Cristina Arantes discovered s’mores when she moved to the United States from Brazil at age 17. “I call them the greatest American invention,” she says. “My first s’more experience, I fell in love.” She spent years perfecting recipes, eventually opening her San Francisco shop Kika’s Treats, which specializes in various types of graham crackers.
You could go whole-hog and, like Arantes by making your own s’mores from start-to-finish, but there’s an ideal halfway point between DIY-ing the whole shebang and combining a Jet-Puffed marshmallow with a chunk of chocolate from a Hershey bar and a Honey Made: Make your own marshmallows and upgrade the rest.
Don’t be intimidated: If you’ve got a mixer—or, even better, a KitchenAid-style mixing bowl—and any experience making Jell-O, you’ll be golden. And while we’re making our own marshmallows, why not add some flavor? Arantes makes passion fruit marshmallows that meld perfectly with milk chocolate and graham crackers.
Arantes typically uses store-bought puree, but if you’re feeling crafty, go ahead and make your own: Scoop out the pulp, blend, and add just a pinch of sugar. (Not so much into passion fruit? Try any of your favorite berries.)
On your stove, heat sugar, water, and syrup—you can use corn, glucose, or brown rice syrup—until it comes to a boil, then bring to a simmer. At the same time, you’ll want to combine gelatin and your passion fruit puree to a mixer—use the whisk attachment—and set it on low. (Note: If you’re using a hand mixer, this is a two-person job. I can’t imagine you’ll have trouble finding volunteers.)
This isn’t a time for imprecision: You’re making candy, not paella. Even a few degrees too high or low can throw off your whole operation. Use a thermometer and wait until it hits 240°F before removing from the heat and adding—veeeery slowly—to your mixing bowl.
With your whisks on medium-high, let your sugary concoction whip until it becomes a “marshmallow fluff,” Arantes says. Spread it over a parchment-lined pan, dust with powdered sugar and let cool—it should only take 30 minutes or so, she says.
If you’re hauling your ‘mallows to the campfire, you’ll want to cut them into small squares and coat them with a mix of cornstarch and powdered sugar, which prevents them from absorbing the sugar and becoming a giant bulky marshmallow block—totally inconvenient for toasting.
Now it’s time for the s’mores. You can toast them at home—Arantes sears them when they’re already on top of the bottom cracker, adding a little color to your cookie—but if you’ve got access to a campfire, go outside.
“Anything over a real fire always tastes much better,” she says. “You get that amazing flavor from the fire itself you can’t get from a propane torch or over your range.” And despite the fact that Arantes promises “you cannot make mistakes when you make s’mores,” advocates for super-burnt marshmallows will be pleased to know that yes, burning them to a crisp is the way to go.
“All the sugars caramelize, giving it incredible flavor,” says Arantes. “It’s crunchy on the outside, and the insides taste a little bit gooey. I absolutely love that.” When it’s that hot, chocolate added on top will melt immediately. (If you’ve never toasted a homemade marshmallow, you’re in for a treat: “Once I ran out of marshmallows and I got some store-bought ones,” Arantes says. “It was an absolute disaster. They do not torch properly.”)
With the rest of your s’more, feel free to get creative: “The marketplace these days has so many people making so many wonderful products,” Arantes says. “Get playful,” trying a super-crispy graham cracker (but definitely one with honey, she adds) and the richest milk chocolate you can find—or mix it up, adding whichever cookies and chocolates you like.
Because really, you can’t mess up a s’more—as long as you toast your marshmallows properly.
Passion Fruit Marshmallows
- 10 oz. granulated sugar
- 240 ml. corn syrup, glucose syrup, or brown rice syrup
- 125 ml. water
- 21g (or 3 envelopes of 0.25 oz. each) unflavored gelatin
- 125 ml. passion fruit puree
- 9×13 pan, lined with parchment, sprayed and dusted with powdered sugar
- Candy thermometer
- Put sugar, syrup, and water in a small pan over medium heat, stirring until dissolved. Let it come to a boil, then lower the heat and cook until 240°F.
- When sugar has almost reached 240°F, put the remaining ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment and turn it on low.
- When sugar has reached temperature, remove it from heat and pour very slowly into the mixing bowl. Turn speed to medium-high and let whip until lukewarm, and mixture is white and has doubled in volume.
- Immediately pour onto prepared pan, spreading with a greased or wet spatula. Dust more powdered sugar on top and let cool before cutting into desired shape.
- Place some powdered sugar mixed with a bit of cornstarch in a bowl and, using your hands, coat each piece evenly. Place in an airtight container. Marshmallows will last up to three weeks.