S'mores Tarts

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Campfires and s'mores compose many of my childhood summer memories. As a Girl Scout growing up, s'mores were our reward after a long day of hiking, canoeing, and cooking dinner over flames at camp. We would sing silly songsβ€”with laughter as our melodyβ€”and toast marshmallows, stretching out these perfect moments with a just one more, please. I hold these memories particularly close when settling into the summer season.

It is fitting then, especially considering my own experience, that s'mores originated with the Girl Scouts. The first recipe for this dessert appeared in the handbook Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts in 1927. The folklore says that when a girl had eaten one she would always ask for "some more." Over time, the popularity of the treat grew until it became the summer phenomena it is today. The dessert still holds ties to its roots, however. A s'more made over a roaring campfire will always be superior to any counterpart. The smoke, night sky, and good company are irreplaceable ingredients.

S'mores are not often thought of as an elegant dessert (as anyone with a crumb-filled lap and a sticky marshmallow face and fingers would agree). With these s'mores tarts, I wanted to find a little more of that sophistication while keeping the traditional flavors intact. Thus, a thin crust holds in a rich chocolate filling and is topped with an airy marshmallow topping. 

While I still adore a classic campfire s'more, I find them too sweet to eat more than one. With the tarts, I was able to cut back on the sugar by using dark chocolate and covering the tarts partially with the marshmallow topping. Of course, if the classic sweetness is your preference, please use your favorite milk chocolate and drown these tarts in as much toasted marshmallow as you desire. 

S'mores Tarts feature a rich chocolate filling surrounded by a cookie crust and topped with a vanilla flavored marshmallow topping. The marshmallow topping can be toasted using an oven broiler, but flame torches yield much more control with the finished product. I personally find kitchen torches to be small, disappointing, and overpriced. If you are up for a bit of adventure, acquaint yourself with your pyromaniac side, and pull out a full-size blow torch for these tarts. You'll be glad you did. 

One Year Ago: Mixed Berry Quinoa Crumble
Two Years Ago: Rhubarb Oatmeal, Dill Dinner Rolls, Sparkling Lemon Drop, and Berry Cheesecake Tarts
Three Years Ago: Vegan Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Cherry Cream Cheese Muffins, Blueberry Breakfast Quinoa, Vegan Brownies, and Banana Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie
Four Years Ago: Chocolate Almond Oat Bars, Tropical Vacation Cocktail, Blueberry Granola, and Bizcochitos
Five Years Ago: Blueberry & Raspberry Mini Tarts

S'mores Tarts

Yields 6 small tarts

Tart Dough
8 tablespoons (115 grams) butter, room temperature
1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cup (210 grams) all-purpose flour

In a medium mixing bowl, place the butter and sugar. Beat until lighter in color and texture. Add the egg, vanilla, and salt and continue mixing until uniform, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the flour, mixing until the dough comes together and begins to gather in the bowl. A food processor can also be used to speed up the process, if available.

Remove dough and shape into a cylinder. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). 

Unwrap dough and slice cylinder into 6 even pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each slice into a circle 2-inches larger than the tart pan. Gently place dough into pan, pressing it along the edges. If necessary, additional dough can be used to cover up cracks or tears. Using a rolling pin, roll it along the top of the pan to cut off excess dough. Puncture a couple dozen holes into the bottom of the tart using a fork; this will prevent the dough from rising.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until they are dry in appearance and touch. Cool to room temperature.

Chocolate Filling
6 ounces (170 grams) milk, semi-sweet, or dark chocolate, finely chopped (as per preference)
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream *

Place chopped chocolate in a bowl. Set aside.

On the stovetop or in the microwave, heat the cream until near boiling. Pour over the chopped chocolate and allow to sit for 5 minutes to melt the chocolate. Stir until smooth.

Divide chocolate filling evenly between the cooled tart shells, using an offset spatula to smooth the top of each tart.

Marshmallow Topping **
3 large egg whites
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Wipe a large bowl with a paper towel soaked in a small amount of lemon juice or vinegar to remove traces of grease. Add egg whites and sugar and, over a double boiler, whisk constantly over hot water until the sugar dissolves. When rubbed between your fingers, the egg whites should feel hot and smooth (approximately a temperature of 140 degrees F/60 degrees C). This will generally take 3-8 minutes, depending on the temperature of the water.

Using a mixer, whip the egg whites until thick, glossy peaks form. This may take anywhere from 8-10 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract.

Using a pastry bag, pipe topping over each tart. The tarts may be covered partially (as shown) or fully covered. Alternatively, an offset spatula can be used to spread topping over the tarts. 

For a toasted look, use a kitchen torch (or a full-sized blow torch, as I did) to add the toasted look to the topping. I recommend practicing on leftover topping before starting on the tarts. Alternatively, an oven set to broil can be used to toast the topping. This is a little less precise, but will also yield a toasted appearance.

Store and serve at room temperature. The marshmallow topping may "weep" slightly on the second day, but it does not affect the flavor or texture of the tarts.

* I have also used soy milk (dairy-free) to great effect.

** The recipe yields enough marshmallow topping to completely cover the tarts, if desired.

Peppermint Marshmallows

Peppermint Marshmallows

Peppermint Marshmallows

The past two weeks have been dreadfully cold, as winter fully sets in up here in the North. The air is so chilled that it seems to take one's breath away, burning down the windpipe fiercely. Everyone scurries around from place to place to do last minute shopping, bundled up from head to toe in coats and scarves and mittens until nothing but red cheeks are showing. Fashion has given way to practicality. Though the wind is fierce, the earth's thick coat of white is beautiful enough to make up for winter's ferocity, at least in part.

A few degrees of warmth might make the ice and snow a bit more tolerable.

Peppermint Marshmallows Peppermint Marshmallows Peppermint Marshmallows

With all of the below zero temperatures, I have spent my time indoors, cuddled up with a hot cup of tea and an overdone holiday movie. When I have a spare bit of time, I like to find an excuse to turn on the oven, whether making a batch of my boyfriend's favorite cookies or finding an excuse to treat my coworkers.

Last weekend, I had it in my head that I would make a batch of gourmet peppermint marshmallows for the holidays. Midway through the recipe, as the sugar was wildly boiling, I came to the unfortunate realization that my candy thermometer was broken. After trying to salvage the recipe, with the sugar certainly overcooked, I ended up throwing it entirely into the trash bin.

Peppermint Marshmallows

I have never come across a recipe for marshmallows that did not require a candy thermometer. In fact, the vanilla bean marshmallows I shared with you earlier this year is one of the few recipes where I insisted you needed one. However, suddenly candy thermometer-less and with no less of a desire to make marshmallows, I began the search for a recipe that didn't require one. And find one, I did.

With a red swirl and drizzle of dark chocolate, these Peppermint Marshmallows exceeded my expectations. While they are glorious on their own, I wholeheartedly suggest adding them to a mug of hot chocolate for a moment of divinity.

Peppermint Marshmallows

These Peppermint Marshmallows are easier to prepare and less fussy than other marshmallow recipes. The addition of extra gelatin ensures that the marshmallows will set without the worry of boiling sugar to a specific temperature (as there is with traditional marshmallows). Red food coloring is dropped on top and swirled with a toothpick before the marshmallows have a chance to set. Drizzled with dark chocolate and sprinkled with crushed candy canes, the marshmallows are elevated so that they could be given as a holiday gift or served at a holiday party.

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Hot Cocoa Popsicles

Hot Cocoa Popsicles

Hot Cocoa Popsicles

This weekend brought about a furious blizzard, with flakes falling wildly from the heavens and a fierce wind blowing snow into drifts tall enough to bury cars beneath walls of snow. I spent Sunday with a cup of hot tea between my palms, watching Mother Nature roar outside my window. There is a peacefulness in being in the warmth of indoors, safe and snug, while the elements play outside, just out of reach. The world outside quietly shuts down and responsibilities are forgotten as the front door stays closed.

I think sometimes we all need a snow day.

Hot Cocoa Popsicles

Even though it goes against all reason, on the coldest days of the year I crave frozen treats. Throughout the winter season, it seems there is only so much tea that can be sipped and soup that can be ladled. In order to satisfy my cravings for something cool, I often beg family or friends to accompany me to the nearest frozen yogurt shop. Bundled up in winter jackets, scarves, and over-sized mittens, we trudge through the frosted doors and eat until our insides turn delightfully cold. When the cold ice cream finally brings about a case of the goosebumps, we wrap ourselves back up and head out into the winter air.

Though this small tradition may seem misunderstood, there is something restorative about spending time in an empty yogurt shop on a chilled February evening.

Hot Cocoa Popsicles

After the blizzard struck (and the obligatory mug of hot tea had been consumed), I found my taste for cold treats begin to seep into my bones. With no choice but to stay in the warmth and safety of the indoors, I decided to create my own winter delight with the food already in my kitchen. A few minutes on the stove is all it takes to whip up a quick cocoa. After I waited for it to cool down, I married it with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips in a popsicle mold to produce a frozen treat that closely mimics its namesake.

While hot cocoa is a winter favorite, I have found that "cold" cocoa can be just as gratifying.

Hot Cocoa Popsicles

Hot Cocoa Popsicles combine the flavors of the beloved winter drink and turn it into a treat that can be enjoyed whether the weather is warm or cold. A rich hot cocoa is layered in a popsicle mold with mini chocolate chips and marshmallows. The popsicles are frozen in two parts to evenly spread out the mix-ins, which keeps all of the chocolate chips from sinking to the bottom and all of the marshmallows from rising to the top. Once frozen, the popsicles can be enjoyed over the course of a couple weeks, reached for whenever a craving may strike.

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