Sunday, January 22, 2012

A taste of summer and lessons learned

It's been cold here, as I'm sure it has been wherever you are too. It is January, after all. But up until last week, my husband and I haven't had to turn on the heat in our apartment. One of the benefits of living in a high rise building, I guess. So when it got cold enough last week to make us want to finally turn on the heat, I had a real longing for summer.

When I was a kid, summer meant sleeping in, reading lots of books, going to the pool, and making S'mores in the backyard. I decided to try and see if I could recreate those summer S'mores in cookie form. I've seen lots of recipes online for everything S'mores, but I thought I could make my own cookie recipe. Basically, I thought I could use my standard chocolate chip cookie dough recipe and add marshmallows and graham cracker crumbs with a Hershey's chocolate square on top for decoration.

In hindsight, I should have read the recipe posts from other bakers. My first mistake was to not use mini marshmallows. When I decided to make S'mores cookies, it was late and I didn't feel like going to the grocery store two blocks away. Instead, I went to the deli across the street and they only had large marshmallows. I thought I could just cut them into small pieces and they would work fine. Have you ever tried cutting marshmallows? Don't.

They are really sticky and hard to cut. My trusty kitchen scissors made it a bit easier, but really, it was too much of a hassle. Just walk the two blocks to the real grocery store to get what you really need.

Which brings me to my next mistake: Baking with marshmallows. As I learned, they don't really bake well. Mixed into the cookie dough, they look great. See?

But after baking, they turn out like this:

They make the cookies look gross. And while my taste-tester said they tasted good, the cookies certainly didn't look good. I promptly threw them in the trash, along with the rest of the dough.

Later on I read some blogs where bakers made S'mores cookies and gave lots of advice: freeze the marshmallows before adding to dough, chill the dough before baking, etc. But I was convinced that baking with marshmallows was not a smart move.

I came across one recipe on Pinterest that seemed to be solve my S'more cookie problem. S'mores bars! Instead of using marshmallows, the recipe calls for marshmallow fluff. The result? Perfection!

For some reason, marshmallow fluff doesn't get weird when baked. The bars also seem to mimic an actual S'more, so that's a plus, too. Instead of regular chocolate chips, I used mini dark chocolate chunks from Whole Foods that look like little Hershey bars.

Here is the recipe, adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe:

S’mores Cookie Bars
Note: Do not use regular marshmallows in this recipe!
Makes 9X13-inch pan of bars
INGREDIENTS: 2 cups all-purpose flour 2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) butter, softened 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 large eggs 2 cups marshmallow fluff (I used a whole container) 2 cups chocolate chunks (a whole bag)
DIRECTIONS: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9X13-inch pan with foil, leaving an overhang on the 2 short sides. Grease the foil with cooking spray and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until light. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until well combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing until combined. Divide the dough in half. Press half into the bottom of the prepared pan until the dough is evenly flattened. Dollop the marshmallow topping on top of the cookie base and gently spread into an even layer. Sprinkle the chocolate chunks on top.
Scatter the remaining dough over the top in clumps. Don’t worry about completely covering the top, the marshmallow and chocolate chunks should peek through. Bake the bars until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Cool completely. Remove the bars from the pan using the foil overhangs. Cut into bars and serve.

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