S’mores are always in season if you live in a place like Texas where you can camp all year.
There are all kinds of ways you can make s’mores at home to get a taste of that camping experience, but over the weekend, I went a step further and make a s’mores brownie in a cast iron skillet.
I’ve been working on skillet cookies for an upcoming store, but this one was just too good not to share right away. The original recipe came from “The Perfect Cookie: Your Ultimate Guide to Foolproof Cookies, Brownies & Bars” by America’s Test Kitchen, but I baked it in a cast iron skillet instead of an 8-inch-by-8-inch pan. I did use their trick to line the pan with aluminum foil, and you’ll definitely want to spray your knife with cooking spray so it doesn’t stick to the marshmallows.
I also discovered that there’s a quirk to circle-shaped desserts: Even though you might be tempted to cut this brownie like a pie because it is in that easy-to-carry skillet, it’s best to cut it as a bar, so people who eat it will be encouraged to eat it with by hand instead of with a fork, which sticks to those marshmallows. Other skillet cookies are fine to slice like a pie, but keep this one in squares or rectangles.
S’mores Skillet Brownie
For the crust:
6 whole graham crackers, crushed into crumbs (3/4 cup)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
For the brownies:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup (3 1/3 ounces) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups marshmallows
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cast iron skillet with aluminum foil. (You can use an 8-inch-by-8-inch baking pan lined with two sheets of aluminum foil so you can lift the bars out of the pan when they are finished.) Spray the foil with cooking oil.
Using your fingers, mix together the crushed graham crackers, butter and sugar. Press into the bottom of the pan and bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
While the crust bakes, melt the butter and chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave. Heat the mixture for about 30 seconds and then stir, repeating for about 90 seconds to two minutes. Let cool slightly.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs and vanilla, and then add the chocolate mixture to combine the wet ingredients. Pour the chocolate mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined.
Pour the batter on top of the graham cracker crust and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 22 to 27 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and turn on broiler. Sprinkle brownies with marshmallows and place under the broiler to toast lightly, about 1 to 3 minutes. As soon as they are just a little brown on top, remove pan from oven and let cool for at least two hours before slicing. Spray a knife with cooking oil before using to keep the marshmallow from sticking to it.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published on May 26, 2010.
Sylvester Graham would roll over in his grave if he knew about s’mores.
The 19th-century minister and diet reformer who invented graham crackers dedicated his life in the early 1800s to teaching “Grahamites” about the health and moral benefits of a meat-free diet of simple, unseasoned food. Roasted marshmallow and chocolate sandwiched between two of his namesake crackers is exactly the kind of indulgent food Graham preached against, but despite his healthful lifestyle, he died at age 57, several decades before that first curious camper took a bite of what has become summer’s sweetest guilty pleasure.
Memorial Day kicks off the s’more season, when millions of Americans will tear into bags of marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers, forage around the campsite for just the right roasting stick and debate among themselves how much char is too much to make the perfect s’more.
No one knows for sure who first thought to heat up marshmallows over an open fire and squish them with chocolate and crackers, but the first recipe for a “some more” — as if you needed one — appeared in a Girl Scout handbook in 1927. It’s likely that people first started making them in the late 1800s, which is when all three ingredients were first readily available.
Around the same time Graham was spreading his health food gospel, French candymakers on the other side of the Atlantic discovered how to create a fluffy white sweet confection from the sap of the mallow root, which had long been used to treat respiratory ailments and sore throats. By the time the cylindrical-shaped puffs were invented a century later, the natural mallow was replaced with gelatin. (Another reason Graham would disapprove: Gelatin is made from animal parts.)
No s’more is complete without chocolate. Even as Americans’ palates for different varieties of chocolate has matured, Hershey’s milk chocolate remains the standard.
Upgrading to artisan chocolate bark or bars, including those from local companies such as Fat Turkey, Viva Chocolato, Arte y Chocolate, Innocent Chocolate or Chocbite, is an easy way to spiff up your sandwich, or you can replace regular chocolate with candy bars like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or Kit Kat bars. Bored with graham crackers? Skip them altogether and use Oreo or Nutter Butter sandwich cookies instead.
But for a really lavish treat, try making your own marshmallows and graham crackers. Marshmallows are slightly trickier to make only because they require heating a mixture of corn syrup, sugar and water to a soft ball candy stage (about 235 degrees), but after you’ve tried a homemade one that tastes like a Mexican vanilla-flavored cirrus cloud, the store-bought ones seem like hockey pucks.
Not a fan of vanilla? Swap it with another flavor extract like orange, lemon, coconut or even peach. (Exotic extracts are available at cake supply stores or online.) With just a few drops of food coloring, you can make marshmallows of just about any color of the rainbow.
Store-bought graham crackers today aren’t exactly the health food Sylvester Graham intended them to be, and your homemade ones, even those made with whole wheat flour, won’t be either. True graham crackers are made with graham flour, a combination of fine-ground white flour and coarse-ground wheat bran and germ, but most recipes simply call for whole-wheat flour and a lot of butter and brown sugar. Unlike the dry, stick-in-your-teeth crackers from a box, homemade grahams have a delicate texture, thanks to the butter, and a complex, slightly savory flavor which offsets the sugary overload from the marshmallows and chocolate.
A warning about roasting homemade marshmallows: Because they don’t contain the stabilizers found in packaged marshmallows, they heat up and melt much more quickly. They are likely to fall off your stick before catching on fire, but even lovers of charred marshmallows won’t mind when they lick airy, warm marshmallow cream off the side of a homemade s’more.
You can make s’mores indoors on a gas stove, in the microwave, inside a toaster or even on a grill (wrapped in aluminum foil, Hershey’s suggests), but playing with fire is half the fun of making them. A handful of restaurants and coffee shops, including the downtown coffee shop Halcyon, offer tabletop-contained fire units for roasting marshmallows for s’mores, but it’s hard to beat the smoke-in-your-face challenge of roasting them in a real fire.
Hot coals provide a more even and often hotter heat than the flicking flames above the wood, but make sure you have extra marshmallows on hand in case you drop some in the fire. Long metal kebab skewers are good for roasting, as are sticks, of course, but avoid wire coat hangers, which are often coated in plastic.
S’mores aren’t exactly a sophisticated dessert, but they’ve made their way to the White House. At the state dinner for Mexico’s president last week, chef Rick Bayless served chocolate-cajeta tart with toasted homemade marshmallows, graham cracker crumble and goat cheese ice cream for the president and his dinner guests. No roasting stick required.
3 pkg. unflavored gelatin (a small box, such as those sold by Knox, usually contains four packages)
1 cup ice cold water, divided
12 oz. granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with either a whisk or beaters, pour a half-cup of the water and stir in the gelatin. (It will congeal while you heat the sugar mixture.)
In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover and continue to stir and cook for approximately seven to 10 minutes until the mixture reaches soft ball candy stage, between 235 and 240 degrees. (Don’t guess on this step. Use a thermometer, preferably a candy thermometer.) Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.
Turn the mixer on low speed and slowly pour the hot sugar syrup into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes white, thick and lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add vanilla during the last minute of whipping. (You can substitute other extracts, but note that some, such as peppermint, are stronger in flavor and won’t require the full amount. This is the stage where you also can add a few drops of food coloring.)
While the mixture is whipping, prepare a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan. In a bowl, sift together confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch. Spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray and add the sugar and cornstarch mixture. Shake the pan from side to side to move it around and coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.
After the sugar syrup and gelatin has formed an airy cream, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. (You might need to re-sift the combination to ensure even coating.) Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit, uncovered at room temperature, for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
When you’re ready to cut the marshmallows, loosen the sides and bottom of the solidified mixture with a spatula that has been dusted with the sugar and cornstarch mixture. Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board that has been dusted with sugar and cornstarch mixture and cut into squares using a pizza wheel or a long serrated knife dusted with the confectioners’ sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
- Adapted from a recipe from Alton Brown’s Food Network show ‘Good Eats’
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature (reduce salt to 1/2 tsp. if using salted butter)
1/4 cup dark or light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
Sift together all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon in a bowl.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and honey on medium until well-combined, about a minute. Add half of the dry ingredients and combine fully before adding in the rest.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a nonstick baking sheet such as Silpat or parchment paper.
Put half the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle between 1/8- and 1/4-inch thick. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into squares or rectangles and use a spatula to transfer them to the baking sheet. Gather the scraps and add to the chilled dough. Using a fork, pierce each rectangle or square with two rows of holes, and place the pans in the oven. Bake for 13-16 minutes or until the crackers are golden brown. (They will darken slightly as they cool.)
Using a spatula, move the crackers to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with the second half of the dough. Makes about three dozen crackers. Stored in an airtight container, the crackers will keep for about a week.
- Adapted from ‘The Craft of Baking’ by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox (Clarkson Potter, 2009)
It’s my son’s birthday this weekend, and I want to make a skillet cake. I’ve made a few this summer. They were OK. I want a better one.
Do you have a really good skillet cake recipe or technique? Would you mind to share it with me? You can shoot me the link (or a photo of the recipe card in the box on your countertop) at firstname.lastname@example.org or @broylesa on Twitter.
He’s a chocolate-on-chocolate fan, for sure, but any kind of kid-friendly skillet cake would be amazing.
I always love seeing the creativity of local farmers on display at Farmer as Artist.
That’s the name of the annual exhibit at Prizer Arts & Letters, the art gallery at 2023 E. Cesar Chavez, that showcases the artistic abilities of more than a dozen Central Texas farmers.
This is the fifth year for this show that explores the connections between farming and creativity. Farmers from Boggy Creek Farm, Millberg Farm, Tecolote Farm, Urban Roots, Johnson’s Backyard Garden, Munkebo Farm, Farmshare Austin, Genesis Gardens, Agua Dulce, Texas Hill Country Olive Co, EllenMental Acres and Sand Holler Farm created pieces for the show in a number of media, including sculpture and photographer.
The gallery is mostly open by appointment only, but the opening reception for this show is from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9. The pieces will be on display through Sept. 23. Proceeds from art sales to benefit Farmshare Austin.
The shadows formed by the trees were probably the most delightful surprise in this 95 percent totality zone, but I’m enjoying seeing all the Instagram photos that you took using other devices capture this moment in history.
Despite all the coverage ahead of time, I hadn’t heard about the trick to use a colander — you know, that strainer you use to drain pasta — to make a bunch of small eclipses, but now I’m seeing lots of photos from people who used them earlier this afternoon.
But the best pinhole eclipse shadow photo I’ve seen all day came from Twitter, where Sara Kate W posted her discovery: Saltine crackers work even better than the pinhole camera you might build from the box.
The tiny holes in the crackers are just big enough to allow the shape of the sun to come through so you can see the eclipse action.
Many proud Texas cooks have recipes for pimento cheese in their cookbook collections, but hardly anyone uses fresh pimento peppers, which are somewhat difficult to find.
If you’re going to make pimento cheese at home, you’re probably using a jar of pimento peppers, but for what it’s worth, Jack Gilmore doesn’t even use pimentos. When his cookbook came out, we found out he uses roasted red peppers in Jack Allen’s Kitchen’s famous dip.
But for a short window this summer, at least one area farm is selling fresh pimentos at the local farmers market.
I’ve never had a fresh pimento pepper, so I can’t tell you what they taste like, but I have a feeling they’d make some killer homemade cheese dip this weekend. The good news is that JBG sells produce at nearly every farmers market in the Austin area, so if you’re hitting one up this weekend, keep an eye peeled for interesting peppers that are perfect for roasting and mixing with cream cheese.
I will also note that the dictionary *really* wants these peppers to be known as pimiento peppers, despite widespread usage for “pimento,” which is what I used here. Another request for the Associated Press Stylebook, I guess.
If there’s anybody breaking the cookbook mold in a more creative way than Michelle Tam and Henry Fong, I’ve yet to find them.
The creators of Nom Nom Paleo have published several comic book-inspired cookbooks that are bursting with energy and enthusiasm for the craft of everyday weeknight cooking. They aren’t the only ones to use the comic book look, but I think they do it the best with the cartoons of themselves depicting their weekly routines and brainstorming sessions and action shots of the food prep.
The recipes in their new book, “Ready or Not!: 150+ Make-Ahead, Make-Over, and Make-Now Recipes by Nom Nom Paleo,” (Andrews McMeel, $35) have step-by-step photos with lots of notes about the cooking techniques they employ and the use of fats, herbs and spices that will help you even when you’re not making the exact dish in the book. Readers will quickly pick up that with a busy family, they, too, are eager to knock out a killer meal on some days, but on others, dread the task.
Tam, who is the only cookbook author I know who has an action figure, will be in Austin for a book release event at 7 p.m. August 25 at BookPeople with Edible Austin, where she will sign copies of the book and answer questions from readers. They’ll have snacks from 44 Farms and Lox and Box & Barrel on hand, as well as butter coffee from Picnik.
You’re gonna get a big, spicy kick out of this beefy, one-skillet casserole. Eat it now, or slice it up and toss it in the fridge for the coming week’s pack-and-go lunches. Got riced cauliflower? If not, cut up a small cauliflower into uniform-size pieces, and pulse ’em in a food processor until the size of rice grains.
1 pound riced cauliflower
1 pound ground beef
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups store-bought roasted tomato salsa
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon chili powder
Freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs, whisked
6 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 jalapeño or serrano pepper, thinly sliced crosswise (optional)
¼ cup fresh cilantro, lightly packed
Heat the oven to 350 degrees, with the rack in the middle. Heat a large, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef when the pan is hot. Break up the meat with a spatula. Cook, stirring, for 5 to 7 minutes or until it’s no longer pink.
Add the onion and bell pepper. Cook for 5 minutes until softened. Add the riced cauliflower and stir to combine. Stir in the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Pour in the salsa, and add the oregano and chili powder. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Remove the skillet from the heat, and pour in the whisked eggs. Gently stir to incorporate, and smooth the top of the casserole with a spatula. Top with the sliced tomatoes (cut-side up) and hot pepper, if using. Put the skillet in the oven.
Cook for 40 to 45 minutes or until the eggs are set and browned on the edges. Rest for 5 minutes, and top with cilantro. Slice and serve. Extras can be refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 4 months. Serves 4.
The Florence-born “Top Chef” favorite Fabio Viviani shares the recipe for this Italian favorite in his new book, “Fabio’s 30-Minute Italian: Over 100 Fabulous, Quick and Easy Recipes” (St. Martin’s Press, $27.99). He crisps up guanciale, an Italian cured pork, but you could use pancetta or bacon. Drain the grease if there’s a lot of fat on the bacon; otherwise, leave a little behind to season the sauce.
Linguine with Crispy Guanciale and Creamy Poached Egg
1 pound dried linguine
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup diced guanciale or pancetta
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 shallots, sliced thin
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Grana Padano cheese
Salt and pepper
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and drop in pasta. Cook the pasta about 7 to 9 minutes, while bringing a small pot of water with vinegar to a simmer for the eggs.
Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large pot on medium heat and add the guanciale. Render it until just crispy, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and shallots and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, and reduce by half. Season with salt and pepper.
Swirl the vinegar water with a spoon or whisk. As you’re doing this, crack each egg and carefully drop it into the swirling water so that the whites wrap around the yolks. Cook for 4 minutes. Carefully remove and place on a plate that has been wrapped tightly with plastic wrap.
Add cream to the pasta sauce and reduce by half. Once reduced, add pasta to sauce. Toss the pasta, then incorporate the cheese. The pasta should be very creamy, but not too thick. Place in bowls and serve with an egg on top of each. Serves 4.
It’s good to be back in the livestreaming saddle after a short vacation break!
Today, I tried a handful of Texas products that have been part of H-E-B’s Quest for Texas Best competition in recent years, including a chipotle yogurt dip from Dip It and cream cheese-filled bagel bites from Bagel Dots, and went on a little rant about overpriced lactation cookies, protein-packed chocolate chip cookies that need better marketing and packaging and a frozen gumbo I really wanted to like but found disappointing.
I also tried some brownies that my editor, Emily Quigley, made for my birthday, which was a few weeks ago. Turns out, she used a boxed mix and added dried cherries, cinnamon and chocolate chips. I’ve been so focused on from-scratch brownies lately, but I realized her additions to the boxed mix are a great #Austin360Cooks tip!
If you’re a kid, the only thing better than walking into a toy store is walking into a candy store, and Toy Joy is getting ready to serve you up with both.
The longtime toy store, which moved from its campus-area home to a space on Second Street several years ago, announced this week that it is opening a candy shop next door called Yummi Joy, 409 W. Second St. in the space that formerly housed Cafe Ruckus.
Later this month, you’ll find a rainbow of nostalgic candies, bulk sweets, gummies, lollipops, chocolates, as well as ice cream from Sweet Ritual, whose co-founder Amelia Raley first worked at Toy Joy when it was up on Guadalupe and 29th Street. They will have classic sodas, coffee and hot chocolate.
The ice cream will be for sale via a walk-up window on West Second Street, and the window will be open later than the candy shop to accommodate late night restaurant patrons and concert-goers leaving ACL, according to a release.
“Candy has been a very popular item at Toy Joy and our creative staff has loads of fun ideas for tasty new treats to bring to our customers, including artisan fudge products,” co-founder and CEO Fred Schmidt, who also owns Wild About Music.
Toy Joy manager and partner Robby Pettinato added: “Three years ago this toy business found itself in foreclosure under prior ownership but is now doing better than ever as longtime regulars have found us again and, at the same time, we are now discoverable by all the throngs of tourists, conventioneers and residents in this new downtown location.”