Project Wonderful

Friday, July 26, 2013

More Smores: Part Deux

While shopping the other day, I found these miniature graham cracker crust pie cups. They were cheap and required little prep, so I figured I'd give them a test run in my ongoing attempt to improve on the classic campfire culinary confection known as the smore. 

If you recall from part one, my effort to make the humble smore a bit more fancy-shmancy turned into a sugary failure. Too many marshmallows in a ramekin made the dish too sweet. To correct this and make it a bit more adult, I thought I would try mascarpone cheese blended with honey instead of the marshmallows. Mascarpone is a traditional Italian soft cheese made from cream that is then thickened with a citric or tartaric acid. The result is a smooth, spreadable cheese that's sometimes used instead of butter or Parmesan to thicken and enrich risottos. It's also one of the main ingredients in the Italian desert Tiramisu.

Mascarpone originated in the area between Lodi and Abbiategrasso, Italy, southwest of Milan, probably in the late 16th or early 17th century. The name is popularly held to derive from mascarpa, an unrelated milk product made from the whey of stracchino (a young, barely aged cheese), or from mascarpia, a word in the local dialect for ricotta (although ricotta, unlike mascarpone, is made from whey). 
- Wikipedia

The idea of using a pre-made pie crust in a self-contained little package wasn't in the original plan, but I thought this might improve things.

Here's what I did:

I wrestled these little babies away from a bunch of elves. I brushed some egg white on them and baked them in a 350 deg oven for 5 minutes just to crisp them up a notch.

For the filling, instead of overly-sugary marshmallow, I used 8 oz of mascarpone cheese, blended with 1 tablespoon of honey and a little half & half to thin things out to a frosting-like consistency. 

This gets scooped into a zip-lock bag and worked down to the bottom. I cut the corner of the bag off and was able to pipe the mixture into the graham cups.

I made up a ganache of chopped up dark chocolate and boiling hot half & half. I whisked this together with the bowl sitting on a block of ice to get it to both thicken slightly and incorporate a little air into the mix to lighten it up.

To build the desert, I drizzled the ganache into the cups, piped in the mascarpone, added another little drizzle of chocolate, sprinkled graham cracker crumbs and a few mini dark chocolate chips on the top and called it done. Other than the 5 minute baking of the pie crusts, there's no actual cooking involved. The individual parts can sit in the fridge till its ready and then assembled in minutes, even right at table side if you want. 

The verdict: "Meh." 

I went from too much to too little. The dark chocolate adds a level of bittersweet to the desert that is very pronounced when you aren't competing with the whipped sugar, corn syrup and gelatin of marshmallow. The marscapone/ honey blend was delicious, albeit not quite sweet enough on its own. Perhaps a little more honey would help. Also maybe a drop or two of vanilla.

The other problem was the taste. Because no marshmallow was used and nothing was toasted or torched, it kills any resemblance to the taste of a Smore, which was the goal of this project from the beginning.

On its own, this desert is delicious, but as a substitute to a smore it doesnt cut it.

So back to the drawing board I go.

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