Gooey, toasty marshmallow… rich, melty chocolate… crunchy, sweet graham crackers… That’s right– s’mores are not just for camping, people. I go camping at most once a year, but obviously I need s’mores in my life much more frequently to maintain a base level of sanity. (Anyone else with me on that??) I happily look for any opportunity to adapt that glorious s’mores trifecta to other desserts, transcending the need for tents and bug spray. I also happen to think that s’mores embody the warmth and coziness of the holidays, and I love to share them in front of a winter fireplace all snuggled up! I made these Salted S’mores Cookies for the 3rd annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, hosted by Love & Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen. This is a fun holiday exchange, old-school-style– you know, where people actually send each other things through the mail, not via email or text or Amazon. It was my first time participating, and I wanted to make something interesting, yet something that would bring familiar holiday comfort. I was originally going to make my favorite ever chocolate cookies, Momofuku Milk Bar‘s Chocolate Chocolate Cookies, which are comprised of a dark, chocolaty cookie dough, into which is folded homemade chocolate crumbs. They are deep, chewy, and crazy delicious. However, making something s’mores-esque was sounding more and more appealing… and then it struck me. Those chocolate cookies could be easily adapted for s’mores goodness!
Milk Bar is one of my biggest culinary influences; when I discovered the book two years ago, it significantly changed the way I think about baking. They are known for turning baking science on its head, and if you’re open to something a little more complex than a typical baking book, you can and will learn a lot. Some recipes require hard-to-find or unusual ingredients, use unorthodox techniques, or feature unexpected flavor combinations. To get the results you want, it really is necessary to follow the directions and ingredient lists… um, except where I tell you not to.
One such ingredient that is present in most Milk Bar cookies that I’m not totally stoked on is glucose, a very thick, clear sugar syrup. It is less sweet than corn syrup and contributes to the cookies’ chewiness. It just feels unnatural to me (not that corn syrup ranks much higher in the gourmet pantry), but again, it makes a big difference in the texture and mouthfeel of the finished cookie, so I can roll with it. Hard to locate in your local grocery store, but worth the effort. I buy it at a baking supply store called Spun Sugar in Berkeley, CA, and it’s available online. If you prefer to substitute regular corn syrup, use half the amount. I cannot vouch for the results, but it’s doable.
One of Milk Bar’s signature techniques is to build their recipes upon a foundational element, one of which is called “the crumb”. This is usually a combination of flour, milk powder, melted butter, and a starring flavor (cocoa powder, malt powder, etc.), which are combined to form small clusters. These clusters are then baked in a low oven, from which they emerge toasty, buttery, and crunchy. These “crumbs” are then folded into the cookie dough, adding a lovely dimension of flavor and texture that elevates the cookie to extraordinary confectionery heights. The original Chocolate Chocolate Cookie recipe calls for making Chocolate Crumbs, which are like homemade Oreo crumbs, and I love them with all my heart and soul. However, I wanted to figure out how to make a graham version for this adaptation, which I planned to swap out for the chocolate ones. My favorite ever graham cracker pie crust is also a Milk Bar recipe and is made in a similar way, so I decided to try baking the crust as clusters instead of pressing it into a pie dish. Eureka– this worked perfectly! I dub them Graham Crumbles, and I shall make them again and again. (Incidentally, they make an amazing ice cream topping…)
My idea was coming together, but I wanted to add one more little twist: salt. I love sweet and salty desserts, and I’ve been experimenting with adding salt to traditional recipes; most of the time, it’s a smashing success, adding more flavor and depth, and a pleasing salty finish. For these cookies, I used fleur de sel, a flaky French sea salt harvested in the Brittany region of France. It can be found in many supermarkets. You are welcome to omit the salt, and the cookies will still be scrumptious, but I highly recommend giving it a whirl.
Salted S’mores Cookies
Yields approximately 35-42 cookies
Adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook
One thing I’ve learned about Momofuku recipes is that the weight and volume measurements vary quite a bit sometimes; I highly recommend weighing your ingredients whenever possible, though I generally don’t bother weighing butter or teaspoon measurements.
- ½ recipe Graham Crust
- 225g (16 tablespoons/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
- 300g (1 ½ cups) sugar
- 100g (¼ cup) glucose (or 2 tbsp. corn syrup… only as a last resort)
- 1 egg
- ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 60g (2 ounces) 55% semisweet chocolate, melted
- 200g (1 ¼ cups) bread flour (all-purpose works too, but you get a better texture from the higher gluten content in bread flour)
- 100g (¾ cup) dark cocoa powder, preferably Valrhona
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ¾ teaspoons kosher salt
- 70g (1 ½ cup) mini marshmallows
First make the Graham Crumbles. Preheat an oven to 300°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Prepare the graham crust and pour it onto the pan in a single, even layer of loose clusters. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, breaking up any larger clumps. The clusters should be slightly golden, but not dark, and they will still be semi-soft coming out of the oven. Let the crumbles cool to room temperature; they will firm up in the process. Turn off the oven.
The crumbs can be made ahead and will keep for up to 5 days at room temperature in an airtight container.
While the crumbs are cooling to room temperature, start making the cookie dough. Prepare a rimmed half-sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and glucose together on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl; add the egg, vanilla extract, and melted chocolate, and beat the mixture for 7-8 minutes. Scrape the bowl again when finished. Your mixture will be very light in chocolate color– don’t worry, this will change momentarily.
Note: This longer-than-usual mixing time produces a smoother, fluffier mixture that results in Milk Bar’s trademark crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-in-the-middle texture. Don’t under-mix here– it really is worth the extra time. Read more about the chemical process that happens in this step in my post for Confetti Cookies.
While the wet ingredients are beating away, whisk the bread flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl with the speed set to low. Mix just until the dough comes together, 1 minute at most. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula. It’s important not to over-mix at this stage, and I find that pre-mixing the dry ingredients helps to evenly incorporate them into the butter/sugar mixture more quickly. (The original recipe says to simply add them to the bowl all at once.)
On low speed, add the marshmallows and graham crumbles and mix just until they are evenly distributed in the cookie dough, no more than 30 seconds. The marshmallows will essentially disappear into the chocolate cookie dough, but do not fret– they will be melty and gooey in your baked cookies!
The next step is to portion out the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. The book says to use a 2 ¾-ounce ice cream scoop, which produces cookies of enormous proportions. I prefer a smaller one, which holds about ¼ cup dough, because it produces a nicely sized cookie—not too big, not too small. Gently flatten the domed tops of the cookie dough scoops. Cover the sheet pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 1 week. I usually bake my dough the next day. Do NOT bake your cookies from room temperature, as they will not bake up correctly.
When you’re ready to bake, heat the oven to 350°F. (Original recipe says 375°F, but that produces scorched cookie remains in my oven.)
Line two unrimmed cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place 8 or 9 chilled cookie portions on one pan, leaving a few inches between them. Don’t be tempted to crowd them onto the pan because they will spread out. Sprinkle the cookies with more graham cracker crumbs and a *small* amount of fleur de sel– too much will be overpowering.
The book says to bake the cookies for 18 minutes, but in my oven all my Milk Bar cookies are baked to perfection every single time at exactly 11 minutes. Keep an eye on them towards the end of baking as needed for your own oven. These are a bit tough to gauge because the dough is so dark, so it may take a little practice. When the cookies are done, they will be very puffed up and lightly crackled, and you’ll see the inflated marshmallows peeking out. And you won’t want to share them.
Allow the cookies to cool for 5-10 minutes on the pan and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Repeat with the second cookie sheet, and keep putting in small batches until you’ve used up the dough. With the smaller cookie scoop, I yield about 35-40 cookies. This dough freezes really well, so you can also bake them “to order”. Wrap them individually in plastic wrap and tuck them into a Ziploc bag, and you can pull them out for baking any time on demand. Once baked, they will keep fresh in an airtight container for 5 days. But don’t count on having any left by that time.
It was so fun to participate in this cookie swap, and I hope to do it again next year. 555 cookie recipes were exchanged this year– check them out here and here. I sent these cookies to CenterCutCook, Diethood, and Roxana’s Home Baking, and I was happy to receive Chocolate Peppermint Crinkle Cookies from A Healthy Life for Me, Loaded Peanut Butter Cookies from Julie’s Jazz, and Fudge Crinkles from Itz Linz– all yummy! Happy Holidays to the bakers, bloggers, and cookie eaters out there!
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2013.