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S’mores Cake & Cupcakes

This has been our summer of s’mores. It began in early June with a campfire and a family week in the mountains. On that trip, we even found ourselves manning a s’mores table at a race expo in West Yellowstone. We were up to our elbows in sticky melted marshmallows, Hershey’s chocolate and graham cracker crumbs. Still, we could have eaten more of them.

Before summer gets away from us, we’re spending some weekend time baking up this s’mores-inspired cake. The result is a tender graham cracker cake, a thick layer of rich chocolate ganache, and toasty “marshmallow fluff” frosting. Summer on a cake stand.

We’ve taken some liberties with this one. The chocolate is dark and the fluffy white frosting isn’t what it looks like. Instead of whipping up a traditional marshmallow cream, we’ve whipped up a bit of aquafaba (seriously cool stuff), sweetened it with sugar and lathered it on the cake. A kitchen blowtorch makes toasting a snap.

If you’re not familiar with aquafaba, welcome to one of 2016’s biggest food trends. Aquafaba is essentially the brainchild of some very clever French and American food geeks who figured out that the liquid in a can of garbanzo beans contained enough of certain bean proteins that it could be whipped like egg whites to create foam. As it turns out, aquafaba is more than just a passable substitute for egg whites. Aquafaba foam is more stable for longer periods of time and at a wider range of temperatures. It’s also much harder to over whip and break because it doesn’t dry out quickly. It can be flavored and colored to suit the use (think meringue, French macaroons), pavlovas, etc.). And, it’s also vegan. Although, that doesn’t seem to matter to us too much since we’re using butter, eggs, and cream in the cake and ganache recipes. However, we’re always game to try the latest food trends and incorporate them into our recipe repertoire.

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S’mores Cake
one 6-inch cake with a 6-pack of cupcakes

Graham Cracker Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup graham cracker crumbs, finely ground
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2/3 cup kefir
2 tsp vanilla

Dark Chocolate Ganache

Aquafaba Marshmallow Fluff

Preheat oven to 350F and grease and flour a 6″ cake round and line with parchment. Grease and flour, or use cupcake papers, for 6-7 muffin spaces. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well combined. Sift through a fine sieve and slowly push through most of the graham and flour until only small graham cracker crumbs are left. Add the crumbs to the flour mixture and set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth.
Add sugars and beat on med-high until pale and fluffy (2-3mins).
Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla.

Alternate adding flour mixture and kefir, beginning and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of kefir). Fully incorporating after each addition. Do not over-mix.

Spread batter evenly into prepared pans. Smooth the top with a spatula and gently whack the pans against the counter to evenly distribute and release any air bubbles.
Bake the cupcakes for 12 minutes then rotate the pan and bake another 12 minutes or until the cupcakes bounce back from a light touch. For the 6-inch cake. Bake for approx. 40 mins or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.

Place cakes on wire rack to cool for 10 mins. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and cake to loosen. Gently remove the cakes from the pans, set on racks and allow to fully cool before continuing.

 

Dark Chocolate Ganache

5.25 ounces dark chocolate (1 1/2 bars TJ’s 3.5 ounce dark chocolate bars)
4 ounces heavy cream
2 tablespoon soften butter
pinch of salt

Chop the dark chocolate and place it in a heat proof bowl. In a small sauce pan over medium-low heat bring the heavy cream to just about a boil. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate, add a pinch of salt, and let sit for a minute or two, then whisk the chocolate and cream together. Once all the chocolate is incorporated, add the butter.

Allow the ganache to cool at room temperature for a couple of hours or in the fridge for about 30 minutes before continuing.

Aquafaba Marshmallow Fluff
(adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie)

1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup ultra fine (baker’s) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Drain the garbanzo beans into a bowl with a lid. Use the garbanzo beans for another use. Refrigerate the bean water over night. We think chilling it makes for a shorter whipping time.

In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment or using a handheld mixer, add the refrigerated bean water and cream of tartar to the mixing bowl and mix on medium-high speed. Once double in volume, add the ultra fine sugar and vanilla. Whisk until peaks reach desired stiffness. The bean water seems to hold up well to over-mixing.

Assembling the cakes:

Split the 6 inch layer cake in half and add 2/3 of the chocolate ganache to the split layer. Spread until to the border of the cake and top with the other split layered cake. Spread a thin crumb coat over the sides of the cake. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or up to a day or two. Freeze the cake at that point for up to a month before frosting.

Top the cake with a very big dollop of the fluff. Using an off set spatula, smooth over the top and sides using swishing with flourishes to the cake. This is an excellent beginner decorator frosting.

Cupcakes:

With the rest of the ganache, divide between 6 or 7 balls (depending on how many cupcakes are left). Gently and quickly roll the balls between hands. Freeze until ready to use.

With a melon baller, scope a small amount of cake out of the top center of the cupcake. Place the frozen ganache in the hole. Frost the cupcake in a variety of ways, with a pastry bag, using a big ice cream scoop, or just a spooned dollop on top. Toast the marshmallow using a home creme brûlée kit or a more toolbox-type blowtorch. A quick sit under the broiler may work also to get some color on the fluff, but it could also melt the chocolate. Who knows?

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Camping: Breakfast, s’mores, and more

We’ve been away from our computers, road-tripping through the west to run a couple of half-marathon races hosted by Vacation Races in Teton National Park in Wyoming and West Yellowstone, Montana. After what felt like marathon drives through California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, we got to spend a week with family in the hills, camping and touring the parks, fishing, and running.

It has been too many years since our last summer camping trip. So it was a great treat to start June with a week of camping in Island Park, Idaho. It was beautiful, if unseasonably warm, but that didn’t stop us from building camp fires, roasting marshmallows and cooking on coals and grills.

Our camp cooking included the essential s’mores, grilled fresh trout from the nearby Island Park reservoir and Henry’s Lake, a delicious breakfast for dinner cooked completely al fresco, and an occasional smokey reprieve from the darned mosquitos that drove us crazy most of the time.

The trout we cooked over the fire was delicately smokey. It was perfect all by itself, but a light squeeze of fresh lemon made it irresistible. Having just come out of the lake, it was as fresh and delicious as it ever gets! And it was made all the better eaten under the canopy of a pine forest.

As good as that trout was, the most memorable meal is a bacon, egg and potato breakfast we prepared exclusively over the open fire. Breakfast at any time of day is a treat. We eat breakfast for dinner all the time. After a day of running and driving around Yellowstone Park, we wanted something hearty and comforting. And as convenient as it was to have an indoor, camp trailer kitchen at our disposal, it was too warm to stand inside when there was a perfectly good fire pit with a grill and plenty of fire wood just outside. We opted for an outdoor cooking adventure.

Bacon and eggs never disappoint. We had potatoes, carrots and onions in the camper pantry, so we diced them up, seasoned them, triple wrapped them in aluminum foil (an essential camping implement), and tossed them onto the hot coals of the fire. The “hobo pockets” need to be carefully placed so as not to burn the crap out of the potatoes. Layers of foil should protect them from the harshest temperatures while the veggies steam in the pouch. If you get it right, the potatoes will be cooked and the rest of the veggies will have a tiny bit of caramelization and very few black bits.

Cooking bacon on the fire was a breeze. We placed a sheet of aluminum foil over the grilling grate on the fire pit, directly over the hottest part of the fire, and used it like a griddle. The bacon cooked perfectly. It did produce a lot of rendered fat which in turn caused some flare-ups that scorched the foil, but the bacon was unscathed.

Our nephew had the clever idea of creating little aluminum trays to cook our eggs. With a few easy folds, we had our egg “pans” which we sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. We sat them on the foil we’d used for the bacon, which added a needed layer between the eggs and the hot fire. The eggs turned out perfectly!

When we opened the hobo pockets, the vegetables were nicely cooked, with very little scorched bits. They were a complete success. We topped them with our “fried” eggs, helped ourselves to a couple slices of bacon, and sat out in the open air, tucking in to awesome camp food and washing it all down with a cold beer.

Our time in West Yellowstone included a volunteer stint at the s’mores table at the Yellowstone Half Marathon Expo. We saw a lot of toasted marshmallows that evening. There is no doubt of the s’more’s importance in the American camping experience, though there is some diversity of thought on the “proper” steps in the s’more ritual. We toasted our graham crackers on the fire grill with a piece of chocolate melting on it while we toasted our marshmallows. Our marshmallows are slowly roasted and tan, not extinguished torches, but we appreciate everyone has their own idea of the perfect fire toasted marshmallow, so no judgement. S’mores are best by a campfire. There’s no other way to get a smokey accent on that sweet mess. But there are endless ways to play with the idea of the s’more at home. More on that in future posts.

Happy Summer!

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Open Fire Fried Eggs and Bacon

bacon
eggs

For the bacon.

Spread a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil over the grill of an open fire. Cook the bacon until crisp. Careful of grease fires.

For the eggs.

Use aluminum foil to make a little tray to cook the eggs, spray with non-stick cooking spray. More aluminum for lids. Cook to one’s liking.

Hobo Hash Pack

2-3 potatoes
1 onions
2 cups root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, etc.
2 tablespoons or more olive oil or melted butter
1 tablespoon dijion mustard (optional — especially for 10 year olds)
salt and pepper
cooking spray
Heavy Duty Aluminum foil

Cut potatoes, onions, and root vegetables into similar sized cubes, and add to a bowl, add the olive oil or butter, dijon mustard and salt and pepper. Toss to coat and set aside.

Tear 8 square pieces of heavy duty aluminum foil about. Place a cup to a cup-and-a-half of the potato mixture to each of four of the foil packs. Fold the foil over in half and each pack on another sheet of foil and fold it over the pack, so you are double layering the aluminum around the potato mixture.

Place the foil packs in the coals of a fire and cook for 30-40 minutes. Turning the packs every 10 minutes or so to keep from burning.

s’mores

1 box graham crackers
1 chocolate bars, broken into pieces
1 bag of marshmallows

Over an open fire with a barbecue grill, place two graham crackers on the coolest side of the grill. Careful not to burn the cracker. Place a small piece of chocolate on top and watch to keep from burning. You just want a warm cracker with just a barely gooey chocolate.

With a marshmallow or two on a stick, toast over an open flame to one’s liking. I prefer just a barely toasty marshmallow. Gooey on the inside and a light toast on the outside. This will take patience. Go slow.

Once the marshmallow is toasted. Put on top of the graham cracker with chocolate. Top with the other one and enjoy the gooey, yumminess.