A few months ago, Todd and I were excited to participate in a light-hearted summer San Francisco cupcake meet-up. Todd decided he was going to make death-by-chocolate cupcakes and I opted for banana with dulce de leche frosting cupcakes. We spent the summer morning trading baking times in the oven and sampling each other’s icing.
We arrived at Dolores Park and starting scouting for the cupcake group. Todd had his chocolate cupcakes in his cupcake tins. My cupcakes were on a small dinner plate. Dolores Park is pretty big and since this was one of the first sunny days of summer, everyone was out. After walking aimlessly a little while, Todd’s frosting started to melt in the heat. I stepped in a wet swampy puddle but managed to catch myself before the cupcakes slid onto the ground. Still, the surfaces started to crack and the cupcakes stuck together a little bit. But finally, we spotted the cupcake meetup and sat down with the other sugar-toothed cupcake adventurists.
We got decimated.
We didn’t even know it was a competition but like a ten-year high school reunion, it was. We sensed we were in trouble when the other participants arrived with professional cupcake caddies. Many were professionally trained or were working in bakeries. The guy with tattoos up his arms had won the previous Iron Cupcakes. In-between introductions (“where are you from,” “how’d you hear about the meetup”), you could see the bakers counting how many cupcakes had been taken, who was opting for seconds, and small moments of envy like when one contender revealed coordinating napkins for presenting her cupcakes.
We couldn’t give our cupcakes away. Only when we were walking away from the event and handing our remnants to appreciative 8-year olds, did we feel some satisfaction. Though there were no trophies given away, Todd and I knew where we stood in social cupcake society.
Last week the very, very informal Meebo Valentine’s Day Bake-off event crops up. Before I could even say, “Todd you’re not officially on the payroll. I’m not sure you can partici…”, Todd had his mise en place bowls lined up on the counter and snapped back, “I built your Meebo iPhone app – I get to enter!”
Though the events seem unrelated, this was the first time we were able to take the lessons from our supposedly-social cupcake meetup and apply them to the very uncompetitive Meebo bake-off. Todd was originally intending to make S’more cupcakes with a graham cracker cake, marshmallow filling, and a chocolate frosting. However, after stumbling across an amazing chocolate pudding recipe (thank you Philo Apple Farm cooking classes), he was inspired to invent this S’more shot. He took the grand judging prize and also won the category, “Most like Martha.”
Here’s the recipe:
S’more Shots (makes approximately 30 shot glass servings or 6-8 ramekins)
For the graham crackers, Todd made them into skinny strips intended to be used as edible spoons. Make sure you roll the dough very thin otherwise your crackers will be too poofy.
Homemade Graham Crackers (from Smitten Kitchen)
Adapted from Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from the La Brea Bakery, and 101 Cookbooks.
Makes 10 4 x 4.5-inch graham crackers or 48 2-inch squares
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (375 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour (a swap of 1/2 cup with whole wheat flour or 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour works well here, too)
1 cup (176 grams) dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon (6 grams) baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt (4 grams)
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces or 100 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup (114 grams) mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons (77 grams) milk, full-fat is best
2 tablespoons (27 grams) pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons (43 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) ground cinnamon
Make the dough: Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.
In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky. Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap and dust it lightly with flour, then turn the dough out onto it and pat it into a rectangle about 1-inch thick. Wrap it, then chill it until firm, about 2 hours or overnight. Meanwhile, prepare the topping, if using, by combining the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and setting aside.
Roll out the crackers: Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers.
Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes in the fridge or 15 to 20 minutes in the freezer. Repeat with the second batch of dough. Finally, gather any scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and re-roll.
Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350°F.
Decorate the crackers: Mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough (again, this is for the traditional cracker shape). Using a toothpick or skewer (Todd used a fork), prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 inch for each side of the dividing line.
Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.
This pudding is incredibly rich. The recipe entails making a chocolate pudding and then adding even more chocolate while the mixture is still warm. For best results, make sure you use a high-quality chocolate. We used the Valrhona cocoa powder with Scharffenberger bitter-sweet chocolate. You can probably skip the sieving if you don’t have one. However, it makes a silky texture if you have one available.
Double Chocolate Pudding (from the Philo Apple Farm)
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp sifted cocoa
2 tablespoons corn starch
Pinch of salt
1 cup of sugar
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup milk
2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Combine cocoa, corn starch, pinch salt, and sugar in a bowl. Add 4 egg yolks and 1/2 cup milk to bowl and whisk well.
Separately, scald the milk and heavy cream.
Slowly whisk the hot scalded milk mixture into the cocoa mix. Return to heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until slightly thickened (about 10 minutes). Do not boil.
Push custard through fine sieve into clean bowl.
While still warm, add the chocolate in two batches to the custard. Stir until melted.
Pour into six ramekins [or shot glasses]. Cover and refrigerate or eat warm or enjoy at room temperature.
We’ve made the marshmallow meringue a few times and in a few different kitchens. If you have a very powerful Kitchen-aid mixer, you may be able to use vanilla extract instead of the vanilla bean. However, we’ve found that the vanilla extract can make the meringue runny. We’ve unsuccessfully experimented with adding more cream of tartar to compensate. However, the vanilla bean yields the most consistent toothpaste-like texture.
Toasted Marshmallow Meringue (adapted from Martha Stewart)
8 large egg whites
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 vanilla bean, split in half and scraped
Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer. Set over a saucepan with simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture reads 160 degrees on a thermometer.
Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Use immediately.
For assembly, use a funnel and a spatula to fill approximately 30 shot glasses 2/3 full of pudding. Place a graham cracker in each glass. Pipe the meringue using a 12 (or larger) decorating tip forming a nice billow. Use a micro butane torch to toast the marshmallow meringue. Take care not to heat the glass or use a large butane torch as the shot glasses will shatter.