Monday, September 5, 2011

S'mores in a Jar

Everybody knows that s’mores are delicious. Now imagine this: you’re making a s’more, but instead of a piece of chocolate bar, there’s a molten chocolate lava cake in the center. Yep, that really just happened. This is the perfect union of s’mores and lava cake. Trust me, it’s as good as it sounds.

I absolutely love s’mores recipes. I probably save most of them that I come across. This s’mores in a jar recipe from How Sweet It Is really caught my eye. Not only was it a version of one of my favorite desserts, but I thought the mason jar idea was brilliant. In fact, I liked it so much that I had to go out and purchase mason jars just to make it.

I knew this easily portable version of s’mores would also work great for our weekend plans, which included visiting family members that were camping at the lake. (You’ll notice I said visiting other people who were camping. As much as I love s’mores, camping is not something I would choose to do voluntarily.)

I will warn you that this s’mores creation is still a bit of a work in progress. I may still try a few more variables. In my first batch I tried big marshmallows, but found they did not want to completely puff up and melt quite enough. As a kid, I seem to remember one marshmallow taking as little as 20 seconds to expand to approximately the size of the entire microwave, so I’m not sure why this wasn’t working. Anyway, I tried marshmallow crème the second batch, which had a better consistency but was way too sweet. The marshmallow topping will still require some experimentation. It may be something as simple as roasting four big marshmallows and sticking them on top before digging into all the s’mores goodness. These were also so sweet that I would consider making them in half pint jars next time.

The concept for this recipe comes from How Sweet It Is, which is one of my favorite food blogs to follow. That version uses a different recipe for the cake part. I was curious about using lava cake, since that would replicate the gooey quality of melted chocolate in s’mores. My lava cake recipe is from Taste Junction.

S’mores in a Jar:
4- 16 oz jars

Graham Cracker Bottom:
• 1 ½ cups of graham cracker crumbs
• ½ stick melted butter
• dash of salt

Put graham crackers into gallon Ziploc bag and use rolling pin to crush. Mix graham crumbs with melted butter. Spray each jar with non-stick cooking spray. Put approximately 6-7 tbsp of the graham cracker mix in the bottom of each jar. I used an ice cream scoop to press it down evenly.

Lava Cake Center:
•4 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
•1/3 cup granulated sugar
•3 large eggs
•1/3 cup all-purpose flour
•1/4 teaspoon salt
•1 tsp vanilla extract
•6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted & cooled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, stirring after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Beat in flour and salt just until combined, then beat in melted chocolate just until combined. The chocolate can be melted in the microwave if you stir every 30 seconds until smooth. I used semi-sweet since that is what I had in my cabinet. I prefer this recipe with bittersweet, but semi-sweet may seem closer to the milk chocolate of traditional s’mores.

Scoop batter into the jars until they are about half full. I used a ¼ measuring cup and this turned out to be approximately ¾ cup batter for me. Place jars in a baking pan with 1 ½ cups of water in the bottom. Bake until the top of the cake is just set. I baked mine about 15 minutes, but mine was still too gooey. I’m guessing 20-25 minutes would be closer.

Once jars are out of the oven, fill in some marshmallow crème or marshmallows. Place under the broiler for about 1-2 minutes until top starts to brown. For my second attempt, we used marshmallow crème, but placed a couple marshmallows on top just for the appearance.

My biggest concern about this recipe was baking in the glass jars. The last thing I needed was a shattered glass mess in my oven. The first time I tried these, I used a recipe that called for 350 degrees. That worked fine, but then I was still a little hesitant about the lava cake recipe that baked at 400. After doing a little research online, it appeared that lots of people have recipes for cakes or pies in jars.

The Helpers were in curious mode the day I made these. Helper #1 impatiently waited for me to move the jars out of their box so she could commandeer it.

Helper #2 impatiently waited for someone to drop some buttery smelling crumbs within her reach.

Stayed tuned for more versions of this recipe. My husband has suggested a version where the layers are alternated more frequently. For example, there'd be small layers of graham cracker, chocolate cake, mini marshmallows, graham cracker, cake, marshmallows, etc. If any of you have some suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Rich Fudge Brownies with Cherry

Sometime after my last post, this blog hit 1,000 viewers. I never had any real expectations for the blog, so I’m pleasantly surprised that people are showing any interest. In celebration of this milestone, I made my mother’s rich fudge brownies. I should probably warn you that something as exciting as an odd-numbered day is enough excuse to “celebrate” with these brownies. They’re rich and super gooey in the middle, with the thinnest layer of crispiness of the top. I believe the last time this brownie recipe made an appearance was in our church’s cookbook back in 1990. There may be a handful out there in possession of said book that have gotten to revel in this chocolate deliciousness. If you haven’t, your wait is officially over.

As with a lot of the recipes I’ve tried, I added something extra this time. I have been somewhat obsessed with cherries over the summer, especially after my luck with pairing them with scallops. I’ve seen some recipes popping up, such as here and here, that involve putting roasted cherries in the brownie batter. I tend to be a bit of a purist when it comes to chocolate. Sometimes caramel is ok, but I have no use for additions such as fruit or nuts of any kind. Sometimes a simple square of dark chocolate is perfection, and we all know it’s a bad idea to mess with perfection. That said, I finally decided to make an exception. I should probably note that my poor mother, who dislikes cherry, probably would not approve of my addition to the recipe.

I started by roasting a cup and a half of cherries that were pitted and halved. I mixed those with a couple teaspoons of sugar and spread them out on a baking sheet.

The cherries are then baked at 450 degrees for about 5-7 minutes. The cherries will start to release some juice. The main thing to watch for is that the sugar doesn't start to burn. Once they are out of the oven, you’ll want your temperature down to 300. This gave the cherries a chance to cool as the oven did.

As for the brownies, the ingredients are as follows:

• 1 cup butter (original recipe says oleo)
• 4 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
• 4 eggs (beaten)
• 2 cups sugar
• 1 cup flour
• 2 tbsp vanilla

Start by melting the butter and chocolate over medium-low heat. You’ll want to use a pan large enough to add the other ingredients also. Stir pretty consistently until melted.

Next, add the sugar, followed by the eggs. I add the eggs after the sugar to avoid scrambling them with the hot chocolate mixture. Add the flour, followed by the vanilla.

Stir in cherries or other desired mix ins. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake until done, which is usually about 40-45 minutes. I go by the toothpick test.

Now you know these brownies are serious because they call for two sticks of butter and two cups of sugar. I’m not sure if this is enough to make Paula Deen proud, but I think we’d at least get a nod of approval. This makes a large pan, so there’s all the more for you to addictively snack on share with your friends.

I'll end this post with a picture of my Helpers, who have not made an appearance on the blog in awhile. Desserts do not hold near the appeal that other dishes do, so they spent their time lounging in the sun and observing.