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
- 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
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.