Autumn S’mores – Homemade Graham Crackers and Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows
Hey all! I hope you guys had a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving!
Up until a few years ago, Halloween was my favorite holiday. It was nice to have a Thanksgiving break and some good food, but I wasn’t really involved in the whole process. My grandpa, who was a great cook, always made the meal. My dad would watch the football game while my mom and grandma talked. And me? I didn’t really have any Thanksgiving traditions at all, besides always having a second helping of mashed potatoes and gravy.
This year, though, marks the second year where I’ve helped prepare the meal. Last year, newly interested in cooking, I wanted to be a part of the entire dinner. With some help from my dad, I basted the turkey, simmered the cranberry sauce, mashed the sweet potatoes and wilted the spinach. I also made dessert, a pumpkin pie that survived everything, including the death of my oven halfway through baking. This year, in spite of college applications and a time-consuming internship, I knew I wanted to do it all over again.
A couple of things made it back to the menu. Last year’s turkey came out so perfectly I swore it was beginner’s luck, but I still reached for Martha Stewart’s recipe again. I also made these Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potatoes from 101 Cookbooks, which were popular across the entire table a year ago. I also searched half an hour to find last year’s cranberry sauce, made with ruby port and tangerine juice. But for dessert, I decided to tackle something completely new. I envisioned an Autumn S’more – made with cinnamon-sweetened graham crackers and springy pumpkin marshmallows.
We spent Thanksgiving at a friend’s house, equipped with a bigger kitchen, a bigger dining area, and prettier dining ware. The table was beautifully set, and there was so much color that every plate seemed a mini feast. Mom’s three-leaf-clover rolls were passed around the table first, followed by dark green and maroon Swiss chard. Sparkling cranberry apple cider glimmered like garnets in the glasses, matching the ruby-red cranberry sauce. The sweet potatoes were a creamy pale yellow, and the glazed carrots brought bright orange to the table. With the fancy plates and faceted cups of wine, it felt like Thanksgiving dinner from a magazine.
Not everyone could stomach dessert, and the night ended soon after dinner. We packed all our equipment, ingredients, and leftovers into our car and drove back home, drowsy and stuffed.
As can be expected from a family of foodies, we talked about the meal afterward. We discussed the merits of the Swiss chard and described how tender, juicy, and succulent the turkey came out. Dad explained why he didn’t care for the sweet potato dish that I adored, and Mom praised how beautifully the cranberry sauce came out. We like food, and we wanted to share it with each other.
Tonight, my parents started up a campfire in the fire pit we built two years ago. Remembering the mostly-forgotten dessert, I grabbed the graham crackers and marshmallows. Dad found a perfect stick, sturdy and straight, and roasted a marshmallow across the flames. He pulled it off the stick with his teeth and chewed. “It tastes awesome, right?” I was mostly kidding. He opened his mouth a few times, trying to pull out the proper words to describe the taste and texture. Finally, a smile on his face, he agreed: “They’re just awesome.”
For all my descriptive words, these marshmallows escape description. I can’t properly convey how fantastic they were. On their own they were lighter than air, with a bouncier, fresher texture than store-bought marshmallows. The pumpkin was subtle and the flavor was prominently spiced. I cooked a few with the flames from my stove, and they toasted and oozed beautifully, but there is no comparison to roasting them on a branch over a flickering fire. The outside crisps and bubbles burnt gold, while the inside becomes creamy, gooey, and pumpkin-y. With chocolate and a crisp graham cracker, they were irresistable.
As it turns out, I’ll remember one of the nicest Thanksgivings I had not by the fancy meal and the pretty decorations. Instead, I’ll remember my mom, dad, and I sitting around the fire in lawn chairs in the pitch black. I’ll remember my mother’s stunned face as she tried the first marshmallow tentatively, then practically lunged for another one, ending up with molten pumpkin marshmallow all over her chin. I’ll remember my dad trying to describe how awesome the marshmallows were, how the pumpkin flavor was really elevated after roasting, and how the texture could only be described as perfect.
I’ll remember jumping into the car on a whim to rush and buy hot dogs, just so we could stay outside a little longer. We kept adding logs to the fire, each thick piece of wood sending up sparks that swirled up like fireflies. And we stuffed ourselves with so many marshmallows that our fingers grew sticky, and each of us had developed a unique toasting style over the course of the evening.
And after everything, I think I may have created a new family tradition after all. :)
Please, please make these. I can’t say enough how wonderful they were.
I found a recipe for marshmallows that didn’t involve egg whites, since I have bad luck with recipes that call for hot liquid to be poured into beaten eggs (think classic buttercream.) Instead, this recipe couldn’t have been easier, just a matter of turning on your mixer. The one issue? The marshmallows were incredibly sticky. They broke two of my rubber spatulas as I tried to transfer them to the pan. I accidentally stuck my finger in, and as I pulled it out, a floss-like strand stayed glued to my hand no matter what.
A slight challenge, maybe. Hilarious, very. I’ll make a video when I make these again, because it was too funny to miss. But after I folded in the pumpkin puree, the sticky marshmallows became much easier to handle. And in the end, it was worth it.
The graham crackers were also a success, though I slightly overbaked mine and they came out extra crispy. Still, they had a nice flavor and I wouldn’t change a thing. I made 2″ squares to make a more manageable s’more, and the size was perfect. Everyone’s oven is different, so watch the time, and I found that the thinner the cracker was rolled, the better.
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (375 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour (can swap 1/2 cup for whole wheat flour, or 1 cup for whole wheat pastry flour)
1 cup (176 grams) dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon (6 grams) baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt (4 grams)
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces or 100 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup (114 grams) mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons (77 grams) milk, full-fat is best
2 tablespoons (27 grams) pure vanilla extract
Optional Topping (I left this out)
3 tablespoons (43 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) ground cinnamon
Pulse the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in a food processor to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the soft, sticky dough barely comes together. Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap and dust it lightly with flour, then turn the dough out onto it and pat it into a rectangle about 1-inch thick. Wrap it, then chill it until firm, about 2 hours or overnight. Meanwhile, prepare the topping, if using, by combining the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and setting aside.
Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick (thinner is better). The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Cut the dough into 2″ squares using a fluted cookie cutter or rolling cutter.
Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping. Chill 15 to 20 minutes in the freezer. Repeat with the second batch of dough. Finally, gather any scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and re-roll.
Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350°F. Prick the crackers with a fork or wooden skewer, then bake 15 – 20 minutes, or until golden brown, rotating the pans halfway through. The cracker will not seem completely firm, but will harden as it cools. You might want to test out a few crackers to see what time works best for you.
Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows
Adapted from Cooking for Engineers
Makes a 9″x13″ pan, about 40 large marshmallows
3 envelopes of unsweetened, unflavored gelatin (3 tbsp or 21 g)
1/2 cup (118 g) cold water
2 cups (400 g) sugar
2/3 cup (240 g) corn syrup (I used light corn syrup)
1/4 cup (60 g) water
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp (13 g) vanilla extract
1/2 cup (122 g) pumpkin puree
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of allspice
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Powdered sugar and cornstarch, for dusting
Grease a 9″x13″ glass pan – grease it really, really well. Dust the whole thing with sifted powdered sugar (or cornstarch).
Pour the 1/2 cup cold water into the bowl of a mixer. Sprinkle the gelatin over it and let bloom for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a medium pan. Bring to a boil until the mixture reaches 250 degrees F on a candy thermometer, or the hardball stage. This means the sugar, when dropped into water, will form a hard ball that keeps its shape.
Turn on the mixer to low speed. Slowly pour in the hot sugar mixture into the gelatin/water mixture. Add the salt and turn the mixer up as high as you can without hot sugar splashing out (medium speed for me). Gradually work up to high speed. When the marshmallows stop increasing in volume, add the vanilla extract and beat until combined, then stop the mixer.
Whisk together the pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and ginger. With a rubber spatula, fold into the marshmallow mix. This may be difficult because of how sticky the marshmallow is, but some streaks are fine. Pour the marshmallows into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Let sit, uncovered, overnight.
Turn the pan out onto a surface dusted with powdered sugar – I pulled on a corner of the marshmallow and it all came out. Cut with a thin, sharp knife, a pizza roller, scissors, or cookie cutters. Whatever you use, dust it with powdered sugar frequently. Once all the pieces are cut, pat cornstarch into the sides until marshmallows are no longer sticky.
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P.S. I’ve realized that many of my readers don’t use American cups. I’m trying to include grams/ounces with my recipes, but the conversions are still unfamiliar to me. Please let me know if you see any mistakes, and I’m doing my best! :)