Friday, September 5, 2014

How French Manufacturers, a Crazy Preacher, and Hershey's will Leave You Asking for Some More

Nothing is more quintessential summer than making s'mores over an open campfire! However, without "modern" inventions, it would have never been possible. Egyptians were the first to utilize the root of the marshmallow plant (Althaea officinalis) for medicinal purposes, specifically sore throats. By extracting the sap from the root, it was then boiled in sugar syrup and dried to create a honey-sweetened confection. In the late 19th century, French manufacturers began using egg whites or gelatin mixed with corn starch to create what we now know as the modern marshmallow, no sap required.

In 1829, Graham crackers (in bread form) were invented by Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham, as part of his "Graham Diet." Reverend Graham believed that by adhering to a bland vegetarian diet, it would prevent people from having impure thoughts and thus prevent the act of pleasuring one's self. After all, he believed it caused blindness and insanity! Weirdo! On another note, Graham diet followers Dr. John Kellogg and brother Will Kellogg invented Kellogg's Cornflakes to adhere to Graham's doctrines. Who knew!

In 1896, Milton Hershey built a milk-processing plant in Derry Church, Pennsylvania, later renamed Hershey, Pennsylvania. After three years of experimentation, he developed the "Hershey process" used to create milk chocolate candies. In 1900, the first Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar was sold and the rest is history.

It's no wonder that these three ingredients, which are easy to pack and transport camping, had children asking for some more! In 1927, the first recipe for "Some More" was published in the Girl Scout publication Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts. According to Merriam-Webster, the first use of the contraction "s'more" was in 1974, which eventually became "s'mores." But what if you don't have access to a campfire? Why not make these adorable "S'Mores Cupcakes," from the July 2014 issue of Real Simple. I found the recipe to be accurate, with the exception of the marshmallow topping. The recipe states to bake the marshmallows "until golden and deflated, 6 to 10 minutes." I waited 6 minutes, but they were not golden or deflated, just puffed up like eggs! I waited 10 minutes, the same thing. After about 12 minutes they appeared to be golden, so I pulled them out and let them cool. Big mistake! They were dry and chewy, not creamy like you would want. So, I baked a second batch for 6 minutes, allowed them to cool, and finished them off with my blowtorch. (Doesn't everyone have a blowtorch in the kitchen?) The result was the perfect gooey marshmallow with a hint of an open fire!

S'Mores Cupcakes

Makes 12

For the Cupcakes
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (from 9 crackers)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole milk

For the Topping
12 large marshmallows

For the Ganache
1/3 cup heavy cream
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used chips.)

For the Cupcakes
Heat oven to 350 degrees with the racks in the middle and top positions. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. Whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

Beat the butter and sugar in a separate bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients and milk alternately, beginning and ending the dry ingredients and mixing well between additions. Mix until just combined.

Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Bake, on the middle rack, rotating once, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20-24 minutes. (Mine were done in 20 minutes.) Cool in the tin for 10 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the Topping
Place the marshmallows on a parchment-lined baking sheet, 2 1/2 inches apart. Bake on the top rack until golden and deflated, 6-10 minutes. Let cool. (I baked them for 6 minutes, allowed them to cool, and gave them a little blast from my blowtorch.) 

Make the Ganache
Bring the cream to a boil in a small pot. Remove from heat, add the chocolate, and let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk to combine. Let cool slightly.

Assemble the Cupcakes
Divide the ganache among the cupcakes. (It looks like there is way too much ganache, just keep spooning it on top carefully. You want to use it all or it won't be chocolaty enough.) Top each cupcake with a marshmallow. Let sit until the ganache is almost firm to the touch, 15-20 minutes, before serving. (These cupcakes are messy, so I did pop them in the refrigerator for a few minutes to aid in eating.)


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