This past Christmas I went a little homemade-treat crazy and decided to make little boxes full of treats for my friends and family. I scoured my favorite food blogs and decided on a bunch of sweets that I'd been wanting to make for a while. Then I bought little plastic boxes, made hand-designed labels, and put them all together.
It was a bit labor intensive, so I'm not sure I'll be able to replicate such an undertaking again, but it was a neat experience. And I think people appreciated the uniqueness of such gifts.
So what went into my treat boxes? Well I put together different combinations of treats, but in all I made:
- Homemade s'mores (the cookie, the marshmallow, and the chocolate squares)
- Apple cider caramels
- Vanilla bean caramels
- Chocolate-covered Buddha's hand (citron)
- Bacon jam (Yes, I said bacon jam. More info to come in a few days...)
I'll break all the treats out into multiple posts to make them a bit more manageable. So for today, I present to you...
S'MORES!! From scratch!
OK, now I'm not the world's biggest cookie fan. But let me tell you, these graham cracker cookies are amazing. Un-be-lieve-ably crispy and flavorful. They are nothing, NOTHING, like store-bought graham crackers. They're a million times better. No, a billion times better. No, a quadrillion times better. I already want to make them again (which almost never happens with cookies).
And can we take a moment to talk about these marshmallows?
And how great they get when you toast them up?!?
They're sweet and soft and fluffy. Plus, they get uber melty.
The final thing I did to make these smores super special was to "make" my own chocolate squares. I took a really good quality 72% dark chocolate, poured it on a sheet of wax paper, spread it out, let it partially harden (but not completely), scored it into squares just a tad smaller than my graham crackers, let it completely dry, then broke apart the squares of chocolate.
And viola! A home-made, make-your-own-s'mores gift for all your friends and family.
Yours in showing her love through sharing food,
Graham crackers, from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 10 4 x 4.5-inch graham crackers or 48 2-inch squares
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (375 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour (a swap of 1/2 cup with whole wheat flour or 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour works well here, too)
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
Note: Since the marshmallows would add a nice sweetness, I didn't coat the graham crackers with this topping. Make the full amount of topping if you want a heavy coating, and half if you just want a light-to-moderate sprinkling.
3 tablespoons (43 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) ground cinnamon
- Make the dough: Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal. [Alternately, if you don't have a food processor or electric mixer, you can cut the ingredients together with a pastry blender. Just make sure they're very well incorporated.]
- 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 dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky. 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.
- Roll out the crackers: 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. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip into 2" squares. For larger cookies, cut into squares up to 4". (Note: I found my dough spread quite a bit, so I'd recommend cutting them 2-3")
- Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping, if using. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes in the fridge or 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.
- Decorate the crackers: Mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough (again, this is for the traditional cracker shape). Using a toothpick or skewer (I like to use the blunt end of a wooden skewer for more dramatic dots), prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 inch for each side of the dividing line.
- Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. [The baking time range is long because the original recipe calls for 25 minutes but my new oven -- which I suspect runs crazy hot but have yet to confirm with the actual purchase of an oven thermometer -- had them done in way less. Be safe, check them sooner. Nobody likes a burnt cracker!
Makes about 96 1-inch cubed marshmallows
About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar (cane sugar worked just fine)
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites or reconstituted powdered egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla (alternately: 1/2 of a scraped vanilla bean, 2 teaspoons almond or mint extract or maybe even some food coloring for tinting)
- Oil bottom and sides of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners’ sugar.
- In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold cold water, and let stand to soften.
- In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, second 1/2 cup of cold water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.
- With standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about six minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer. (If using a hand mixer this may take a little longer, but eventually it will whip up nicely.)
- In separate medium bowl with cleaned beaters, beat egg whites (or reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla (or your choice of flavoring) into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and don’t fret if you don’t get it all out (learning from my mess of a first round). Sift 1/4 cup confectioners sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least three hours, and up to one day.
- Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and ease onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into roughly one-inch cubes. (An oiled pizza cutter works well here too.) Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar back into your now-empty baking pan, and roll the marshmallows through it, on all six sides, before shaking off the excess and packing them away.