Thursday, August 26, 2010

Chewy, Gooey, Sweet & Sticky S'more Cookie Bars . . .


Buzz Lightyear:  " . . . in just a few hours you'll be sitting around a campfire with Andy making nice hot shmoes." 
Woody:  "They're called s'mores, Buzz."     
  -- Toy Story

So, now that it's winding down, let's do a little recap of our summer, shall we? Have a seat and we'll begin.
Did you go to the beach? Yes? Okay, good, check that one off.
Did you watch fireworks for the Fourth of July? Great, check that one too.
Did you eat watermelon outside and spit out the seeds? Check.
Did you pick fresh fruit or veggies at a farm, or from a garden? Check.
Did you take a lot of nice walks? Check.
Did you read at least a couple frivolous and/or trashy novels? Check. Check. Check.
Did you take about a zillion photos of your family and/or kids frolicking in the sun? Check.
Did you assemble and  enjoy your fair share of nice hot shmoes this summer?  . . . What?! You didn't??

Well, don't despair--all is not lost. The fact is, you don't need a campfire or a flaming grill to achieve a reasonable facsimile of the s'mores experience, and you don't even need summertime, truth be told. You can get that ooey, gooey, sticky, chewy vibe any time of year with cookie bars like these. All the requisite ingredients are in there to help replicate the total s'mores taste experience--milk chocolate Hershey bars, graham cracker crumbs, and marshmallow creme.

Just close your eyes as you bite into one of these bars and you'll see what I mean. Wiggle your toes in the imaginary sand while you're munching and listen to the gentle waves lapping the pretend shore . . . just ignore those nonexistent kids who keep whining over there by the invisible picnic table. (Ahh, yes . . .  isn't creative visualization fun?) While it's true s'mores are a critical component of a well rounded summer, it's comforting to know that they can be enjoyed--albeit in a slightly altered incarnation--all year long.

About this recipe . . . 

Of course, if s'mores were never really your thing, you might want to fiddle around with this recipe and do some tweaking. I love s'mores, but I fiddled just a little bit anyway. My main tweak involved the addition of a small amount of coarsely chopped honey-roasted peanuts, and a reduction in the amount of marshmallow creme. But, tweaked or untweaked, these are pretty darn good. Were I to make them again, I think I might ponder using dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate to dial down the sweetness factor just a smidgen.

This quick recipe came from the latest issue (September 2010) of Disney Family Fun magazine. Though my kids are not so young anymore, whenever I happen to get my hands on a copy of this, I still flip through it prowling for ideas, and I always look for the recipes. I liked the looks of these bars right away. S'more cookie bars aren't an original concept by any means, but not all formulas are created equal and this was the first one I've seen that I was motivated to make.

I decided to double the recipe and, as I mentioned above, I added in chopped honey-roasted peanuts, sprinkling them over the chocolate layer (just a half cup). I also halved the amount of marshmallow creme indicated, but if you're a maniacal marshmallow lover, go to town and double what I've written in the recipe below; your bars will be insanely gooey, in a good way. I increased the amount of salt slightly (I used kosher salt). I used a 9" x 13" pan, which probably made the bars a little thicker than the original recipe. My batter was too soft to handle in the way that the original recipe indicated (it was a hot day and the butter I used was awfully soft), so I had to adjust accordingly. As usual, I reworded most of the directions.

All in all, these babies were a hit in my house. And, unlike genuine "nice hot shmoes," these can travel quite safely in a lunchbox. (As Buzz Lightyear would say, "To infinity, and beyond!")

S'more Cookie Bars

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
1 egg, large
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers (I used plain honey grahams)
1 and 1/2 cups All-Purpose flour (I used unbleached)
3/4 tsp. salt (I recommend kosher)
2 tsp. baking powder
6 - 1.55 oz. Hershey milk chocolate bars (this is six standard size bars)
1 (7 oz.) jar of marshmallow creme (I used Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme, what I had on hand)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9" x 13" baking pan.

In a large mixer bowl, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add in the egg and vanilla extract, and beat to combine.

In a separate bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking powder, and salt. Pour all of this into the butter mixture and beat until well mixed.

Spread two-thirds of the batter into the bottom of the pan. If the batter is quite soft, wet your hands with cold water, shake off the excess water, and pat the batter into place. Over this layer, break up the chocolate bars into small pieces and scatter them evenly. Sprinkle the nuts evenly over the chocolate. Spread all of the marshmallow creme on top of this, again using wet hands to urge the creme into place as best you can. (Overall, this will be a messy procedure, but don't worry about it. It doesn't have to look neat.) Spoon dabs of the remaining batter over the top, and spread them out as best you can to cover as much of the marshmallow as possible. Don't worry about gaps.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and the sides of the bars start to pull away from the pan. Let the bars cool in the pan, on a rack, for at least 20 minutes before you attempt to cut into them.

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