It’s hard to think of a snack more directly associated with summertime camping trips than the s’more. Traditionally made by toasting a marshmallow, layering it on a store-bought graham cracker, adding a square of Hershey’s chocolate, and finishing it off with another graham cracker, this dessert thrives on its simplicity. That said, the combination of nutty graham crackers, sweet and fluffy marshmallow, and just-rich-enough chocolate hits a lot of flavor points beloved by high-end dessert makers, which led us to wonder if there are fancier spins on the s’more out there that both respect the treat’s humble origins and bring a touch of sophistication to the table. According to the professional chefs we consulted, there are at least eight excellent and not-too-difficult ways to upcycle this campfire classic.
Another method of polishing the s’more without reinventing the entire process is to make your own graham crackers from scratch, as pastry chef Nicole Jones of the Mirbeau Inn & Spa in Rhinebeck, New York does: “For a dessert as classic as the s’more, I never like to sway too far from the original, but instead elevate it using high quality components. Instead of store-bought graham crackers, I always make my own featuring cinnamon, honey, and molasses.”
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to zhush up your s’mores, trading in the usual mass-market milk-chocolate bars for a more luxurious version can make a big difference to your finished product. San Francisco-based chef and culinary content producer Clare Langan tells us that “my favorite ‘fancy’ twist on the s’more is to experiment with different types of chocolate. Nostalgia wins when it comes to s’mores, so I don’t mess around too much with the marshmallow or graham cracker. My biggest issue with s’mores is the chocolate — the classic choice (you know the one) is all sweetness. Try a 60-70% cacao bar — it has enough cocoa butter to give you that meltability and mouthfeel, with a little bitterness to balance out all the sweetness. One of my favorite s’mores was with Chocolove Dark Chocolate with Ginger!”
Much of the allure of the s’more lies in the use of toasted marshmallows. If you can’t build a campfire (either in your top-tier restaurant kitchen or in your backyard-free apartment), then the French art of flambé can produce a similar effect on the marshmallow. Executive chef Chris Royster of Flagstaff House Restaurant in Boulder, Colorado explains that he makes a riff on the s’more by starting with a “housemade graham-cracker blondie smothered with roasted marshmallow and marshmallow ice cream (roasted housemade marshmallows folded into ice cream). Then[I] cover it with a chilled chocolate dome.” When the dessert arrives tableside, the servers “pour rum over the top and theatrically set [it] on fire. The blue flame heats up the rum [and] melts the chocolate.” Chef Royster also pumps smoke into the dome before it leaves the kitchen, offering up an extra olfactory reminder of campfires.
S’mores and ice cream make for a harmonious and highly summer-appropriate combination, and chef and general manager Cindy Sun of Slater’s 50/50 Las Vegas thinks that her s’mores-themed milkshake, the Ultimate S’mores Shake, “brings together all of our favorite campfire flavors into a decadent milkshake perfect for a hot Vegas summer day. Inspired by the aromas around campfires, the dessert starts with toasted marshmallow flavored milkshake mixed with Hershey’s chocolate syrup in a frozen glass coated with crumbled graham crackers. It’s then topped with a freshly toasted marshmallow, a roasted s’more, whipped cream, and more Hershey’s chocolate syrup.”
Dessert cocktails are always a viable option for those who like to combine spirits and classic sweets, and bartender Leslie Andersen of Wholly Smokin’ Downtown in Florence, South Carolina adapts the s’more into a beverage by adding whipped cream-flavored vodka (Andersen prefers Pinnacle Whipped), chocolate liqueur (Andersen prefers Godiva Chocolate Liqueur), Nesquik, Irish cream (Andersen prefers Baileys) and milk to a cocktail shaker, shaking to combine, and pouring into a martini glass lined with chocolate syrup and rimmed with melted marshmallow and crushed graham crackers.
Using chocolate ice cream, a graham cracker crust, and a toasted layer of marshmallow spread, you can easily transform the s’more into an ice cream cake with plenty of rich flavors and plenty of nostalgic appeal. Pastry chef Pichet Ong of Mama Chang in Fairfax, Virginia and Q by Peter Chang in Bethesda, Maryland favors this approach to s’mores making, explaining that “when making my own version, I like to layer the components with a graham cracker crumb crust (or cookie) that’s made from rice flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and honey. I add dark chocolate ice cream in the middle, and then I top it off with toasted soft vanilla marshmallow fluff. That way, there is a play on temperature contrast. I also love to add some salted crushed hazelnuts on top for a bit of crunch and nuttiness.”
At her Italian restaurant Grazie NYC, executive chef and proprietor Jennifer Mandell likes to bring Italian influences into her s’mores making by incorporating Nutella in lieu of regular milk chocolate. “At Grazie, I wanted to develop a fancier s’mores recipe that would please adults and children alike. Many of us have fond memories of toasting marshmallows around a campfire. I wanted people to remember those warm summer nights while enjoying our Nutella s’mores. This recipe is so easy and is equally perfect to serve at a barbecue or fancy dinner. It’s a real crowd pleaser,” Mandell tells The Manual. For the full recipe, read on.
(By Jennifer Mandell, chef/proprietor, Grazie NYC, New York City)
- 1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
- .25 cups light brown sugar
- 6 tbsp melted butter
- 1 cup Nutella (you can use more or less if you prefer)
- 2 cups mini marshmallows
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Mix the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and brown sugar. Once fully combined, press the mixture into an 8” x 8” baking pan.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. While the crust is cooling on the counter, turn the oven up to 400 degrees F.
- Spread Nutella on the crust and top with mini marshmallows.
- Return the pan to the oven for 5-7 minutes to toast the marshmallows.
Crêpes make a very versatile canvas for flavor experimentation, and while chef and co-founder Aminata Dia of Le French in Denver, Colorado enjoys a straightforward s’mores crêpe with graham cracker, chocolate, and marshmallow, she also urges home cooks to play around with other ingredients. “I love this recipe because you can get so creative with flavor customizations. The s’more is the base, but why stop there? I love to add Nutella, strawberries, and bananas. My sister Rougui adds peanut butter, caramel sauce, and bananas. You can’t go wrong!” says Dia. For the full recipe, read on.
(By Aminata Dia, chef/co-founder, Le French, Denver, Colorado)
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (or favorite gluten-free variation)
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- .5 tsp salt
- Butter (for cooking)
- Pre-packaged graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows, for layering
- Choice of fillings: chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, roasted peanuts, fruit spread, fresh fruit, etc.
- In a large bowl, whisk together milk and flour until the batter is smooth and lump-free. Add eggs, vanilla extract, lemon zest, sugar and salt, and whisk until smooth.
- Heat a small, non-stick sauté pan or crêpe pan over medium heat. Grease the pan with a small amount of butter. Spoon about one small ladle’s worth of crêpe batter into the hot pan, tilting the pan so that the bottom surface is evenly coated with batter. Cook over medium heat for about two minutes, until nice and golden. Flip the crêpe and cook for about one minute on the other side.
- Remove the crêpe from the pan and reduce the burner temperature to low. Once the pan reaches low heat, put the crêpe back on the pan.
- On only one half of the crêpe, spread a sauce of choice (chocolate, caramel, etc.), sprinkle with fruits or peanuts, and add the pre-packaged graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows. Fold the crepe in half so that the filling is stuffed in the middle, like a quesadilla. Flip the crêpe so that the s’more melts.
- Plate the crepe, cut into triangles, and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
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