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No campfire required for Brown Butter Blondie S'mores

When we think of our favorite summer treats, it's hard to imagine one that could rate higher than the classic campfire specialty, the all-American s'more. This signature sandwich treat combines graham crackers with toasted marshmallows and milk c...

Fresh-baked Brown Butter Blondie S'mores. David Samson / The Forum
Fresh-baked Brown Butter Blondie S'mores. David Samson / The Forum
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When we think of our favorite summer treats, it's hard to imagine one that could rate higher than the classic campfire specialty, the all-American s'more. This signature sandwich treat combines graham crackers with toasted marshmallows and milk chocolate, and the result is a gooey, sticky-sweet bite of Americana that leaves many of us wanting some more.

Giovanni loves s'mores and I am always looking for new ways to weave their flavor into new specialties. These Brown Butter Blondie S'mores have become a family favorite, and they are always a hit with crowds of all ages. I love that I can make them any time of year, no campfire required.

The secret to a great blondie is in the brown butter, which takes a few minutes more than if it was simply melted, but the effort is well worth it. For this recipe, we create a graham cracker crust, top it with the blondie batter and then finish it off with squares of Hershey's chocolate and marshmallows.

While its origins are uncertain, the s'more was made popular in the 1920s at Boy and Girl Scout campfires around the country. For many of us, toasting marshmallows over an open fire on a warm summer night is a summertime tradition that we will never outgrow, and I can even remember the first time Giovanni ate a s'more.

It was the summer of 2007, when he was almost 3 years old. This was a couple years before he entered a nearly three-year period of fussy eating, and he was still up for nearly any food we presented. But, that summer, anytime we offered him a s'more he would wrinkle his nose in disgust and run the other way. It was almost like he was afraid of it, and I'll never understand his resistance because there could not be a treat better suited for a young audience than a s'more.

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I don't know what made him change his mind, but toward the end of that summer he finally joined us at the campfire and asked to help us toast the marshmallows. I held the long stick with him and showed him how to turn it this way and that, and marveled at his patience as he waited for the marshmallow to become golden brown. He was drawn in, and I could tell he was intrigued. But would he eat it?

I am always encouraging my friends with picky eaters to invest in the practice of cooking with their children, as I fervently believe that kids become better eaters when they're a part of the process. They take ownership over the food, and as a result are much more willing to try new dishes. And that's exactly what happened with Gio and his s'more.

When that marshmallow came off the fire, it was his. He owned it, and after being so vigilant in its care to not let it burn, there was no way he wasn't going to eat it. As that marshmallow slid off the skewer onto a graham cracker topped with a square of Hershey's chocolate, Gio bounced back and forth, full of nervous excitement. We put the top cracker on and he looked at me with wide eyes, then took a deep breath, shut his eyes and said, "Here goes nothin'" as he bit into the sandwich.

He kept his eyes closed for a moment as he chewed, and then they opened wide as he smiled broadly, letting us know without speaking that he was definitely a member of this club. Whew.

Brown Butter Blondie S'mores

Makes: 16 large bars, 32 bite-size bars

For the crust:

1½ cups graham cracker crumbs (about 14 to 15 full-size crackers)

2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed

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5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

Grease a 9-by-9 pan and line with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Set aside.

In a food processor, blend crackers until finely ground. In a medium bowl, mix the crumbs with the brown sugar and melted butter until well combined. Press the crumbs evenly into the bottom of the pan and set aside.

For the blondie:

1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

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1 egg

1 cup flour

Pinch of sea salt

Hershey bar squares (4 to 5 candy bars)

25 large marshmallows, cut in half

Directions:

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, whisking often, for about 5 minutes until it becomes a light golden brown, but not dark. It will begin to smell warm and nutty when ready. Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl; cool for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to combine the brown butter and brown sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well mixed. Add the salt to the flour, mix together and then add to the batter. Stir just until incorporated — do not overmix.

Gently spread the batter evenly over the graham cracker crust and bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 minutes, until the center is no longer soft to the touch. Remove from oven and immediately top with chocolate squares, then cover entirely with the marshmallows, placing them with round side on top, cut-side down.

Turn oven to broil setting and place pan in oven to toast marshmallows until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes, watching carefully so as not to burn. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow chocolate to set.

Cut into bars of desired size, serve and enjoy. Store at room temperature, covered, for up to 3 days.

Sarah's Tips:

  • Browning the butter is the key to a great blondie. While melted butter will work for this recipe, taking the time to brown the butter will yield a superior flavor.
  • Watch the butter as it browns; once it becomes golden, remove it immediately.
  • Use a scissors to easily cut the marshmallows in half.
  • Be careful to place the marshmallows with the cut-side down, or they will not brown properly.
  • The chocolate will spread out as it melts, so leave a little space between each chocolate square, about ¼ or ½ inch apart.

“Home With the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 11-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.

Related Topics: RECIPESFOOD
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