My ideal s'mores experience doesn't reimagine the treat as a drink or a cake. I'm happy with the humble, sandwiched assemblage of graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallow. That is, as long as the cracker is good and crisp, the chocolate truly melted and the marshmallow deeply toasted.
And so, when I had the uncharacteristic impulse to make a s'mores pie, I knew it would have to maintain the specific charm of the original. It had to be distinct from other chocolate pies, like French Silk or chocolate cream, and include the undeniable intensity of fireside s'mores.
This pie begins with fairly standard graham cracker crust, bulked ever so slightly with toasted pecans, which provide extra snap and a needed contrast. That crust gets a straightforward ganache for its filling, which feels closer to unadulterated chocolate than would pudding or custard. Malted milk powder in the cream carries on the wheaten sweetness of the grahams, while espresso powder contributes an adult bitterness.
Many s'mores pies end with a velvety, egg-white lush Swiss meringue, which is nice because it isn't sticky, and so thus makes for a moderately clean bite, but is sadly incapable of achieving the tortoise-shelled, bubbling brûlée of a marshmallow exterior. In the pursuit of the most faithful rendition, this pie is draped with oozing marshmallow fluff that's left to set in a thick puddle. When met with heat, the topping puffs, bubbles and singes into a mottled crust. It absolutely sticks to the fork and has a gratifying chew, just as I believe a marshmallow should.
The process requires a choreography of shuffling the pie back and forth between the fridge and counter, which may seem unnecessary, but firms up the marshmallow while giving the ganache a chance to soften slightly.
The result is a pie that satisfies in discrete slices. It is ideal fanfare at the end of a summertime feast, with nostalgia unabashedly intact.
Malted Milk S'mores Pie
Servings: Makes a nine-inch pie, serves 12
5 1/2 ounces (160 g) graham crackers, about 12 full-sized
1/4 cup (30 g) pecan pieces, toasted
3 tbsp granulated sugar
A good pinch medium-grained kosher salt
6 tbsp (85 g) unsalted butter, melted
8 ounces (227 g) chocolate, 60 per cent to 70 per cent cocoa solids, chopped
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
2 tbsp malted milk powder
1 tsp cocoa powder (optional)
3/4 tsp espresso powder
1/4 tsp medium-grained kosher salt
3 tbsp (50 g) unsalted butter, chopped
1 cup (240 ml) cold water
2 tsp powdered gelatin
1 1/2 cup (300 g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 ml) light corn syrup
1/4 tsp medium-grained kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat an oven to 350 F, with the rack in the middle.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the graham crackers, pecans, sugar and salt until completely crushed. With the machine running, pour in the melted butter and process until the mixture is uniformly dampened and holds together. It may be necessary to stop the machine, scrape around the blade and bowl edge, then process again to distribute the butter. Tip the crumbs into a nine-inch pie plate and use a flat-bottomed tumbler or your hands to press into an even crust. Place on a rimmed sheet pan and bake until dry all over and lightly toasted at the edge, around 12 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool on a rack.
To make the filling, tumble the chocolate into a large heat-proof bowl and set a fine-meshed sieve over top. Set aside. Then, pour the heavy cream into a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Whisk in the malted milk powder, cocoa, and espresso powder. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking regularly. Pour the hot cream through the sieve and onto the chocolate. Remove the sieve and sprinkle with salt. Let stand for 1 to 2 minutes, then whisk the chocolate into the cream until smooth, then follow with the butter. Pour the ganache into the baked crust and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes. Chill uncovered until set. It should take about 30 minutes more. One firm, the pie can be covered with lightly greased clingfilm and refrigerated up to overnight.
Make the topping. Pour 1/3 cup water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the gelatin on top and leave to bloom. Meanwhile, in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together the remaining water, sugar and corn syrup. Set over medium-high heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring and bring to a boil. Cook until the syrup reaches 260 F on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.
With the wire whip attached, start the stand mixer on medium speed to stir the gelatin mixture. Carefully, and in a slow, steady stream, start pouring in the hot sugar syrup, keeping clear of both the beaters and the side of the bowl. Once all the syrup is in the bowl, add the salt, and increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture is thick and tripled in volume, about 7 minutes. Drizzle in the vanilla and beat to combine.
Immediately pour fluff over the set filling. Pop pie back in the fridge for 90 minutes, uncovered.
Set the pie out 45 minutes to an hour before serving. Place pie on a baking sheet. Use either a kitchen torch or broiler to toast the marshmallow: If using the broiler, protect the graham crust with a ring of aluminum foil.. Let stand 10 minutes, then slice with a hot knife. (Dip a thin-bladed knife in hot water, then dry with a towel. Clean blade in between slices.)
Note: Instead of the pecans in the crust, the same weight of roughly crushed, salted pretzels can be used instead.