desserts, snacks

s’mores bark (also known as summer bark.)

Before you get all excited, screaming “I thought you promised us shoddy photos while on vacation!” I should let you know that a) yes, I did promise you that, and shoddy photos you soon shall get, and b) I made these prior to leaving town. I wanted to make sure that if everything went south (like I did) you would still have some treats. Besides, we make these for vacation (I’ll be making them this evening), so I’ve saved everyone here the excruciating pain of waiting until photos are taken before they tear into these. And believe me; you don’t want to be caught in a situation where guests/family/friends see s’mores bark and are told they can’t immediately eat it. You learn quickly that people do indeed bite when provoked.

Because that’s what s’mores bark does to you, people. It makes you crazy for it. Here’s why:

Turns out that specific combination of ingredients above, all piled onto graham cracker crust, is enough to make even the most level-headed person go berzerker. It even make me go berzerker, and I never even knew I loved s’mores things until recently. As un-American as it sounds, we weren’t big s’mores eaters. To this day, the sight of a big fat marshmallow-laden cracker doesn’t cause anything even approaching hysteria in me, and I feel a little left out for that. But you give me s’mores flavors in a slightly altered package? Different story.

Maybe I’ve never made s’mores correctly. To me, it’s dry graham cracker under softened chocolate (also slightly dry-tasting to me), under toasted (hi, dry) marshmallow (also somehow dry and sticky at the same time). The flavors are so totally there for me, but the overall texture – I’m sorry – leaves me wishing for a different way to do things. To give these flavors more ooomph.

So I made those little twisted s’mores, which I loved. They were super fun to make and they really give you that toasted marshmallow flavor. They’re just as fun at summer dinner parties as they are when you feed them to the kids wandering to and fro in your home during the summer months (for those of you who have teenagers). The problem? They’re not the most portable of things to take with you to say, the pool, or picnics, or play dates. Because let’s face it; no one wants you running around wielding a torch in the middle of a field of small children. Here’s the alternative:

Right there; thaaaaat’s it. Oooey, gooey, s’moresy goodness all melted together and then chilled up for you to take wherever you go. I wish I had thought of this myself, but my favorite two guys from Baked thought of this one for me. When I made this last year, I had no idea the hit it would be. It went with me everywhere: a few parties, gifted to friends, and each vacation day was not complete until we had all sat down with a few chocolate triangles of delight perched atop vanilla ice cream.

Understandably, this was item #1 to make this year on vacation. It is probably the single most awesome way to continually bestow upon people a dessert while not having to work at it. You can put this on ice cream; you can eat it by itself. Whatever. And the recipe makes a giant 9 x 13 pan of bark, so you have – I calculated this – 117 square inches of s’mores flavor. It’s the summer bark to my winter bark, which people demand I make for them the minute November rolls around.

This year, I wanted to test my theory that milk powder does indeed make most everything better. By now, some of you may be getting sick of me working milk powder into everything, and I get that. If you don’t want to go out of your way to get it, I’ve included instructions on how to make it without. I love this crust with the milk powder and  a few other adjustments, and here’s why:

1. The graham cracker flavor is totally amplified by milk powder. Perhaps more than any other thing I’ve tried, there’s something about graham and milk together that’s immeasurably good. One completes the other. Milk powder had graham crackers at “hello.”

2. Although milk powder is (obviously) dry, using it seems to make things more dense, more focused, more together. Everything works towards a common goal, and that goal – besides flavor –  is amazing texture. This crust without milk powder can be crumbly. With? It almost adheres itself and becomes one with the chocolate layer. Not only is this delicious, but makes them easy to cut and even easier to transport without incident.

I also like to add these little things:

Those, my friends, are very large sprinkles. Or rather, large sprinkles having a closeup moment. I love the additional color to this bark, but I think regular size nonpareils disappear a little into the fudginess. Instead of the normal size, I use a slightly larger version which should be available at most well-stocked grocery stores. They’re colorful, you can see them, and they add a nice addtional crunch element to the s’moreiness you’ll be experiencing. It’s difficult to gauge size onscreen, so here are the regular-sized nonpareils and the larger ones I use next to a standard-issue miniature marshmallow:

Hopefully that helps aid you in your search for “slightly larger than normal-size nonpareils.” I have a way with words, I know.

Adding to the visual aids, I’ve included the finished bark, both side and overhead views. It’s always hard to describe how I cut them, but I think triangles work very well, and that variety is key in you not losing your mind with these. Treat them like a traditional bark (like the kind you chill and then snap into pieces with your hands) only use a thin, sharp knife to mimic that look. No pressure for exactness here; in fact, I think they’re much cuter when slightly haphazard. And stay on the small size with these; they can get melty on you and are on the rich side of the food spectrum, so you won’t want cake-sized pieces. Well, scratch that; you absolutely will want cake-sized pieces, but you won’t want to make yourself ill. Small pieces, please.

So, I’m off to enjoy my own piece of bark and maybe sit on a beach somewhere and stick my toes in the sand and wonder how I could write off multiple trips to tropical locations as a “business expense” for the blog. Except this blog makes no money and mostly I spend money getting food, making things, and then eating them or giving them to people. Oh well. Back to the beach.

That’s not beach; that’s graham cracker/milk powder crust. Seriously, it is. This is the beach.

And that’s me and the baby in a rare moment of “go ahead and snap that photo of me, it’s fine” one year ago this week. She’s old enough now to really just enjoy every single bit of everything here, which is totally fun for everyone. I’m going to get back to this wee face now. She also enjoys this bark quite a bit. Tiny kid approved.

Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by my favorite duo, Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.

S’mores Bark (Summer Bark)

for the crust:*

  • 2 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 18-20 whole cracker sheets), crushed to a powder in a food processor
  • 1/4 cup milk powder
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
for the chocolate layer:
  • 8 ounces good-quality milk chocolate, coarsely chopped**
  • 4 ounces good-quality semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped**
  • 4 ounces good-quality 60% cacao chocolate, coarsely chopped**
  • 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 heaping cups mini marshmallows
  • 3/4 cup lightly salted whole peanuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped lightly salted peanuts
*as I said above, you can omit the milk powder if you want to, although I do think it really adds a depth to the final product. If you omit the milk powder, lower your brown sugar to 2 tablespoons and your butter to 10 tablespoons.
**do not be tempted to use chocolate chips, candy bars, or any other substitute for actual baking chocolate. I use Ghirardelli because it works very well and has never given me any problems. There is nothing more depressing than throwing away a saucepan full of seized chocolate because you didn’t use the right type.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13-inch glass Pyrex (or Pyrex-like) baking pan, or spray it with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together graham cracker crumbs, milk powder, salt, and brown sugar. Add melted butter and mix well until combined and evenly damp. Turn it out into the prepared pan and press the crust into an even layer along the bottom of the pan. Remember: you’re not going up the sides for this one as it is just a level bar. Use the bottom of a measuring cup to create a perfectly even crust.
Bake the crust for 10 to 12 minutes, or until it is golden brown. Remove pan from oven and place on a cooling rack. Let cool completely before pouring in your chocolate mixture.

Place chopped chocolates (all types), heavy cream, and corn syrup in a large heatproof bowl or double boiler. Set over a pan of just simmering water, being sure that your heatproof bowl does not touch the water in any way. Stir frequently over low heat, slowly melting your chocolate and cream and syrup together into one cohesive mixture. Once your mixture is completely melted, remove from heat and let cool slightly for about 10 minutes. Fold in marshmallows and whole peanuts. Pour mixture over prepared crust and use an offset spatula to spread it as evenly as possible. The marshmallows will fall where they may, and some may clump up like little sugar islands; take a spoon and lift some to spaces where there are less of them in the chocolate. I like to distribute my inside stuff as evenly as I can; it’s only fair. Sprinkle the top with chopped peanuts and sprinkles of your choosing.

Refrigerate for at least 5 hours, or until set. Cut into haphazard triangles (it’s fun!) and serve. The bars will keep in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 3 days.

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  • Reply Emma July 6, 2012 at 7:18 am

    I love the looks of this! I’d probably leave out the peanuts… because peanuts do not a s’mores make. And despite your subtle hints that “well-stocked” grocery stores will have large nonpareils…. my grocery store definitely does not. Heck, they don’t have vanilla beans or saffron, why would they have these puppies?

    I’d love to make the crust into a sort of toffee layer. Or maybe that could be the next layer up above the crust. It all sounds so delicious.

    • Reply shannon July 7, 2012 at 4:46 am

      i dig your purist attitude towards s’mores, and i respect your choice to leave out the peanuts.

      did you like that? sometimes i really DO get spoiled a bit with what I have access to – i never realize it until i’m somewhere else, so i try to at least give fair warning. i actually couldn’t find large sprinkles down here (in my top-secret vacation location), so i opted to use the rest of the normal funfetti-type sprinkles we had leftover from the other night.

      the vanilla beans are totally gross at my local market. i have to make a penzey’s run for those. ditto with saffron. 🙂 so mine doesn’t have everything, but I will say the right combination pack of stores in my area can get you most anything. except for passion fruit puree. ugh!

      toffee would be LOVELY; my mom makes an english toffee which looks like a thinner version of this bark (minus marshmallows and peanuts, plus pecans). if you do that, i want to know how it turns out.

  • Reply Jen @ Juanita's Cocina July 6, 2012 at 8:08 am

    When I vacation, no one makes me yummy things. And for this, I am really sad.

    I adore that pic of you and the Wee One. There’s so much joy in that little baby face that it makes my heart melt.

    Also, I may need these. Now.

    • Reply shannon July 7, 2012 at 4:39 am

      i think that is crazy talk-if anyone deserves some yummy things thrown in their general direction, it is you. i’m already making a list of people i want to vacation with, and you are so on it. we could just make each other yummy things back and forth. there should be such thing as food blogger summer camps, where everyone meets and makes all sorts of food (everyone has kitchen detail). you could bring your family members and they could do normal crafts while we baked and cooked.
      or did i just describe the future commune. 🙂
      she is filled with joy, let me tell you. the girl gets so stoked upon the mere mention of going outside to the pool/to the beach/to get ice cream/to do nothing but play with my mom and sister that she literally vibrates out of her pants. everyone should enjoy vacation as much as 2 year olds do. 🙂

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog July 6, 2012 at 8:25 am

    S’mores bark, summer bark, either way, I have to have some of this bark! Mallows, peanuts, and chocolate all melted into a delicious pile spread over graham- my heart just skipped a beat.

    Your “wee one” is just about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Enjoy your vacation.

    • Reply shannon July 7, 2012 at 4:34 am

      aw, jennie, thank you! and the Wee One thanks you as well: it’s so amazing how different and grown up she looks this year as compared to those photos from last year. she still has that same smile, however. just her legs look less like buscuits. 🙂

      it’s really a fun little recipe to have in the summer. i’ve been saving it for this time of year because it’s sometimes hard for me to really want heavy, solid chocolate things in the summer, but i still want the flavors. this works for me because it’s mega chocolate flavor but somehow not too weighty. we are totally enjoying our vacation! and i hope you enjoyed your time away as well; always nice to get a little break, right? 🙂

  • Reply natalie July 6, 2012 at 8:26 am

    what a delightfully amazing idea.

    i realize i’m an idiot to ask, but “milk powder” is just “powdered milk”, no? I seem to only be able to find “nonfat powdered milk” at my store and i don’t know if it makes any difference? Not sure if I should buy that or add it to my list of “ingredients to buy from amazon” (like the stupid malt powder….)

    • Reply shannon July 7, 2012 at 4:30 am

      natalie, yes: milk powder is just powdered milk. On the Carnation brand I use, they call it “milk powder” but the two are interchangeable. i don’t know if quality varies from one to another, but if i remember correctly, my book recommends Carnation (but i will look again).
      that TOTALLY stupid malt powder! i don’t know why you can’t find that locally. ironically, Carnation is the one who makes the malt powder i use…is there some sort of Carnation products boycott in AZ i don’t know about?? 🙂

      and thank you! ‘delightful’ is an excellent way to describe these. we just sat a few triangles on top of our ice cream last night, and it was DIVINE. you would love these.

  • Reply Ashley July 6, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Oh, wow. These look incredible, especially the addition of the slightly-larger-than-normal nonpareils. And your Momofuku Milk Bar inspired addition of milk powder is exciting – I have a box of milk powder hanging around my pantry (I don’t remember why it appeared in the first place), and this trend will help me use it up!

    • Reply shannon July 7, 2012 at 4:27 am

      thank you, ashley! i hope the larger nonpareils aren’t too hard for people to find; sometimes i find when i visit other places that i’m a little spoiled with the grocery offerings in my neighborhood. They’ve always been at my local market in the baking section, and they have a nice little crunch to them which we all enjoy.
      you know, people have said the same to me (about having milk powder just randomly in their pantry), and none of them know why it was there originally either. i asked my mom, and we never once bought milk powder when i was little, and i never have as an adult. so i’m always left curious about why others seem to have it. 🙂 i hope this helps you use it up. if you need some more inspiration, there’s several recipes on the blog (and in the momofuku milk bar cookbook) which use plenty of the stuff. chances are you’ll be buying more. 🙂

  • Reply Willow July 6, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Okay, this recipe is incredible. I agree 100%, s’more flavors are wonderful, but the texture is only ‘meh’. This bark sounds perfect, though – like eating a candy bar! And such a great idea to make them for vacations. Love it!

    • Reply shannon July 7, 2012 at 4:23 am

      yay, Willow, you get me! i thought i was going to get blasted for that because i know it’s never safe to rip on s’mores (even though i think the world of them). maybe it’s okay because s’mores are and always have been something quick and fun and portable and not so much about the texture.
      it is just like eating a candy bar. in fact, i should have put that in the post. you get a little distracted with the smell of hot chocolate and marshmallows and peanuts around. 🙂 thank you!

  • Reply movita beaucoup July 8, 2012 at 7:20 am

    Oh man. I’d go berserk for this bark. I think it woodwork anytime of year. I’m pining for it already. I’d woof it down. And you’re barking mad if you don’t think I’d eat the whole pan by myself. I wooden want to share it with anybody. Nope, you’d be barking up the wrong tree. People wood start calling me Chewbarka. I’m gunna leaf now… because you’re probably getting tired of all this sassafras. Have fun at the beech…

    • Reply Emma July 9, 2012 at 7:27 am

      How’s your aspen? dork;)

      • Reply movita beaucoup July 10, 2012 at 11:44 am

        I don’t know where that hostility is rooted. (Get it? ROOTED?)

        • Reply shannon July 11, 2012 at 5:22 am

          (snort…giggles…) 🙂

      • Reply shannon July 11, 2012 at 5:03 am


    • Reply shannon July 11, 2012 at 5:02 am

      at first, when i began reading this and saw “woodwork,” i thought “oh no! movita never makes spelling errors but that’s a funny one because it’s still a word, and this is about barkget it…” (chuckle, snort). because i’m a total dork like that. so you can imagine how delighted i was upon reading the rest and realizing you had crafted me an ENTIRE COMMENT MADE FROM WOOD AND TREE-BASED JOKES.

      extra points for both “beech” and “sassafras.” and also for coming back and ADDING another joke, which almost never happens and for which i feel blessed.

  • Reply Maggie @ Kitchie Coo July 9, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    That pic of you and the little one is adorable!! Can’t wait to see more of her from this vacation. She is darling. I bet she went berserk for that bark? I know my 2 year old would! This is an awesome recipe and one I’d love to make this summer!

    • Reply shannon July 11, 2012 at 5:11 am

      thanks maggie! she’s a fun little biscuit for sure; i can’t believe when i look at these photos how much she’s grown since last year at this time! and she can do and enjoy so many things more now that she’s older…the time here has been so fun with watching her love every minute.
      and yes, she does love this bark very much; she’s got a sweet tooth (unsurprising), but she doesn’t get too much of it except if we’re outside because for little ones, it’s SO messy (think regular chocolate meltyness only doubled because of the softness of the chocolate layer). 🙂 consider yourself warned; keep that baby close and away from white fabrics! 🙂

  • Reply Mary Rose July 11, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    Ah! Clever Momofuku touch! I can hardly wait to try this!

    • Reply shannon July 13, 2012 at 11:27 am

      mary rose, thank you so much! This was so good with the momofuku inspiration, although it may be hard to really mess up something called s’mores bark, right? 🙂 it disappeared from its storage container faster than i care to admit.

  • Reply Choc Chip Uru July 15, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    These are the eptiome of delicious summer/s’mores bark 😀

    Choc Chip Uru

    • Reply shannon July 18, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      thank you! i had to make these…they’re just fun to be around. 🙂

  • Reply Kelsey @ K&K Test Kitchen July 15, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    I love s’mores so much, but they aren’t something I get to eat very often. But your s’mores bark could be very dangerous for me! I imagine that I would also go “berzerker” over this!

    • Reply shannon July 18, 2012 at 2:49 pm

      kelsey, then you will LOVE these. i’ll admit, it’s not the “purist” form of s’mores, so i didn’t know how they would go over with the s’mores lovers, but everyone seems to really like them. and yes; those little triangles of bark are extremely dangerous. 🙂

  • Reply Kim Bee July 15, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    I seriously love you right now. Like big time.

    • Reply shannon July 18, 2012 at 6:17 am

      i am seriously flattered right now. kim! if i had known s’mores bark was all it took, i could have done these for you months ago. 🙂

  • Reply Peter @Feed Your Soul July 16, 2012 at 7:24 am

    looks fun and yummy!

    • Reply shannon July 18, 2012 at 6:18 am

      thanks, peter! these are a big hit when i make them…very fun, for adults and kids. 🙂 or rather, it turns adults into kids.

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