Thursday, July 9, 2015

Molly's S'mores Brownies

It's summer. That means it's time for s'mores!

Blog devotees may remember that one of my favorite things in the entire world is a nice, tasty s'more, but most of the rest of my family doesn't share my enthusiasm for them. This isn't to say they hate them, but they're not as on board for them as I am at all times of year. It also means I need to get a little more creative in how I sell them on them, which meant when my girlfriend pointed me in the direction of a tasty looking s'more themed brownie recipe, I just couldn't say no.

That's definitely one of the dangerous parts of having a significant other who bakes: you give each other way too many ideas for fun things to consume.

This is both a very modern recipe, and one that has roots in history well before Molly. Graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate and even marshmallow creme can trace their roots back to at least a few decades before World War II, and we've already discussed where s'mores themselves come from, but Molly is my go-to s'mores gal because her summer book features her at summer camp, and what do you eat at summer camp? S'mores.

Or pizza, if you go to the camp my sister is working at this summer.

The first time I ever had a s'more themed baked good was in Washington, D.C. when I was visiting my aunt and uncle. There are a lot of tiny, independent cupcake stores in D.C., some of which have a rotating menu of interesting flavors that you need to be prepared to get there in a timely fashion to snag before they're gone for the rest of the day. I was lucky enough to snag the last s'mores cupcake at one such store, and it was magnificent. With a graham cracker crust base, chocolate cake and a toasted marshmallow buttercream top, I couldn't help but think this was - in retrospect - such an obvious dessert to adapt to a cupcake. Why hadn't I grown up eating these?

Since then, I've seen other places marketing s'mores baked treats, but often, they kind of miss the mark. Sorry guys, but a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting and a little graham cracker does not a s'mores cupcake make, and a chocolate milkshake that has some whipped cream and a teeny tiny sprinkle of graham cracker over the top is so far off the mark, you might as well not try. I'm picky about how I like my nontraditional s'mores, and you need to have that nice, caramelized marshmallow and lots of graham cracker to get it right. And make no mistake, these brownies get it right!

The recipe I used comes from The Beach House Kitchen, which is a blog with absolutely beautiful food photography that puts mine to shame. The second Jessi showed me these, I was totally hooked and wanted to make them right that instant. But I decided to be responsible and throw these together when it wasn't 11:30 at night and had more people around to help consume them.

To start off, you make your graham cracker crust. You need two cups of graham cracker crumbs (about an entire two packages of Honey Maid graham crackers did this for me), a quarter of a cup of granulated sugar, and six tablespoons of butter. The original recipe also wanted cinnamon in it, but I decided it make mine as boring s'mores-ish as possible and omitted it.

This all gets combined in a bowl and pressed into a 9 x 9 baking pan you've lined with foil and sprayed with a non stick cooking spray. You then bake it in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes to help the crust stay together.

Next comes time for your brownies. Combine two cups of melted semi sweet chocolate chips (which have been allowed to cool a little bit after melting) with one cup of sugar, one half cup of light brown sugar, a cup and a half of granulated sugar, four large eggs, and two teaspoons of vanilla. Once that's done, fold in two and a half cups of flour, and then pour it over your crust.

Folding it in took a lot of effort. These brownies are definitely thick!

The brownies then bake in the oven for about forty two minutes at 350 degrees.

And finally comes your topping! This recipe uses marshmallow creme, or fluff as most modern eaters have come to know it. This tasty treat can trace its history back to the early 20th century in Somerville, Massachusetts, and was first commercialized in 1917. Somerville has hosted a festival celebrating the invention and distribution of this fan favorite from the north east since 2006, and there have been proposals to make the fluffernutter sandwich (a peanut butter and fluff sandwich) the official sandwich of Massachusetts.

Marshmallow fluff is a little tricky to work with straight out of the jar, as it doesn't always spread very well. The recipe recommends microwaving it for a few seconds to make it easier to spread, and once you've got it all covered, you're ready to put this back in the oven! I went a little off recipe here by adding tiny marshmallows on top, an idea I saw in another s'mores brownie recipe I stumbled upon shortly after Jessi showed me this one. This gets put under your broiler for one minute, or until the topping is slightly browned.

After letting them sit for an hour, you can remove them from the foil and chop them up into personal brownie squares, and you're ready to enjoy a baked treat that's deliciously like one of my favorite summertime desserts.

It's probably for the best to let these sit for a bit - maybe even overnight - before trying to eat them with your hands, though. This is a very, very gooey brownie, and pretty much required a fork to eat them if you didn't want to wind up wearing most of it, but that's not a deal breaker for me.

I chopped them up into relatively large squares, so my batch made somewhere between fifteen to twenty brownies. I didn't do an accurate head count before popping one in my mouth, and letting other people dig in, too! I tend to prefer my brownies being a little more cake like in texture, with just enough chewiness to make it different than just eating a chocolate cake, but these still really hit the spot. Although they didn't exactly live up to my memories of my first ever s'mores cupcake, they definitely came close. With just the right amount of toasty marshmallow and gooey chocolate, this definitely felt like eating a s'more and not just a brownie.

Not that there's anything wrong with basic brownies, obviously.

My only real complaint here was that my graham cracker crust was way too crumbly and flaky. I followed the instructions exactly, but I think it could have used a little more butter as a binding agent, or maybe I just didn't mix it or pack it in well enough. Whichever it was, a lot of the crust would get left behind on the plate when you tried to pick it up, and that's a bummer because the graham cracker is honestly one of the best things about s'mores. Plenty of desserts use chocolate and marshmallows together, but graham crackers don't always get paired with them the same way, so I usually see this as the critical part of any interpretation of a s'more.

Overall, although these are slightly labor intensive than a box mix or standard brownie recipe, they're a fun project on a day where you've got some time to kill in the kitchen. This is also something you can easily tweak to do a spin on your own favorite brownie recipe if you've got a standard one you like to whip out for family gatherings, office parties or a quiet night in. I'm definitely going to be breaking them out again sometime!

If nothing else, I need to use the rest of the marshmallow fluff I've got in my pantry!

Maybe we should get you a fork, Molly...


  1. Oh, so the brownie part is separate! I could, in theory, adapt this to blondies. Ideas~

    I used to like s'mores but since the allergy took hold I make Angel S'mores with white chocolate.

    1. Not going to lie, I was definitely wondering how a blondie version would work out while writing this post...

  2. Your brownies don't sound much different from the s'mores pie I made for Pi Day, only mine was a much lazier creation.

    1. Mmm, s'mores pie, you say? I'm definitely going to have to add that to my list of things to make!