The Sticky Story of the S’more
What’s That? | S’mores
Happy National S’mores Day! Today, we add a segment to the “What’s That” encyclopedia with an exploration of the treat’s mysterious origin, the scandalous history of its components, and a discussion about chocolate with our friends at Dandelion Chocolate.
What Is It?
A s’more is a rustic, campfire-inspired dessert sandwich created by lightly roasting (or igniting) a marshmallow over a fire, and then smashing it on a chocolate bar melting between two graham crackers.
The provenance of the s’more is a mystery. We can all agree that the s’more is a derivative of the sandwich - so perhaps we should commend John Montagu, the fourth Earl of an English town named Sandwich. He instructed his cook to prepare a meal that wouldn’t interfere with his 24-hour gambling binge. To John’s delight, the creative chef presented him with sliced meat between two pieces of toast. Eureka! Single-handed eating meant he had an available hand to carry on squandering his wealth.
But the Earl of Sandwich does not explain the marshmallow, chocolate and graham cracker layered consortium of delight that we enjoy today. One thing we can accurately say is that the recipe for “Some Mores” was first published in the seminal handbook, Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts in 1927. How the authors conjured the recipe is unknown, but clearly the Girl Scouts have culinary chops that go well beyond their cookies
We decided to investigate the individual components of the s’more to see if there might be a clue.
While we can’t be certain who should be awarded credit for the s’more, there is a Founding Father of the graham cracker. Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham sought to end what he believed to be the bane of his time: self love 😉. In the early 1800s, Reverend Graham was convinced that a regimen of veggies and bland starches would quell sexual appetites. His ideas gained popularity and suddenly “Grahamites” swept the nation.
A major foundation of the Graham diet was a whole grain bread made from coarsely ground wheat. It is unknown if “Graham Bread,” had any impact on squelching sexual urges, but that it was an ambitious ask of a small baked good. Graham Bread evolved over the years, flattening into a biscuit, and incorporating more honey.
A little fun fact about the Grahamites: one of the most famous practitioners was Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the Superintendent of the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan. Dr. Kellogg provided the Graham diet to his patients for the sake of order and calmness. One day, John’s brother and bookkeeper, Will accidentally left cooked wheat uncovered and it went stale. Being on a strict budget, they tried to salvage it into bread dough, but it flaked instead. The brothers toasted the flakes and served them to patients who unexpectedly loved them. Will saw a mass market opportunity by adding sugar to the mix and founded the Kellogg’s cereal company, now worth $24B.
Whether they are floating on your hot cocoa, molded into ducks and covered in yellow sugar, or skewered on a deconstructed clothes hanger and roasted over a campfire, marshmallows spark a nostalgic, Americana tingling. While we can all associate marshmallows with being delicious, we don’t always think of them with being natural / chemical-free. However, it turns out that these cherubic cylinders of puffy love originated as early as 2000 BC by the ancient Egyptians.
They made marshmallows by extracting sap from a mallow plant and mixing it with nuts and honey. Believe it or not, the mallow plant makes its home in salty marshes — and thus “marsh” meets “mallow.”
It wasn’t until the 1800s that candy makers in France whipped the mallow sap with egg whites and sugar to take the shape of the marshmallow we know today.
Fast forward more than 200 years and the marshmallow is undergoing a renaissance. Independent marshmallow makers have embraced a retro-lution, thumbing their noses at industrial processing and returning to the traditional methods of hand cut marshmallows. New texture combinations and flavors have elevated marshmallows to gourmet status while meeting the growing demands for authentically creative treats. There is even a National Marshmallow Roasters Institute. They take roasting marshmallows very seriously; here are their tips if you want to elevate your roasting game.
As marshmallows have achieved the upper echelon of the gastronome hierarchy, so have s’mores. Google returns 1.8M s’more recipe results. There are s’more poptarts, s’more cookie sandwiches, s’moreos (substitute grahams with Oreos), and s’more cupcakes. People experiment with alternative fillings for s’mores: raspberry jam, Nutella, caramel, and even lemon curd are make their way between graham crackers.
But, our hands down favorite take on the s’more hails from our hometown chocolate maker. Dandelion Chocolate prides themselves on being a bean-to-chocolate-bar producer that makes everything in-house at their a bustling kitchen / factory / cafe on Valencia St.
We got a chance to ask their Executive Pastry Chef, Lisa Vega, about Dandelion’s inspiration for their artisanal S’more.
Corey: Your s'mores have a unique design. What was the inspiration behind it?
Lisa: We designed our s'more so it could be blowtorched-to-order and have a balance of texture and flavors.
Corey: With all the chocolates you could have chosen for the s'more, you selected a Papua New Guinea chocolate ganache. What is it about that chocolate?
Lisa: The 70% Papua New Guinea chocolate is naturally smoky due to the farmer's unique drying methods - using fire to create hot air. The campfire smokiness makes it the perfect bean to use for our s'more and it's what makes it all the more delicious and special.
Corey: How popular is the s'more compared to other items on the menu?
Lisa: It's one of our most popular items in the cafe and will probably stay on the menu forever! They are popular with people of all ages and mostly with Americans as the s'more is such an American treat. Tourists sometimes have no idea what they are! But they are one of Todd’s (CEO) favorites, so they aren’t going anywhere.
Interested in indulging in Dandelion’s delicious s’more? You can find it on one of our fan favorite Sidewalks: Foodie Sidewalk of the Mission: S'mores, Morning Bun Pastries & Espresso: A Foodie Walk Through the Mission District