Just so you know, this is not a blog post I’m writing late Sunday night, much later than usual, propped up in bed with pillows and blankets, aware of how soon morning will come. Also, I’m certainly not typing cliché phrases for you about my heart being heavy or my mind racing, saying that the reason behind this is too hard to explain.
Instead, let’s say I wrote this hours ago—when I wasn’t making a vinaigrette for an arugula salad and then chopping cabbage for a cole slaw, say; before I wasn’t getting news that would set in motion change I’ve been anticipating (dreading) for months. Because if I had been writing this then, well, right now I’d still be ignorant, and, probably sleeping. Sleep sounds very, very fine.
Thursday night, I made these two desserts: s’mores bars and chocolate pistachio shortbread, while we ate spring rolls and Bagel Bites and before I sat down to watch T.V. and—oh, the irony—fell fast asleep on the sofa, where I wouldn’t wake up until past 2 AM, after which I’d stumble to bed and sleep through my alarm in the morning.
The first comes from a recipe online, which I found through Google when a request for “something like s’mores in a bar” was given to me; the second, from that new cookbook my mom brought back from vacation. Both have all the makings of desserts I love: chocolate, sweet, rich, fairly easy to assemble. Yet one was the clear winner, as is evidenced by its being half-gone the next day, while the other still remains almost untouched.
Comparisons are helpful sometimes. Maybe not so much with people—I always hated those elementary school awards for the kid who’s best at math, best at reading, best at science. In theory, it rewards hard work and helps us all strive for higher goals, but in practicality, it makes you feel like a big nerd with glasses who gets above-average average grades and is holding one paper certificate with clenched fingers.
These things are safer with food—put two desserts next to each other on a brimming buffet, and you’ll have a good metric for testing popularity.
The shortbread was a combination of all dry ingredients—flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt—with soft butter, and the dough’s consistency never turned pliable. Not surprisingly, though pretty, the resulting triangle cookies were fairly dry, a little crumbly and heavy on the flavor of flour.
But the s’mores bars (the s’mores bars!) were another story entirely. If you can’t build a bonfire in your backyard, these are the next best thing: a flavorful, buttery mixture of graham cracker crumbs topped by layers of chocolate and marshmallows. When baked, the marshmallows turn golden and soft, caramelizing with the gooey melted chocolate, which rehardens when it cools. Dense and chewy, rich and crumbly, these are the bars to bring to a picnic, a dinner party, a barbecue or, to eat late at night in bed. Every time I reach for one small piece, I end up taking another.
Adapted from About.com
3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 to 12 ounces milk chocolate (about 8 bars)
3 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
Preheat oven to 350°. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy; then add egg and vanilla. Stir in graham cracker crumbs, flour and salt.
Set one cup of the graham cracker mixture aside, and press the rest over the bottom of a greased 13 X 9 pan. Layer chocolates on top, then sprinkle marshmallows above. Take the remaining graham cracker mixture and crumble it all over.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Cut into bars and cool completely.
Makes about 2 dozen bars.