Monday, May 18, 2015

Gourmet S'more Pie with Chunky 'Nilla Wafer-Graham Cracker Crust, Espresso Infused Brownie Truffle Filling, + a Toasted Homemade Vanilla Bean Marshmallow Topping

Look at me, being all crazy-like by talking about how spring is already here and what a glorious season it is... and then one week later, I'm on the summer bandwagon. But when a recipe, like this one, turns out so good that you can't stop eating it, well you just have to post it! S'mores are the absolute... the essential... the ultimate representation of what truly makes summer the best time season of the year. We have made a bunch of s'more inspired desserts, like this over-the-top s'mores layer cake or these gourmet s'more brownie bars, just to name a few. But this version easily takes the cake (or pie) for this summer sweet treat. There are are a few upgrades (because, well, I always like to put my own spin on every dish I make) and I think you'll love 'em just as much as we did! Now when talkin' s'mores, everybody and their grandma know the three necessary components... graham crackers, toasted marshmallows, + chocolate. Let's talk about the crust, baby. Don't get me wrong, I love a graham cracker crust just as much as the next guy, but I wanted a more toothsome + crunchy base to our filling. I know you're asking yourself, "How on earth is this crazy food blogger going to one of the best, classic pie crusts even better"? Well all the magic happens by simply adding in Vanilla Wafer Cookies. I have to insist that you don't pulverize the 'nilla cookies; you want them chunky and almost pebble-like in size. Add the cookie pebbles into a mixing bowl along with graham cracker crumbs (very fine, not chunky at all), a stick of melted browned butter, and a pinch of salt. So for all you naysayers out there upset about my minimal use of graham crackers... just chill a little bit, you will still get that iconic flavor + perfect texture in your crust. Press this mixture into a 9inch spring-form pan (like the one you use to make cheesecake) and work some of the crumbs up the sides until the whole-damn-thang is compacted in there. Okay it's onto the good stuff here, people. It's what y'all have all been waiting on... the espresso-infused brownie truffle filling. Yeah I know, I used so many delicious words to describe the chocolate middle layer. But it's all true, I found the so called "unicorn" of the culinary world. You can thank me later. Back to this crazy brownie filling, it has bittersweet chocolate, butter, dark cocoa powder, espresso powder, heavy cream, and Kahlua liqueur. Once your brownie filling is done + lusciously smooth, you're going to follow my lead and add in about a cup (or more if you're so inclined to do so) of some of those crunchy 'nilla wafer cookie pebbles right into the batter. This gives it a bit of crunch here + there, which I love because it's just like a little present every time you take a bite! After baking it just enough until it perfectly cooked with a semi-crackly top and a chocolate-like truffle filling, let it cool completely. Now, here on H+H, making homemade marshmallows is a top priority and one of my favorite things to whip up. So why not do it for the top of a gourmet s'more pie? This recipe makes a semi-thin layer to completely cover the brownie truffle filling, and that might be just enough for you, but it isn't for us. In the end, I decided to add a rim of good 'ole mini marshmallows (straight from the store). Not only did it give the pie a retro feel to it, but it doubled the ratio of amazing marshmallow goodness, and we all love the sound (and taste) of that. Before you get to toasting the top, you need to let the layer of marshmallow chill and firm up in the fridge. Guess what, you're essentially done, all you have to is melt, toast, or char (or all three) dem 'mallows until you've reached your favorite doneness. But unfortunately, this is start of that dreadful waiting game. As someone who has taken part of this mind game, you'll make it. I mean I did, long enough to tell the tale. All you gotta do next is slice up this masterpiece of a pie and completely inhale, all done respectfully of course. And just a quick trick for those who will be enjoying this gourmet s'more pie for a few days, you can make it taste exactly like the day you made it by heating it in the microwave until the marshmallow begins to melt and gets all-gooey-like. Don't forget because you will regret it!! Enjoy :)

For the Chunky ‘Nilla Cracker Crust:
4C Crushed ‘Nilla Water Cookies (make it a rough texture, for that perfect crisp crust)
10T Unsalted butter, Melted
½C Sugar
½t Kosher Salt

For the Chunk ‘Nilla Wafer-Graham Cracker Crust)
2C of the Chunky ‘Nilla Crust (already prepared above)
1C Graham Cracker Crumbs (pulverized into fine crumbs in a food processor)
1 Stick of Unsalted Butter, Melted
Generous Pinch of Kosher Salt
For the Espresso Infused Brownie Truffle Filling:
2 eggs
¾C Granulated Sugar
½t-1t Kosher Salt
4.5oz of 72% Chocolate, Roughly Chopped
6T Unsalted Butter, Cut into Tabs
¼C Cake Flour
3T Dark Cocoa Powder
1T Espresso Powder
½C Heavy Cream + 2T Kahlua Liquor
1C of the Chunky ‘Nilla Wafer

For the Homemade Vanilla Bean Marshmallow:
1t Unflavored Gelatin
½C Cold Water (separated into two ¼C)
¾C Sugar
¼C Light Corn Syrup
¼t Vanilla Extract
1 Vanilla Bean Pod, Sliced & Scraped For Seeds 
1 Bag of Mini Marshmallows (optional)

1. Beginning of the Crust: Preheat your to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine the crushed/chunky ‘Nilla wafer cookies, butter, sugar, and salt. Toss until everything is well incorporated. Set this aside until you are done with the graham cracker crumbs (and if you can wait, preferably 8-12 hours, so the cookies soak up all the butter). This batch of crunchy cookie piecrust yields enough for two pies; so you can save them for a rainy day baking project, press them into muffin tins for mini pies, or just some casual nibbling on the side. Also, make sure to save 1-2C of these vanilla wafer cookie crumbs to add into the brownie filling later on in the recipe.
2. Prepping of the Crust: While you wait for your ‘Nilla wafer crust cookies to soak up the butter and the granulated sugar has each piece nicely coated, place a sleeve of graham cracker cookies into a food processor and have become finely ground (almost like a thick sand). Keep doing this until you have reached 1C of graham cracker crumbs. If you don’t want to go through this process, no problem! Just go buy a box of store-bought graham cracker crumbs.
3. Finishing the Crust: Get out a 9-inch spring form pan (one that you use for a cheesecake) and spray heavily with Baking Pam Spray all around the edges. Combine the 2C crunchy ‘Nilla wafer cookies + 1C of the graham cookie sand together in a bowl. Now, like the crust couldn’t get any better, it’s time to add more butter (YESSSSSS, but shhh, don’t tell anyone). It’s totally worth every calorie. Press the ‘Nilla wafer + graham cracker cookie crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the pan, packing it tightly, evenly, and firmly into the prepared spring form pan. Set this crust aside while you make the Espresso Infused Brownie Truffle Filling.
4. For the Espresso Infused Brownie Truffle Filling: Combine the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl, and gently melt them together on low for 30-50 second. Use a heatproof spatula to stir them together, working until the mixture is glossy and smooth. Combine the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip together 3-5 minutes or until the mixture is fluffy and pale yellow and has reached the ribbon state. Replace the whisk with the paddle attachment. Dump the chocolate mixture into the eggs and briefly mix together on low speed. Increase the speed to medium and paddle the mixture for 1 minute or until it is brown and completely homogenous. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and sift in the cake flour, dark cocoa powder, espresso powder, and a pinch of salt. Paddle this mixture on low speed for 45-60 seconds. There should not be any clumps, if there is, paddle it again for another 30 seconds. Stream in heavy cream + Kahlua on low speed for 30-45 seconds, just until the batter has loosened and the white streaks from the cream have fully mixed in. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Gently fold in the 1-2C of the chunky cookie crust (these crumbs add a little burst of flavor and texture into the pie filling).
5. Assembling the Pie: Pour the Espresso Infused Brownie Truffle Filling into the base of the chunky ‘Nilla wafer-graham cracker crust. Smooth out the top of the brownies. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until the edges begin to puff slightly, yet still remain jiggly in the center. Cool the pie completely before finishing it.
6. For the Homemade Vanilla Bean Marshmallows: Make the marshmallow topping by adding ¼C to the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment.  Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let it stand firm, for about 1 minute or so. Stir together the sugar, corn syrup, a pinch of salt, remaining ¼C cold water, and 1 vanilla bean pod (sliced and scraped for seeds) in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring until the dissolved. Keep boiling this mixture until a candy thermometer registers at 260 degrees, roughly 6-8 minutes. Begin beating the gelatin mixture on medium speed, and then carefully pour the syrup in (make sure to keep pouring in a slow steady stream, while trying to avoid the paddle and sides of the bowl). Once all he syrup has been added, continue beating it on medium speed until the marshmallow fluff has tripled in volume. Add in the vanilla and beat it until it has just combined, and then immediately pour the marshmallow on top of the brownie filling. It should be loose enough to evenly spread itself, but if not, use a well-greased rubber spatula or spoon to help aide in the process.
7. Finishing the S’more Pie: Refrigerate the pie for 1 hour, uncovered, and then cover it with plastic wrap that has been lightly coated in Pam Spray. And again, return the pie to the refrigerator and let it chill for 3 more hours. After the long chilling process, preheat the broiler to its highest heat setting. Once the oven is extremely hot, remove the plastic wrap, place the pie onto a cookie sheet, and distribute small mini marshmallows in a circle around the outside edge of the pie. We really love marshmallows, so we wanted to add more and I also love the retro vibe it gives off. Carefully rotate the pie/sheet pan about 3-4inches from the flame until the top is perfectly golden brown and melty underneath. This can take about 3-5 minutes to reach that toasted-charred-marshmallow-goodness.
8. Serving the S’more Pie: Allow the pie to cool for about 10-15 minutes before slicing it. In order to get a good, clean slice, dip your knife into hot water and spray it with Baking Pam Spray. This helps to avoid making a mess and getting all sticky from the marshmallows. Enjoy while it is still warm!  Keep in mind that after you have had some of the pie and have a few slices left, it is still just a delicious a couple days later. Cut a slice, plop it into a microwave (about 30 seconds or so), and your pie will be a dense like a fudge brownie + on top you will have an extra ooey-gooey marshmallow waterfall flowing down the slice. UM YUM!