From Sucket to S’more
Sometimes good, but never great, and always messy, it would seem to me that the s’more rests a little heavily on its nostalgic element. But nostalgia goes a long way and so does novelty, the two things s’mores has in spades.
So when did marshmallow roasting and it’s subsequent s’more making become a pastime? In the world of dessert where everything’s billowing cream and glossy peaks, the making and assembly of a s’more seems rather brutal. First, you stab it, then you burn it over an open flame, then you suffocate it with chocolate, before smashing it until it’s now softened innards ooze out from between two slabs of graham cracker, then devour it. Savage!
It turns out that the first written documentation of the s’more, then more decorously referred to as “Some Mores”, appeared in a girl scout manual in 1927 Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts. After several long lists intended to help us “be prepared”, and an exhausting number of ways to build a campfire, you finally find the scout-approved recipes. There somewhere between lettuce sandwiches and a “Ring Tum Diddy” can be found the “Some Mores” which in comparison to recipes for “Galloping Guinea Pigs” and “Spotted Dog” shines forth as a beacon of modern gastronomy.
Much speculation has been made on the inspiration for the s’more. Two of the less ridiculous being the Mallomar, first sold in 1913, and the Moonpie, in 1917. Both treats consist of marshmallow fluff sandwiched between two graham cracker cookies then dipped in chocolate.
I like to think that after days of trailing and tramping, a troop of girl scouts, lost maybe, and on the brink of emotional and mental collapse began skewering and roasting the only things they had left in the bottom of their knapsacks, marshmallows. The further refinements of chocolate and crackers would come later, for now the mallow was enough, it had to be. Like something out of Lord of the Flies, the girls began to dance around the fire, faces smeared with the sticky remnants of their final feast. Chanting “some more, some more, some more”… Before they turned on each other.
Marshmallows weren’t always the chubby wobbly little blobs we think of today. The original marsh mallow was actually a swamp plant whose roots produced a sticky white sap used in the treatment of sore-throats. In the middle ages chunks of this medicinal root were candied and used as something like a medieval cough drop, playfully referred to as a “sucket”.
In the 1800’s the French decided to improve the marshmallow by adding sugar and egg whites and whipping it into a meringue like foam to form a rather primal marshmallow. This, however, was a very labor-intensive, time-consuming process, as they probably had nothing better than a handful of twigs to stand in for a whisk. So marshmallows were accordingly expensive, a treat only the rich could afford. That is until gelatin hit the scene in the latter half of the century; marshmallows could then be made quickly and easily and shortly after, dropped from their ranks among the elite.
Once the marshmallow began slumming, its popularity took off, and marshmallow roasts became the newest fad. They were cheap and practically no preparation was required in order to throw a “roast”. And nibbling them off the end of someone else’s red hot poker was encouraged as an “excellent medium for flirtation”.
So the marshmallow was yet further debased by the weird and sleazy Victorian era marshmallow party. Thank goodness society’s attentions were diverted by the industrial revolution giving the marshmallow just enough time to reinvent itself as the wholesome snack we equate with summer campfires and the movie Sandlot.
To help further elevate the marshmallow here is a recipe for an extremely indulgent treat called
9 graham crackers, crushed into crumbs
6 Tbsp. melted butter
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 egg whites
3 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
2/3 c. sugar
Line an 8″-x-8″ pan with foil and grease. I highly encourage you to make the graham cracker crust in a food processor if you have access to one. Grind up the grahams until just crumbs remain, then transfer to a large bowl. Add the melted butter, sugar and salt and combine until the butter has been thoroughly incorporated throughout.
Press into prepared pan using the bottom of a measuring cup or a smooth bottomed glass to level and pack the crumbs into place. Place in the freezer to set while you prepare the fudge layer and frosting.
To make the chocolate fudge, combine the sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, and vanilla in a small saucepan. Over medium-low heat stir until all the chocolate is melted and ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. At this point, the fudge should begin to thicken. Remove it from the heat and set aside until ready to use.
Create your own bain-marie by placing a heatproof bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water over medium heat. Combine the egg whites, water, light corn syrup, and sugar in this bowl and begin to whisk, continue whisking and cooking for 3 minutes. The mixture should be extremely frothy at this point. Remove from heat and either transfer the mixture to your standing mixer with the whisk attachment or using a hand mixer, whip until glossy stiff-ish peaks form.
remove the crust from the freezer and smear the fudge evenly over the top. If the fudge has thickened too much feel free to warm it up again slightly on the stove top until it is a spreadable consistency again. When satisfied with your layer of fudge add the egg whites and wiggle your spatula around through it until it makes attractive waves and dips.
Broil the whole thing for approximately 2 minutes, feel free to use a kitchen torch as this method is way more fun than using a broiler. Freeze for an hour to set being sure to keep the pan level in the freezer as the egg whites will start to lean and slide one way or another if not kept level. Slice and serve. Happy National S’mores Day!