Happy New Year! In the spirit of healthy resolutions, I’ll post an indulgent, sweet recipe, but it will be a recipe that you won’t want to make for another 12 months, at which time your resolution will be long broken.
At Thanksgiving, my mother-in-law confessed that she had tried a s’more for the first time in her life this past summer. After getting over my initial surprise, I got to wondering why we associate s’mores almost exclusively with summer. Sure, summer lakeside camping goes with evening campfires, which lends itself perfectly to toasted marshmallows, and naturally, to s’mores.
But break down a s’more into components, and you actually have a pretty heavy, wintry palate — graham (or, whole wheat) flour, cinnamon, brown sugar, chocolate, and burnt sugar. And if chestnuts can roast over an open fire (presumably in a brick hearth in one’s living room), so could a marshmallow!
Thus the inspiration for Holiday S’mores was born. But I wanted these to truly embody the flavors of the holiday season, rather than simply say, “hey, regular s’mores aren’t just for summer.” So I turned the graham cracker into a crispier, spicier gingerbread version of a graham cracker. I’ve made my own cranberry marshmallows, which are quite the enigmatic little things — squishy clouds of mallow that seem so vulnerable until the tartness of the cranberries slices through. And, finally, the crown jewel perched atop the toasty marshmallow is a homemade dark chocolate cherry cordial. I’ve poached the cherries in a saucy mixture of red wine and maple, then wrapped them in an almond-scented sugar dough.
These Holiday S’mores are an indulgent crowd-pleaser that challenges our convictions about seasonality, and teaches us the wonders of a homemade confection. Sleep tight, and may the holiday spirit ever be with you!
Makes ~25-30 s’mores (large size) | Start a day ahead
For the Gingerbread Grahams
- 1 + 1/2 C graham (or whole wheat) flour
- 3/4 C a.p. flour + additional for dusting worksurface and rolling pin
- 1 + 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3/8 C unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 C + 1 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 C + 1 Tbsp molasses
- In a large mixing bowl, sift the two flours. Add ginger, soda, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, black pepper, and salt. Mix until well incorporated.
- In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar (stand mixer is easiest). Once butter and sugar are fluffy, beat in eggs and molasses.
- Add dry ingredient mixture to butter mixture. Mix well to form a stiff dough.
- Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 4 days.
- Once dough is firm, preheat oven to 350°F.
- Turn dough out onto floured worksurface. Working in batches if necessary, roll dough to ~1/8″-1/4″ thickness using a floured rolling pin. Cut dough into graham cracker shapes (cheat: I used a rectangular tart pan as a cookie cutter!).
- Use a thin spatula to transfer cut cookies to a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. Use a toothpick to poke holes in each cookie (they allow steam to escape during cooking, making for a crisper cookie).
- Bake for 10-12 minutes in preheated oven.
- Let cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire rack for cooling.
For the Cranberry Marshmallows
- 2 Tbsp cranberry powder
- 2 packets powdered gelatin
- 1/2 C + 1/4 C water
- 3/4 C granulated sugar
- 1/4 C + 1/4 C light corn syrup
- cornstarch for coating
- For cranberry powder, dehydrate fresh cranberries, then grind to a powder. Complete dehydration takes several days in a food dehydrator set to 135°F. Alternatively, you can use pre-dried cranberries (e.g. Craisins), but they also require further dehydration before grinding to a powder. One 12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries will produce a little less than 4 oz. of cranberry powder.
- Lightly grease an 8″x8″ pan and set aside.
- In a microwave-safe bowl, combine gelatin and 1/2 C water. Stir to combine and mix in all the gelatin. Let soften for 5 minutes.
- Combine cranberry powder, sugar, 1/4 C corn syrup, and remaining 1/4 C water, in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture reaches 240°F (note this happens quickly, so know what your next steps are and be ready to go while this mixture is coming to temperature).
- Meanwhile, microwave gelatin for 30 seconds to melt it. Pour remaining 1/4 C corn syrup and the melted gelatin into bowl of stand mixer. Turn the mixer to low and keep it running.
- Once the cranberry and sugar mixture has reached 240°F, remove from heat and immediately begin pouring it in to running mixer bowl. Turn mixer to medium speed, and let it run for 5 minutes.
- Turn mixer to medium-high speed, and run another 5 minutes. Turn mixer to highest speed, and run another 2 minutes until marshallows have tripled in volume.
- Pour marshmallows into prepared pan, and smooth out the top with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the top surface with cornstarch, then cover with aluminum foil or cling wrap. Let the marshmallows set for 6 hours or overnight.
- Turn marshmallows out onto a cutting surface dusted with cornstarch, then use a knife or pastry cutter to cut marshmallows. Coat all surfaces of cut marshmallows with cornstarch.
- Store marshmallows in air-tight container up to 1 week.
For the Red Wine + Maple Poached Cherry Cordials
- 36 whole cherries, stems and pits removed
- 1 + 1/2 C dry red wine
- 1 + 1/2 C water
- 1/4 C maple syrup
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp whole cloves
- 2 C confectioners’ sugar
- 1/4 C butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 C almond syrup (or 1/4 C sweetened condensed milk + 1/2 tsp almond extract)
- 2 C dark chocolate chips
- Place cherries, red wine, water, maple syrup, cinnamon stick, and cloves, in a medium stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Once mixture begins boiling, reduce heat to medium or medium-low. Maintain a slow simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and let mixture come to room temperature.
- Remove cherries from wine mixture, and place onto a wire cooling rack. Place rack of cherries into freezer, and let cherries freeze through, at least 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, use a pastry cutter to cream confectioners’ sugar, butter, and almond syrup, in a medium-large mixing bowl. A stiff dough should form. Add additional confectioners’ sugar if necessary. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour before using.
- Scoop about 1 + 1/2 tsp of confectioners’ sugar “dough”, and roll into a ball between your palms to soften it and make it workable. Press the little ball between two sheets of plastic wrap to form a flattened disc. Wrap a disc of dough around a frozen cherry. Roll dough-wrapped cherry between your palms to work the dough seams together. Each cherry should now look like a white sphere, about the size of a cake pop.
- Place dough-wrapped cherries in freezer for at least 2 hours.
- Once cherries are firm, melt chocolate chips in a double boiler. Roll cherries in melted chocolate, using toothpicks to pry the cherries out of the chocolate.
- Place cherries on parchment-lined baking sheet. Place baking sheet in refrigerator to solidify the chocolate, at least 2 hours, before serving.
- Cordials will keep in refrigerator for about a week, or frozen for up to 6 months.
To Assemble S’mores
- Turn on oven broiler. Prepare a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silpat.
- Place gingerbread grahams onto cookie sheet. Place a marshmallow atop each gingerbread graham.
- Place cookie sheet on top oven rack directly under broiler.
- Keep oven door cracked open to monitor browning of marshmallows. It happens fast, no longer than a minute or two.
- Once marshmallow tops begin to caramelize, remove entire cookie sheet from oven.
- Place cherry cordial onto marshmallow. Serve immediately.