She was charring the small white fluff on her wooden stick with deliberate wrist flicks. The flames caught the rotund piece every few minutes, creating black cracked skin on top of the snowy miniature pillow. I watched her dip the skewer into the fire, sparks erupting upwards onto the twinkling aubergine sky, then twitch it away.
“What is that?” I whispered to her, agog at the ivory sponge ablaze. She popped it into her mouth.
“Marshmallow,” she replied, turning to me. I stared at her blankly. “Haven’t you ever tasted marshmallow before?” I shook my head. “Here,” she said, grabbing another soft specimen from the plastic bag next to her. “Try it.” I gingerly accepted the offering between my index and thumb, afraid to crush the downy substance. The first bite I tasted a thousand candy shops fashioned into a cushion. “You like?” she asked. The sweetness coated my inner cheeks, tonsils, throat. I nodded vigorously.
She took another and pinned it to her twig, swept it through the fire. It lapped up the heat, singeing, transforming. She gave it to me. This first bite was gooey yet crisp. The caramelized outer shell rasped against my tongue, made satisfying crackling noises. Underneath the oozing sugars stuck to my teeth. I studied the dissolved marshmallow bits left on my fingers smear like glue, fascinated by this unearthly fare. She scanned my face by the kindling campfire, proud to have introduced me to her world.
“Now for the best part,” she said as I licked the gelatin off my hands. Out came a box of crackers. Their rustle a mysterious call to the other children. They materialized out of the night to crowd around me in glee.
“Oooh! S’mores, s’mores, s’mores,” they chanted, clapping. “It’s s’more time!” More sticks were passed around, more marshmallows sacrificed into the flames. She retrieved a scorched one, set it atop a biscuit. She broke off a hunk of chocolate bar, smothered the marshmallow with it. She presented me with a graham cracker sandwich between which seeped chocolate and marshmallow. The first bite was delirium. Grainy wheat, dark cocoa, viscous saccharine meshed into an elysium of tender, friable, bitter-sweet morsels. It made up for the dirt, sweat, mosquito-riddled day of hiking. It was something to dream of as I tried to fall sleep on the pebbled ground.
Ragged, hungry, begrimed I return from my climb up the Grand Canyon trail. I gobble my meal of the day, hastily prepared. Then, as the stars display themselves in the velvet horizon, I sit back. I set my biscuits and chocolate bar at the ready. I skewer my marshmallow and hold it above the fire. I decompress. I think about that first bite of s’more….
BT’s SALTED CARAMEL S’MORE RECIPE
Serves 6-12 Total Time: For s’mores: 5 minutes [Preparation = 3 minutes, Cook = 2 minutes]; For marshmallows (optional, but recommended!): 4 hours 45 minutes [Preparation = 35 minutes, Cook = 10 minutes, Rest = 4 hours]
WHAT YOU NEED
12 large marshmallows (optional recipe for homemade salted caramel marshmallows below)
12 graham crackers*
12 heat-resistant skewers
18 ounce chocolate bar
Store bought marshmallows do the job. But nothing is as tasty as a homemade twist. We chose to make salted caramel marshmallows to round out all that sweetness. For salted caramel marshmallows:
17 grams sheet gelatin (8-10 sheets)
500 milliliters (2 cups) + 80 milliliters (⅓ cup) cold water
200 grams (1 cup) white granulated sugar
140 grams (1 cup) powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
140 grams (1 cup) corn starch
240 milliliters (1 cup) caramel sauce
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
100 grams (⅓ cup) light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
WHAT TO DO
- Attach one marshmallow to end of each skewer. Heat the marshmallows over open flame taking care not to burn them. Continuously turn skewers until marshmallows are slightly melted and develop a caramel color over them. Remove from fire and let cool for 1 minute.
- Break graham crackers in half. Position one marshmallow on one half of each cracker. Break chocolate bar into squares and place one square on top of every marshmallow. Put the second half of graham on top of chocolate, making a sandwich. Take a bite and enjoy!
For salted caramel marshmallows:
- In a small bowl stir together caramel sauce and coarse sea salt.
- Soak the gelatin leaves in 500 milliliters (2 cups) of cold water.* Place mixture into bowl of an electric mixer.
- In a saucepan combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 80 milliliters (⅓ cup) of cold water. Attach a candy thermometer to side of pot. Cook over medium heat for 10-12 minutes or until thermometer reaches temperature of 118 ℃ (245 ℉). Remove syrup from heat.
- Turn mixer on low speed. Very carefully pour syrup mixture into gelatin, taking precaution to not hit the moving whisk with the hot liquid! Once the liquid sugar has been added, switch mixer to high speeding whip for 15 minutes or until batter is thick and fluffy with stiff peaks.
- Turn setting back to low speed. Add in salted caramel, turning the mixer off as soon as caramel mixture has swirled into mixture in streaks.
- In a small bowl combine the cornstarch and powdered sugar. Completely coat the bottom and sides of a 13 x 9 baking pan with the cornstarch and powdered sugar blend. Make sure there are no empty spots. With the help of an oiled spatula, slowly pour the caramel gelatin concoction onto the pan. Dust the top of the gelatin layer with enough cornstarch and powdered sugar to lightly cover.
- Allow gelatin to rest for at least 4 hours or overnight if possible.
- Using a knife coated with confectioner’s sugar, cut the marshmallow sheet into 1-inch squares. Toss marshmallow squares in the rest of cornstarch and sugar mixture to dust all sides. Shake squares in a strainer to remove excess sugar dust. Unused marshmallows may be stored in airtight container for 3 weeks.
* BT Tip: If you cannot purchase graham crackers, digestive biscuits, whole-wheat crackers, or gingersnap cookies make a good substitute. To make home-made graham crackers, try this recipe. If you have powdered unflavored gelatin available, soak 3 packets of this in ½ cup of cold water.