Ode To S’mores
I must have liked s’mores as a child. What’s not to like about a sticky, gooey, chocolate mess of sweetness that tempts you to beg for ‘some-more’ but leaves you with a bellyache if you aren’t careful? It’s the ultimate kid food and a perennial campfire favorite. Camping and s’mores are like skiing and hot chocolate or surfing and fish tacos. You can’t have one without the other… or at least you shouldn’t.
The premise is simple- half a graham cracker, a layer of milk chocolate, a roasted marshmallow or two, topped with another half graham cracker; smushed ever so slightly together to cause the chocolate to melt before you bite down. These treats lure kids of all ages to join around the campfire when they’d rather crawl into a tent and pass out. It brings the community together for a few last songs or tales in the dark night air. Yet when you think about it. It’s a really weird food.
Origin of the S’More
Ancient Egyptians are credited with discovering a wild herb that grew in a marshland. The sap of this plant was extracted and mixed with a honey-based confection but reserved only for the pharaohs and gods. The rest of the populace were not worthy. Or you could buy the story of how Native Americans harvested sweet blue and pink flowers that dotted the banks of bays and rivers. They would pick the blossoms just before they opened and boil them in a small amount of water so they would form a paste. They ate it straight out of the bowl or smeared it onto food as a sweetener.
In the 1800s in France, candymakers would mix the marshmallow sap with egg whites and sugar to make the first official marshmallow. They later used corn starch molds for faster processing. However, the first s’mores recipe debuted in a 1927 Girl Scout handbook and the rest, so they say, is history.
But not all marshmallows are created equal nor roast the same. The cheap kind disintegrate in the flames or melt right off the tines.
Unlike with other traditions, there’s no sin in straying. Gourmands have been known to use a variety of flavored mallows from strawberry to whiskey. We even tried Peeps once but the sugar carmelizes and the whole thing falls in the fire. You can also mix up the size with jumbos and minis.
Best ways to toast s’mores
Proper roasting technique is important once you’ve found the mallow that speaks to you. Newbies will usually char the outside yet the inner is still firm and undercooked. Bleh. Experts use patience and the heat of coals and embers (rather than the flames themselves) to toast the fluff to a golden brown. Make sure to use a clean stick with a pointed end so the mallow doesn’t smash down when you pierce it. The stick should be long enough so you can sit comfortably and safely by the fire while you slowly rotate it.
If you want a more consistent and efficient roast then choose metal (a hanger works marvelously) over wood for your stick. In fact, pros come with their own roasting stick much the same way a pool player packs his own cue.
Just the right crust will allow the marshmallow to sit on the cracker without oozing everywhere and will produce enough heat to soften the chocolate. Speaking of chocolate, one is not allowed to eat the chocolate without the marshmallow. That’s cheating. But it’s okay to eat just the marshmallow. BTW, the s’more itself has evolved beyond the “classic” – marshmallow, Hershey slice sandwiched between two halves of a graham cracker- so there’s no right or wrong way to make it. *
S’mores Cooking alternatives
Don’t dismay if you don’t or can’t have an open campfire for your dessert finale. You can use your propane stove, torch attached to a propane canister, oven broiler, gas stove and even a microwave (seriously, though?).
One of my favorite at-home s’mores makers is the Camco Little Red Campfire. It’s a small, portable campfire that uses propane underneath a ring of fake logs. It comes with a lid so you can close it up when you’re done and not worry about anything catching fire once you turn in. Plus, you can have a campfire right there on your deck or in your kitchen!
Today, I’d rather have just the toasted marshmallows and leave the mess to the millennials. But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a good gathering around the campfire. FYI, National S’mores Day is August 10 so get roasting.
Looking for some S’Mores Variations?
Minty S’more- sub peppermint patty for chocolate bar
Gold Dust S’more- Sub coconut marshmallow for plain
Bananarama S’more- Sub banana for graham crackers (put this mess in foil then roast on the coals).
Cow Patty S’more- sub chocolate chip cookies for graham crackers
S’mores Por Favor- roll it up in a tortilla instead of using graham crackers
Camp Cone S’mores- Sub ice cream waffle cones for graham crackers