By Lisa Adams
Everyone knows that kids love s’mores. My 11-year-old stepdaughter still maintains—beyond all proof and reason—that she consumed twelve of these graham cracker sandwiches at a single barbecue two years ago. For many kids at camp (who are equally enthusiastic if not quite so gluttonous) s’mores are a much-anticipated treat, as inseparable from the camping experience as the counselors and the winking stars.
We all know the basic s’more recipe: layer a fire-roasted marshmallow over a piece of milk chocolate, sandwiching these sweet ingredients between two graham cracker halves. This quintessential American concoction was first published in a Girl Scout handbook in 1927, and thousands of grateful campers have gobbled it up every year since.
But what would happen, I began to wonder, if I varied that recipe a bit, adding new ingredients, such as fresh fruit, candy bars and cookies? What would happen if I melted that chocolate, instead of vainly hoping my roasted marshmallows would do it?
I tried it. And loved it. Now these were s’mores that truly lived up to their name! They were so tasty that I had to share them with the world, so I collected them in a brand-new cookbook, S’mores: Gourmet Treats for Every Occasion. But don’t let the subtitle fool you: these s’mores taste gourmet, but they are simple to make and absolutely irresistible to kids and adults alike. Here are a few suggestions for bringing them to campers near you.
Small Changes, Big Results
Making s’mores taste radically different—and better—really only takes two small adjustments: 1) adding or replacing 1-2 ingredients, and 2) melting the chocolate.
When it comes to ingredients, it doesn’t take much to make a huge difference. For example, one of the best recipes in my book is the first one: called “Fruit Flavor Burst,” it simply requires adding a juicy slice of strawberry, peach or mango to the traditional s’more ingredients. While the book also contains some elaborate recipes and exotic flavors, kids love the simplest recipes the best. For them I’d recommend sticking to the basics: fruit, candy bars, and cookies.
Fruit--virtually any kind of fresh or dried fruit can enliven a s’more. My favorites include strawberries, raspberries, peaches, bananas, blueberries, apricots and cantaloupe (surprisingly refreshing when paired with milk chocolate!).
Candy bars--one of the simplest swaps you can make is substituting a piece of candy bar for plain chocolate. Kids love s’mores with creamy Milky Way cubes, peanut butter cups and Hershey’s Caramel Kisses.
Cookies--graham crackers are great, but substituting chewy cookies can make a meltingly delicious variation!
So how do you go about incorporating these yummy new ingredients into your s’mores? Start small: pick a few new ingredients, maybe a couple types of fruit, a couple types of candy bars and some chocolate chip cookies. Arrange your ingredients—including plain chocolate and graham crackers—at a well-lit table fairly close to the fire. If you don’t want your kids wielding knives, pre-slice the fruit—or choose items like raspberries and dried apricots that don’t need slicing.
Now the fun part: making your s’mores! The process is simple: 1) select and assemble your ingredients, 2) melt the chocolate on your graham cracker or cookie, 3) roast your marshmallow, and 4) put it all together.
Seem like a lot to do at once? It can be—if you go it alone. That’s why I recommend taking a team approach, splitting your campers into three groups: marshmallow roasters, chocolate melters, and s’more eaters. Here’s how it works:
1) The s’more eaters visit the buffet table and construct their s’mores. Each should place a piece of chocolate or candy bar, followed by a slice of fruit, on a graham cracker half or cookie. (Encourage your campers to choose only 1-2 ingredients per s’more! Too many will prevent the chocolate from melting properly and simply will not taste as good.)
2) When finished, the kids give their creations to the chocolate melters. Each camper should hang onto a graham cracker half or cookie to use as the top of the s’more. The chocolate melters arrange the assembled s’mores in a large frying pan and place the pan on the built-in firepit grate. When the chocolate has melted sufficiently, the chocolate melters remove the pan from the grate and slide the s’mores onto a large plate using a spatula. (If your facilities don’t have a workable firepit grate, your chocolate melters can also enclose each s’more in aluminum foil—banana-boat style—and place the foil-packages in the fire near the coals, removing them after a few minutes with tongs.) The chocolate melters then bring the plate of s’mores to the marshmallow roasters.
3) The marshmallow roasters top each s’more with a golden-brown toasted marshmallow.
Each s’more eater adds a top graham cracker or cookie to his or her s’more and gobbles up!
Everyone switches groups until all the kids have had a turn at each station.
Though a bit more complicated than standard s’more assembly, this procedure is actually fairly straightforward and has some benefits besides delivering incredible desserts. One, of course, is the teamwork—everyone has to work with everyone else to make great s’mores. The process also keeps the ingredients out of the way (and out of the dirt), and reduces the number of flaming sticks in use at any one time.
S’mores are not only delicious; they’re flexible, too—you can tailor their preparation and ingredients to the needs of your campers. For example, if you are working with very young children, or simply don’t want your campers messing with the fire any more than they absolutely have to, you can always skip the chocolate-melting stage. Instead, try sprucing up your s’mores with pre-softened chocolate options, such as Junior Mints, Nutella spread or even chocolate frosting. These choices will provide the creaminess of melted chocolate while keeping the kids out of flames’ way.
If nutrition is a concern, cut out the cookies and add more fruit! In addition to incorporating fruit into a standard s’more, you can also replace the graham crackers with two crisp green apple slices (sandwiched around a roasted marshmallow and melted caramel) or even a whole pitted apricot (filled with a marshmallow and a dollop of chocolate fudge).
In short, s’mores are for everyone. Approach them with a fun and creative spirit, and you really can’t go wrong!
Lisa Adams is the author of S’mores: Gourmet Treats for Every Occasion. She is a writer, camping veteran, and lifetime sweet tooth who is delighted to share these scrumptious new s’mores with the camping community. If you’ve come up with some great s’mores methods or recipes of your own, she’d love to hear from you! Drop her a line at http://www.smoresbook.com.