Make S'mores Not Wars
Every kid loves s'mores, those heavenly melanges of graham crackers, milk chocolate, and toasted marshmallows toasted on warm summer nights over campfires as accompaniment to ghost stories. And truth be told, adults love them too. They are a powerful taste memory.
But they have a flaw. The chocolate doesn't melt so you have this crunchy crust with warm gooey marshmallows, and cold waxy chocolate. I spent waaaay too much time trying to think of a solution.
You could take the complete assembly and put it on a grill grate over a medium fire and close the lid, but this is a pain, takes too long, and you risk burning the crackers while the marshmallow drips into the fire.
Then one night, in that netherland of half sleep and half awake, it hit me: Nutella! Pronounced "new-tell-uh", this is a wonderful spreadable blend of cocoa, skim milk, and roasted hazelnuts. It works beautifully in s'mores and tastes even better than with milk chocolate. The whole sandwich contents are soft, warm and runny immediately.
You can make your own version of Nutella. In the wonderful magazine of Italian cooking, La Cucina Italiana, I found a recipe from Chef Karen DeMasco, the pastry chef at Locanda Verde in NYC. She recommends it as a cookie filling.
About the sugar. DeMasco says the Demerara give it a bit of crunch.
2) While the nuts are warm, combine with chocolate sugar, and salt in a food processor bowl. Puree until smooth, and slowly add the oil in a thin stream.
3) Transfer the spread to an airtight jar and let it stqand at room temp until it thickens, about 2 days.You can use it right away, even though it is a bit loose, as a dip or drizzle. It keeps for about a month at room temperature or refrigerated for up to 3 months. If you chill it, it becomes too hard to spread but it makes delicious truffles. To loosen it, microwave it for about 5 seconds.
The Nutella story is fascinating. According to the company's website, during WWII, chocolate was in short supply in Italy, so Pietro Ferrero, a pastry chef in the northwest Piedmont region, had the bright idea to mix local hazelnuts with cocoa to extend dark delicacy.
He called his creation pasta gianduja. Pasta means paste, and gianduja was the name of a popular clown. It was originally made in loaves so it could be sliced and fit on bread. But kids peeled away the bread and ate the filling. So Ferrero outwitted them and changed the recipe so it was spreadable, supercrema gianduja was born, and in 1964 it became Nutella.
Nutella became so popular that food stores started a service called "The Smearing". Children could go there with a slice of bread and buy a "smear". Today Nutella is as popular in Italy as peanut butter is in the US, especially at breakfast. You'll find it smeared on the local breads alongside strong coffee and orange juice in countless cafes.
Nutella should be stored at room temperature. Put it in the fridge and it will become impossible to spread.
Makes. 4 servings
Takes. 5 minutes to prep, and 5 minutes to roast the marshmallows
2 graham cracker slabs
4 teaspoons nutella
4 large marshmallows
About the graham crackers. If you feel ambitious you could make your own graham crackers with this recipe from SmittenKitchen.com.
Fruity S'mores. If you want to go crazy, cut up a banana and slice it in 1/4" disks and put them on the Nutella before the marshmallows go down. This method works with apples, pears, strawberries and other berries.
Indoor S'mores. Spread the Nutella, roast the marshmallow over a burner on the stovetop, and place the marshmallow in top.
1) Carefully break each slab of graham cracker in half so you have four squares with a perforation down the middle of each.
2) Spread a teaspoon of nutella on half the squares.
3) If you can find a forked stick for the marshmallows, you get a merit badge. If not, you can make something with a wire coat hanger, but you really need two prongs to prevent the marshmallow from spinning and burning on one side, so unwind the hook end, and make two prongs by twisting the ends together. I often use my Long Handled Carving Fork.
Roast the marshmallows to a tan color trying not to burn them by keeping them well back of the flame and rotating them. OK, I know some of you like to burn them. Go ahead. Just know you are setting a bad example for the kids and they'll probably grow up and burn your steaks when you come to their house. And you'll lose your merit badge.
4) Place the molten marshmallows on top of the Nutella and place the other square of graham cracker on top. Smush. Eat!
This page was revised 1/11/2013
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