Season 7 of Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Kitchen premieres on Saturday, September 16 at 3:00 pm. Some episodes are available to stream via the PBS app or at wttw.com by WTTW Passport members.
Get more recipes, food news, and stories by signing up for our Deep Dish newsletter.
Late summer makes us think of campfires and starry nights and s'mores. It's a childhood treat that you never grow out of, even if you don't like marshmallows—and you can also replace the marshmallow with something a bit more adult, like meringue, if you're turning s'mores into a handheld, no-campfire-necessay treat, like in this Milk Street adaptation of a recipe from Southern baking legend Cheryl Day.
The recipe comes from the upcoming seventh season of Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Kitchen, which comes to WTTW next month. Isn't it amazing that Milk Street is already on its seventh season? We're glad that we get to keep enjoying unusual recipes from them while continuing to reach back for some old favorites.
S'mores Bars with Toasted Meringue
Cheryl Day, pastry chef and co-owner of Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, Georgia, makes a delightful baked good out of a classic campfire treat: s’mores. A buttery graham cracker crust is topped with a layer of chocolatey brownies and finished with airy meringue. We adapted her recipe from her latest book, Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking, scaling back the ingredients to make a smaller batch. The crust calls for store-bought graham cracker crumbs, but if you prefer to start with whole graham crackers, to make the right amount of crumbs for the recipe, break 16 crackers into a food processor and blitz them until finely pulverized. A kitchen torch is the best and easiest way to toast the meringue, but a broiler works in a pinch. However, if using the broiler, be sure you carefully monitor browning because the meringue can go from perfectly toasted to scorched in a matter of seconds. Also, if broiled, the bars need to be served within a couple hours or the meringue will begin to weep. Otherwise, the bars can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to two days; bring to room temperature before serving.
Don’t line the baking pan with kitchen parchment. It’s best to use foil, which won’t ignite if the flame from the kitchen torch comes in contact with it and which is safe to use under the broiler if that’s how you will be toasting the meringue. Also, don’t wait to apply the meringue to the bars. Once the meringue is made, it needs to be used immediately, otherwise it will stiffen up and become difficult to spread.
For the crust:
240 g (2 cups) graham cracker crumbs (see headnote)
2 tbsps packed light or dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp table salt
113 g (8 tbsps) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
For the brownie layer:
113 g (8 tbsps) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
113 g (4 ozs) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
267 g (1 1/4 cups) white sugar
1/4 tsp table salt
2 tsps vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
65 g (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour, whisked to remove lumps
For the meringue:
4 large egg whites
160 g (3/4 cup) white sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Heat the oven to 350°F with the rack in the middle position. Mist an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray (use a broiler-safe pan if you will be toasting the meringue under the broiler). Line the pan with a 14-inch length of foil, folded widthwise so it fits neatly in the bottom of the pan; allow the excess to overhang the sides. Mist the foil with cooking spray.
2. To make the crust, in a medium bowl, stir together the cracker crumbs, sugar, and salt, breaking up any lumps of sugar. Drizzle in the melted butter, then stir until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and press it firmly into an even layer. Bake until light golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack; leave the oven on.
3. To make the brownie layer, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring 1 inch of water to a bare simmer. Put the butter and chocolate into a heatproof medium bowl and set the bowl on top of the saucepan; make sure the bottom does not touch the water. Stir often until the mixture is completely smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan; reserve the saucepan and water. To the butter-chocolate mixture, add the sugar, salt, and vanilla. Whisk until well combined, about 1 minute; the mixture will be grainy. Add the eggs and whisk gently until incorporated and the mixture is smooth and shiny, about 1 minute. Add the flour and fold with the spatula until no streaks remain.
4. Pour the brownie batter onto the cooled crust. Bake until a toothpick inserted at the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 20 to 22 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack, about 1 hour.
5. To make the meringue, in the reserved saucepan, once again bring about an inch of water to a bare simmer. In the bowl of a stand mixer or, if using a hand mixer, in a large heatproof bowl, combine the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar. Set the bowl on the saucepan; make sure the bottom does not touch the water. Whisk constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is just warm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes; it will be frothy and milky in appearance.
6. Remove the bowl from the pan and attach it to the stand mixer stand along with the whisk attachment, or have ready a hand mixer. Add the vanilla and begin beating on low; gradually increase the speed to high over the next 1 to 2 minutes, then whip until the meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, 5 to 7 minutes total; do not overbeat.
7. If using a broiler to toast the meringue, heat the broiler with a rack positioned about 10 inches from the heating element. Pile the meringue onto the brownies (still in the pan) and spread it to cover the surface, then use the back of a spoon to create swirls in the meringue. If using a kitchen torch, ignite the torch and toast the meringue until caramelized in spots. If broiling, slide the pan into the oven and broil, keeping the oven door ajar and watching carefully to prevent scorching, until the meringue is toasted, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes; rotate the pan halfway through.
8. Let stand for about 30 minutes. Remove the bars from the pan, using the foil overhang as handles, and set on a cutting board. Using a chef’s knife, cut into 16 squares, wiping the knife blade after each cut for the cleanest slices.