I've long been a fan of substituting the word "caramelized" for "burnt" — and not just because my somewhat laissez-faire cooking practices and lack of a kitchen timer require it. In general, I'm of the opinion that the most delicious flavor comes just-this-side of carbonized, and people need to embrace the darker colors of a well-developed Maillard reaction. But clearly, this pie goes a step beyond caramelization. Like a good campfire s'more, it's full-on burnt. And it's delicious.
If it's been a few years since you've eaten a s'more, there's a chance you might dismiss them as cloying, overly-sweetened candy kid's stuff. And you'd be wrong. They're amazing. Not-too-sweet graham cracker, meltingly soft chocolate, and the burnt bitterness playing off the sticky-sweet strands of marshmallow. Like I said: amazing.
This recipe comes from Gourmet, and while I don't know that I'd serve it as a Thanksgiving pie (their initial recommendation), it makes a phenomenal summertime dessert. The graham cracker crust is crumbly and buttery (and not too sweet), and the filling is like a lightly-set chocolate ganache (a bittersweet step above the usual Hersheys). And then the marshmallow topping: gooey, vanilla-scented, and broiled to perfection. Having grown used to overabundant pies that spill from their tins, I initially thought of upping the quantities of this somewhat small pie, but it turned out to be perfectly balanced. It's like the best of campfires — of childhood summers in general — all pulled together in one grown-up (slightly burnt) bite.
adapted from Gourmet, with thanks to Smitten Kitchen for flagging
yields 1 9-inch pie
Also apologies for not having a shot of the delicious graham-chocolate-marshmallow layers in each slice — I brought it to a pie party, wherein it was demolished into sticky crumbs in a matter of minutes. I suppose I must make another one.
5 tablespoons unsalted butter (or use salted, and omit the salt later)
10 full-size graham crackers (1 1/2 cups crumbs)
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch salt (I borrowed smoked salt from a neighbor to up the campfire quotient, but that's totally optional)
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate (Gourmet specifies no stronger than 70% — I used a 54% bar from Trader Joe's, and it was great), chopped to bits
1 cup cream
1/2 cup cold water, divided
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (I've done some marshmallow experimenting with different vegetarian and kosher gelatins — the kosher fish gelatin tends to work for a substitute (though I haven't tried them with this particular recipe), the carageenan-based ones, not so much)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.
To make the crust: Melt the butter. In a food processor, blitz the graham crackers into crumbs, and then add the sugar and salt, and drizzle in the melted butter. Process until well combined. Press it evenly into the bottom and sides of a pie or tart pan, compressing it so that it stays together (I use a metal measuring cup, smoothing out the sides first, then the bottom). This is a somewhat shallow pie, so don't worry about the sides going above and beyond. Bake until just beginning to color, ~10—12 minutes. Remove and let cool (leave the oven on for the filling).
To make the chocolate filling: Place the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Pour the cream in a saucepan, and heat it until it's just about to boil. Immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate, then let sit, undisturbed, for a full minute. After it has sat, whisk until the chocolate has melted to form a smooth mixture. Whisk in the egg and salt until well-combined, then pour into the cooled graham cracker crust. Using a pie shield or some carefully-positioned foil, cover the edge of the crust to prevent it from over-browning (the graham cracker crust is fragile, so be delicate to avoid crumbling it more than necessary), and bake until the filling is softly set but still trembly, ~10-20 minutes. Set aside and let cool slightly.
To make the marshmallow topping: Place 1/4 cup of the water in the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a heat-proof bowl you can use with a hand-held mixer), and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let sit while you move on to the rest of the topping.
In a small saucepan, place the remaining 1/4 cup water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt, and bring to a boil over a medium-high heat. Have a small dish of cold water nearby, and cook until the mixture reaches the firm-ball stage, wherein a droplet will form a firm-yet-slightly-malleable ball when you drop it in (this takes a little more than 5 minutes, and the mixture will thicken visibly — you're aiming for about 250 degrees on a candy thermometer). When it has reached that stage, move fast!
Begin beating the gelatin mixture at a medium speed, then quickly pour in your hot sugar syrup (if it hits the beaters, it will get flung to the sides of the bowl and harden there, so aim to pour it so that it hits the side of the bowl just above the surface of the mixture, and gently pours down). When all the syrup is in (which should happen quickly), increase the speed to the maximum, and beat until the mixture doubles in size, becoming light, cool and airy, ~5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.
When it's reached the proper consistency, pour it over the pie, gently smoothing it out to the edges (it will spread somewhat on its own accord, so don't worry too much). Transfer the pie to the refrigerator, and chill for at least one hour (and up to overnight, covering with oiled plastic wrap after the first hour if you're doing that).
Before serving, preheat your broiler, with a rack that will put the pie no closer than 3-4 inches from the heating element. Make sure again that the crust is protected with a pie shield or foil, and broil until it is burned to your liking. WARNING: This will happen ridiculously quickly, so keep an eagle eye on it, turning the pie as needed, to ensure that you don't go from pleasantly broiled to a carbonized lump (although if, say, your broiler door gets stuck and you literally CAN NOT OPEN THE BROILER DOOR for several minutes, and a flamey mess occurs, rest assured that you can actually lift the carbonized top off, as a piece, and give it another go. I imagine). Let cool a few minutes to set, then devour.