Triple Layer S'mores Brownies | Tara O'Brady + Seven Spoons

I have no intention of relying on phone photography here, but I am a bit in love with this shot. It wasn't my plan on sharing this recipe either, as snapping the pic was a spontaneous thing, and the recipe was a bit thrown together, in the aim to perfect a birthday wish. But we'll get to that. First, to explain.

My freezer storage is divided into three distinct, but unequal zones. The largest is ingredient storage. It's where I keep nuts and grains, plus seeds and cacao nibs, and things like wheat germ and bran. Flours and shredded coconut. There's fruit from the summer stacked in flat packs, and bananas black-ripe and ready for bread. Ginger root I grate while still rock hard, chiles, and lime leaves. I am rarely without frozen spinach and sweet peas.

The smallest category is full of odds and ends; ice cubes, egg whites, and parmesan rinds. A package of homemade puff pastry, unbaked streusel from when I made too much, discs of pie dough, and bones for stock.

Between the two are the prepared leftovers. There is enough tomato sauce for one pizza, cooked rice, some savoury hand pies, Julia's turkey meatballs, and cakes. A lot of cake. It's not just that the pace of our consumption rarely keeps up with the celebrations around here. It's also one of those rarely-discussed byproducts of recipe testing. The spoils are regularly parcelled for giving away, but a small stash is always kept behind. Right now, my inventory includes the thinnest slice of walnut cake from Divali, a quarter of a vanilla bean cheesecake, bagged muffins, a coffeecake that's a work in progress, and s'mores brownies.

Those brownies though, they're celebratory through and through. Benjamin turned 11 in January. He's all knees and elbows now, and has strong opinions. He's had a thing for s'mores for years, and this birthday wasn't any different. He asked for a repeat of last year, brownies with chocolate ganache and a seven-minute frosting to billow on top. When I've made s'mores cupcakes in the past, the inclusion of graham crackers added essential contrast against all the dense-chocolate-marshmallowyness going on. I like them as rebar in the ganache rather than rubble in the brownie itself. Somehow they make more of an impact that way. Toasting the grahams in the oven crisps them up, the process and effect amped up with a sugar syrup glaze. 

I use my own brownie recipe, but as it was included as a preorder inclusive for my book, I made the squares this week with another favourite, from King Arthur Flour. As advertised, their brownies exist ideally between squidge and cake. You can use my recipe, if you have it, or theirs, or your preferred. One thing I'll say though, is resist the urge to use an intensely fudgey one. When combined with the ganache and the meringue frosting, it is a combination that can careen into headache-inducing real quick.

The brownies are over the top. They bring out the childlike and exuberant, and are the antithesis of refined. They are unbridled and unrestrained, and remind me of the happiest days. Don't let the fact that there were leftovers steer you into thinking they went unloved. Sometimes, you want to make the good things last. And, as brownies never fully freeze, a skinny slice on a Monday midmorning with coffee, falls into that category. 

For the record, that was exactly what I was planning when I took the photo.

Have a great week, pals. xo

 

TRIPLE LAYER S'MORES BROWNIES

The brownie recipe is this recipe from King Arthur Flour, halved.  The marshmallow frosting owes it loft and stability to Stella Park's revolutionary Easy Swiss Meringue

Makes an 8-inch pan

FOR THE BROWNIE BASE

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons | 55 g dutch process cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon medium grain kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 2  teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup | 115 g unsalted butter
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons | 225 g sugar
  • 3/4 cup | 95 g all-purpose flour

FOR THE GRAHAM CRUNCH AND GANACHE

  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 8 graham crackers
  • 8 ounces | 225 g bittersweet chocolate, 70% cocoa solids
  • 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder, optional
  • A good pinch medium grain kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup | 160 ml heavy cream

FOR THE MARSHMALLOW FROSTING

  • 4 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup | 150 g granulated sugar, preferably toasted
  • Generous 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • A good pinch medium grain kosher salt
  • Seeds scraped from a vanilla bean, or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

METHOD

Make the brownies. Preheat an oven to 325°F | 165°C.

Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking tin, then line with a piece of parchment paper with a 1-inch overhang. Press the paper into the pan and then remove. Line the pan with another piece of parchment paper, then place the first piece, buttered side up, across. Set aside.

Crack the eggs into a bowl. Sift in the cocoa, baking powder, espresso powder, and salt. Add the vanilla. Beat for four minutes on medium speed (you can do this while melting the butter in the next step).

Place the remaining butter in a medium saucepan. Pour in the sugar. Heat over medium low, stirring, until the butter is melted. Continue to cook until the mixture is hot but not bubbling, maybe 1 minute more. It should go shinier as it heats. 

Stir the hot butter and sugar mixture into the beaten eggs until smooth. Sift the flour over top and mix it in. 

Spread the batter into the baking dish, nudging it to the edges as needed. Bake until the top begins to crack, 32 to 35 minutes or so. Cool on a wire rack.

While that bakes, make the graham crunch and ganache. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, dissolve the sugar into the water. Bring to a boil over medium heat then simmer for 5 minutes. Brush both sides of the graham crackers with the syrup then arrange on the prepared baking sheet (there will be syrup left over. Save it as a sweetener for coffee, oatmeal, or fruit). Bake the crackers until toasted, 8 to 10 minutes, flipping once. Set aside to cool then snap into pieces, some small, some large bite-sized.

Tumble the chopped chocolate, espresso powder, and salt in a large heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Once steaming, pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand 5 minutes, undisturbed. After the time is up, stir until smooth, starting at the centre of the bowl and working outwards. Fold in the graham crunch. Pour the rubbled ganache over the brownies and spread to an even layer. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until set.

Finally, make the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure that the bowl has some clearance. Heat, stirring attentively and scraping down the sides of the bowl periodically with a silicone spatula, until the mixture reaches 175°F | 80°C on a candy thermometer, about 8 minutes. Transfer the whites to the stand mixer with the wire whisk attached. Beat, starting slow and increasing the speed steadily, until the mixer is on full. Whip until the stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the vanilla.

Retrieve the brownies from the fridge. Spoon the frosting onto the ganache layer. Use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to swoop and swirl it to your liking. Toast the frosting with a culinary torch or under a hot broiler—watching it all the while. Let cool and set, then use the cross of parchment to lift the brownies from the pan, then slice and serve. Extras can be refrigerated in their pan, loosely covered with cling film, for 2 days. Or, frozen until firm and then transferred to an airtight container for freezer storage up to a month. 

NOTE: 

About four years ago, or one house and one baby ago to be precise, one of my dearest friends visited from overseas. Amongst the treasures she brought along there was glassine bag full of sweets in rose petal hues. Marshmallows. FromParis

Through my childhood I liked marshmallows well enough. Out of a package, sometimes fascinatingly elastic, sometimes with a faint leathered quality to their exterior if the bag was left open too long. Parisian marshmallows were a world apart from those. They were a confection in the truest sense; soft sponges, delicately sweet and pleasantly supple. I ate them plain, as they were, plucked from their packaging, pinched gently between two fingers and nibbled, daintily.

If I were the sort to swoon, I would have.

I haven't forgotten my declaration that you all deserve a treat. True to my word, and with that memory in mind, I'm here with marshmallows. They're as close to hers as I can muster, tender in the middle and ethereally fluffy. They seem to defy nature with their suspension of bubbles held in cloud-like stasis.

Marshmallows do have an amiable mystery, since they seem much more complex to make than they actually are. While there is the matter of working with gelatin and a candy thermometer, those aspects are footnotes to the method really, only taking few minutes of consideration. 

First you take the gelatin and let it soak in some water to until soft. Boil a sugar syrup on the stove until it reaches 240°F, called the "soft-ball stage" in candy making if you're into that sort of thing, and stir in the now-pliable gelatin. Pull out a stand mixer, whip up egg whites, then (carefully!) pour in the syrup. Leave the machine beat away until the batter is cool, thick and voluminous, then pour it all out into a prepared pan to set for a few hours. Once the timer dings, you turn out the pan, grab a knife, and behold! Marshmallows. 

As I believe that in the lifespan of a marshmallow that the highest honour is a blistering, fiery send off, I think it is best to start at the basic. And the basic is beguiling - vanilla. These are exceptionally, pronouncedly vanilla marshmallows. There is that flowered quality of the vanilla bean I think is at its best here, propped up in a way that shows its full breadth of attributes, marvelously positioned halfway between perfume and cream soda.

They can of course, be the subject of variation. Use cold espresso to start the gelatin off, add some cocoa powder and finely-ground espresso beans to the end of beating and you have a caffeinated, speckled version. They can be spiked with peppermint or burnished with ground cinnamon, sploshed with rose water and orange flower water to create the marshmallowed imagining of Turkish Delight - tinged a gentle pink with some food colouring to achieve their felicitous blush.

I imagine round-cheeked cherubs snacking upon those.

To end, while these marshmallows come along by way of my kitchen instead of the City of Light, if you would be so kind as to imagine them in crystalline bags with an elegant black bow and labelled en français, maybe you'll get the a glimpse of effect from those years ago. Fingers crossed you'll think they're swoony too.

toasted

FLUFFY VANILLA MARSHMALLOWS, TWO WAYS

The ingredients are fiddled from this recipe from Epicurious, but the method departs from theirs. In this version, the hot sugar syrup is poured directly into the egg whites as they are beaten, as is done with Italian meringue. A note on the egg whites: if you want an all-around marshmallow, good for toasting over a campfire let's say, use 2 egg whites. For a marshmallow destined for hot-cocoa greatness, one that melts evenly but slowly, use 3.  

INGREDIENTS

  • Nonstick cooking spray, for pan
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1 cup water, divided
  • 3 packages unflavoured gelatin
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2-3 egg whites, see above
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

METHOD

Spray the bottom and interior sides of a 9x13-inch metal baking pan with cooking spray. Sift together the cornstarch and confectioner's sugar in a small bowl, then dust an even layer of the mixture over the prepared pan, making sure to coat thoroughly. Set aside. Reserve the rest of the cornstarch and confectioner's sugar.

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup of the water and allow to sit until softened and all the water is absorbed.

Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Stir using a wooden spoon, over medium low heat, until the sugar has dissolved, around 3-4 minutes. Bring the mixture to the boil over medium heat and cook, without stirring, until it reaches a temperature of 240°F (115°C) on a candy thermometer, around 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and add the gelatin. Stir until dissolved.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. On medium speed, pour a thin, steady stream of the hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the egg whites (if poured directly onto the beaters, the insanely hot syrup might splash). Slowly increase the speed to high and beat until the batter has nearly tripled in volume and has cooled to room temperature, around 12-15 minutes. Pour in vanilla and beat for about a minute more. Pour the marshmallow into the prepared pan, using an oiled offset spatula to smush into corners and smooth the top. Sift over another generous layer of the reserved cornstarch and confectioner's sugar mixture (you should still have lots left over). Let stand until set, at room temperature and uncovered, around 3 hours.

Onto a large board, sift some more of the cornstarch and confectioner's sugar. Run a thin knife around the edge of the marshmallows to release from the pan then invert onto the dusted work surface. Use an oiled knife or cutter to divide into your desired shapes. Coat these with a sifting of the last of the cornstarch and confectioner's sugar to keep them separate.

Store in an airtight container with parchment paper between layers, for up to one week.

Makes 1 9x13-inch pan.

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Whew. When I was first approached by Jennifer to host this month’s Sugar High Friday, I approached it with nervous optimism. Everyone’s had that feeling, that illogical fear of “what would happen if I threw a party, and nobody came?”

Thank goodness for food bloggers. I did not expect, and could not have hoped for, a more enthusiastic and supportive group of contributors to this month’s event. From the dramatic to the sublime, these desserts celebrating the shades of white run the spectrum. 45 entries from around the world, are all delicious variations on the theme. What a party!

Again, my gratitude to those who participated, and those of you who have come by to see the results of our little event. Cheers to Jennifer, once again of the Domestic Goddess, who will be the host of next month’s SHF installment. It will be a confectionery celebration of Canada’s 140th birthday on July 1st - look out for the announcement and details on her site.

And with that, on to the desserts; click the photos to link to the author's site ...