Summer s’mores secrets

Upgrade the common campfire treat with homemade marshmallows and bean-to-bar chocolate

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Courtesy River and Woods

S’mores — originally created to feed large groups of Girl Scouts — contain one key ingredient that has long been considered an aphrodisiac. Ironically, the foundation of this all-American treat was baked to suppress sexual urges. 

According to Smithsonian, the first published s’mores recipe appeared in 1927’s Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts and included 16 graham crackers, eight bars of milk chocolate and 16 marshmallows. It suggested roasting the marshmallows over the fire first, then placing them between the crackers and chocolate. 

S’mores are quick to make, cheap and sweet, but frankly, totally bland and boring. Just as we’ve outgrown Wonder bread and embraced sourdough artisan loaves, mature taste buds need something more nuanced than the Hershey’s-Stay-Puffed-Nabisco combo.

Local restaurants and food and drink companies have long played with the s’mores formula in various tasty ways. Boulder’s River and Woods restaurant offers the roast-it-yourself S’mores Camp Out, which includes a flame at your table, house-made marshmallows and graham crackers (including a gluten-free variation) with Chocolove chocolate bars. 

Meanwhile, Boulder’s Wild Woods Brewery pours S’mores Stout, an extra dark ale aged with cocoa nibs, and Table Mountain Farm near Golden ships s’mores kits featuring soft cinnamon grahams, vanilla marshmallows and salted dark chocolate goats’ milk caramel sauce.  

Making More of Common S’Mores 

If you’re going to dive headlong into all the calories, sugar and carbs in s’mores, here are a few ideas for firing up s’mores that will be the talk of your next campfire. 

(Don’t worry, I promise I will still be fun.)

Start by ignoring those weird, white, air-injected things that sit in plastic bags for months on the shelf at your supermarket. Admittedly, commercial marshmallows do burn well to produce that blackened effect we love. However, until you taste your own homemade mallows, you can’t comprehend how great they can taste (and burn). 

When he isn’t making ice cream with liquid nitrogen, Chef Ian Kleinman of Denver’s The Inventing Room Dessert Shop makes serious candy from scratch including edible paper, lollipops, pop rocks, chewy compressed cotton candy and fresh marshmallows in an array of flavors. 

“Making marshmallow at home isn’t that complicated if you have a stand mixer,” Kleinman says.  

Kleinman’s recipe:

1/2-ounce plain gelatin powder (found in the boxed dessert section)

5 tablespoons cold water

3/4 cup corn syrup

1/3 cup water

2 cups white granulated sugar

In the stand mixer bowl, add gelatin and five tablespoons of cold water and, using the whisk, combine them for a minute. In a deep saucepan, heat the sugar, water and corn syrup. Bring to a boil and boil on high for two minutes. Caution: Very hot! Add to the gelatin mixture and whisk for about 10 minutes until the bowl is cool to the touch. It will be a moist, stiff texture. Spray a loaf pan with oil. Wet your hands (or a spatula) and scoop marshmallow into pan. You will have to lick your fingers afterwards. Cover the top with plastic and chill for at least a few hours in the fridge. Slice the marshmallow while it’s cold into bars and nuggets. You can jazz up your mallows by layering or sprinkling them with powdered espresso, cocoa or ground freeze-dried fruits. 

Abstinence demands a better cracker

It’s true. Minister and health food advocate Sylvester Graham created his cracker to be so bland it wouldn’t arouse any yummy tingly thoughts. It did not work. Modern grahams are tastier and sweeter than his but still pretty nothing, even the organic ones. One simple tweak, says Kleinman, is to put graham crackers in your home smoker for 20 minutes to infuse them with a hint of campfire. 

Instead of store-bought, consider baking your own regular or gluten-free graham crackers. Recipes abound online. 

Graham alternatives include whole wheat British “digestive” biscuits, ginger snaps, vanilla wafers and chocolate wafer cookies.  

If you want to live on the flavor edge, try using saltines and other savory crackers to make your s’mores.  

By fire, torch or toaster oven

Certainly, s’mores roasting on a smoldering campfire is ideal, but not always available. You want the right technique so the chocolate begins to melt before the outside becomes a smoking husk. Kleinman swears by a handheld torch to make s’mores because it gives him precise control of how burnt they get. They can also be made under a broiler or in a toaster oven. I’ve also had them deep-fried in tempura batter – tasty but messy.

Many aficionados pump up s’mores with other flavors but I tend to be a purist. 

Forget about the usual chocolate candidates

Chocolate — especially good dark chocolate — does contain some stimulating substances including caffeine and theobromine. In choosing chocolate to make more of your s’mores, try upgrading to bean-to-bar chocolate. You feel better about yourself and it tastes better. To find Colorado-made bars, check out Taste of the Week on page 29. 

LOCAL FOOD NEWS

Basil Bowl Thai restaurant is open at 1302 Centaur Village Drive in Lafayette. … Cluck-n-Burger is serving wings, sandwiches, deviled eggs and street corn from a roadside food truck at 4435 Ute Highway (U.S. 36) in Lyons. … Coming doughnut attractions: Landline Doughnuts & Coffee is planned for 321 Main St. in Longmont. We miss Estes Park’s iconic Donut Hut. Luckily, the town’s You Need Pie Cafe will open The Daily Donut, a new doughnut factory and shop, in Estes this fall. …The much-loved Louisville Labor Day Homemade Pie Contest has been cancelled for 2021 due to ongoing COVID concerns. … Inaugural dinners to benefit nonprofits have been cancelled at the new Boulder Reservoir eatery after complaints about potential problems from neighbors living nearby. 

WORDS TO CHEW ON

“An apple is an excellent thing — until you have tried a peach.” — George du Maurier (1834-1896)

John Lehndorff is the Boulder Weekly’s Food Editor. Comments: Nibbles@boulderweekly.com