a cooling rack, and allow to cool completely. Once completely cool, break apart. Crackers can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

To make the marshmallows: Lightly coat a 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine the corn starch and confectioners’ sugar. Sprinkle some of the mixture into the pan, and shake the pan around to coat it with the mixture. Pour the excess sugar mixture back into the bowl, and set aside.

Combine the gelatin and half cup of cold water in the bowl of a standing mixer to allow to bloom. Attach the whisk attachment.

In a small saucepan set over medium high heat, combine the sugar, corn syrup, strawberry purée, water, and salt. Cook, covered, for 5 minutes, watching to make sure it doesn’t boil over. Uncover, place a candy thermometer on the pan, and continue cooking until the mixture reaches 240 degrees, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove the thermometer. With the mixer on low speed, pour the candy mixture into the bowl. Slowly increase your speed to high, being careful to prevent splatter. Whisk on high for 10 minutes, slowing the mixer down slightly and adding the vanilla and dried strawberries towards the end of the process.

Using a spatula sprayed with cooking oil, transfer the fluff to your prepared pan.  Generously coat your hands with remaining starch/sugar mixture and press the fluff into the pan until it’s evenly distributed. Allow the marshmallows to sit in the pan for several hours or overnight.

After the marshmallows have set up, remove them from the pan, and place them on a cutting board, or countertop, lightly dusted with the starch/sugar mixture. Using a pizza wheel, cut strips into the marshmallows, or cookie cutters to cut shapes. Periodically dust your wheel (or cutters), as needed. After cutting the marshmallows into strips in one direction, cut them into cubes by crosscutting in the opposite direction. Pull apart the cubes, tossing them in the sugar mixture to coat them. Gently roll the marshmallows in your hands to remove excess sugar and place them in another bowl or a zip top bag.

Assemble: Place 2 crackers side by side, and place high quality milk chocolate on one. Roast one or two marshmallows at a time on a skewer over an open flame until soft and toasted.Place the marshmallows on top of the chocolate and use the other cracker to pull them from the skewer. Enjoy while still warm.

Strawberry Purée
Makes about 1 1/2 cups purée

Ingredients
1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced

Place the strawberries in the bowl of a food processor or a blender. Purée until smooth. Press through a fine mesh sieve to remove seeds.

Recipes by Darla

Supplies from TomKat Studio Shop:

Pink Polka Dot Candy Cups
Ballerina Pink Striped Party Straws
Vintage Daisy Cut Mason Jar Lids

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 heather July 13, 2012 at 10:18 am

Wow, those look totally delish! And those outfits are so full of win. Your sister looks like a cupcake with all those ruffles!

Reply

2 Cookbook Queen July 13, 2012 at 10:32 am

Beautiful!! Those strawberry marshmallows look like clouds of magic.

And I’m totally jelly of your square dance history. No fair!!

Reply

3 shelly (cookies and cups) July 13, 2012 at 11:21 am

Awesome outfits! What I wouldn’t give for a pic of you in one of those.. priceless!
As for these s’mores…amazing!

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4 Tara @Creative Hobbies July 13, 2012 at 11:56 am

Just wow! These look so good and you wait until the end to tell me I can’t make them today. Thanks a lot. : -) I am definitely pinning to my “Make it” to do list. And for some reason I really like those dresses too. Something about a frilly dress for a grown woman…

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5 Lacey - Small Town Cookie July 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm

I too want to see a picture of Darla in a square dance outfit. Come on, I know you have one.

Strawberry marshmallows…I might have drooled on my screen.

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6 Danielle @ Dani Cakes July 13, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Oh. Wow. Those look so good. You have come up with such a creative treat!

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7 Diane July 13, 2012 at 1:41 pm

I LOVE LOVE LOVE that you tell it like it is….”this is a two day project”- and that you add the “hows” of “what” you do. Does that make sense? I also learned about TomKat from you and have become their second biggest fan. I could order all their paper supplies to make all YOUR yummy recipes. Keep ‘em comin’!

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8 Lynna July 13, 2012 at 2:17 pm

WOW…these are just amazing! You made something simple go gourmet! Loving it ♥

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9 Lisa {Sweet 2 Eat Baking} July 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Oh my goodness, these look positively delicious. I’ve never seen freeze dried fruits in the supermarkets. Are they the same as just dried or more special? I’m guessing more special. :)

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10 Becca July 13, 2012 at 4:43 pm

OMG WOW! These look absolutely amazing! I love marshmallows and I love graham crackers and I love vanilla and chocolate ice cream. This is amazing! I wonder if I’ll have time to make them before I start college? Hmmmm decisions.

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11 Heather Dentry July 13, 2012 at 6:12 pm

I LOVE that you thought of me when you wrote this post :) You are a totally awesome witto seestar <3

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12 Dori July 13, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Oh my sweet lord. Strawberry marshmallows. And I have very fond childhood memories of homemade graham crackers. Thank you for the recipe!

And I still love, love, love your final pictures!

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13 Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar July 14, 2012 at 3:51 am

These are so pretty! Love this idea!

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14 marla July 14, 2012 at 8:46 am

These look fabulous ~ love the strawberry twist!

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15 Anna @ Crunchy Creamy Sweet July 14, 2012 at 10:26 am

What a gorgeous dessert! My girls will love the marshmallows!

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16 michelle July 15, 2012 at 11:22 am

oh man these look so yum. homemade marshmallows are on the to do list, yours look so great!

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17 vanessalillian July 15, 2012 at 11:54 pm

You’re like baking MacGuyver!

I’m Australian and have never tried a s’more. But we do have these nifty biscuits called Iced Vo-Vos (which aren’t iced at all – they have marshmallow on top), so maybe if I nuked one for a few seconds and then dipped one end in melted chocolate I’d come close??

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18 Erica July 16, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Hahaha, that picture is EPIC! I thought it was something from AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com, but it’s your actual family! I’m sure you could submit it though, because it’s awesome :)

I received the SprinkleBakes book last week, by the way. Thank you!

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19 Javelin Warrior July 19, 2012 at 9:28 pm

These s’mores are epic! I love that you made EVERYTHING from scratch, including the crackers and marshmallows… Amazing and so beautiful… I’m featuring this post in today’s Food Fetish Friday (with a link-back and attribution). I hope you have no objections and thanks for creating such amazing food…

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20 Lior July 25, 2012 at 5:29 am

Darla…… listen…..
you. are. the. greatest!!!!!

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