When I think of 4th of July, I think of ribs, fireworks and Georgia.
When I was growing up, my family never had any strict 4th of July traditions. Sometimes we were on vacation, sometimes we stayed home and searched for a fireworks show, sometimes we just had brunch while listening to patriotic Aaron Copland music and a reading of the Constitution. When Will and I had been dating for a few years, he brought me to his family’s 4th of July celebration in Georgia. Their family traditions include cooking ribs for hours on the grill, making homemade ice cream, running around in the backyard with cousins, fireworks, sparklers and whiskey. Don’t worry, the last few don’t go together, but after a fun day in the sun most of the family likes to relax with a cold glass of ginger ale with whiskey, or whiskey with a splash of ginger ale, depending on who you ask.
To me, Independence Day always seems like the pinnacle of the summer. S’mores and bonfires are such a great treat and activity for summer and fall. So, what could be a better dessert for the upcoming holiday weekend than one that combines s’mores and whiskey and cookies and chocolate?
I’m so excited to share these with you! Homemade honey graham cracker and whiskey marshmallow s’mores are perfect for your 4th of July cookout! These marshmallows have just enough whiskey in them to stand out, but not so much that you don’t want to eat them on their own. When paired with chocolate, the combination is a match made in campfire heaven. For a 4th of July treat, I used Trader Joe’s’ “Fireworks Chocolate” – dark chocolate with a hint of chili and pop rocks embedded in the bar for a fun popping surprise when the chocolate melts in your mouth and the pop rocks do their thing.
To give the graham crackers their distinct flavor I used a mixture of whole wheat and all-purpose flours. Whole wheat flour means they are healthy, right? So eating them for breakfast is acceptable? Good.
If you are looking for a great treat to make with your family and friends this 4th of July, these whiskey s’mores are a great step up from the normal s’more and will excite everyone with their complex but still simple flavor and ingredient combination.
Happy holiday week! I’m already excited about our trip!
Honey Graham Crackers
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon sea salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and chilled
5 tablespoons milk (full-fat is better)
2 tablespoons vanilla
Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a food processor or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.
In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla. Add the honey mixture to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low just until the dough comes together. It will be soft and very sticky. Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap and dust it lightly with flour, then turn the dough out onto it and pat it into a rectangle about 1-inch thick. Wrap it and chill in the refrigerator or freezer until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.
After the dough has chilled, spread a layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the stiff dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so sprinkle flour on it and the rolling pin as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle. Cut 2-3 inch squares out of the dough.
Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes in the fridge or 15 to 20 minutes in the freezer. You may need to reroll any of the scraps (this is easier if you squish them together, chill, then roll and cut again). Alternately, you could just eat them ;) I won’t tell.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake for 10 to 20 minutes, until browned, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. The cooking time depends on how big you cut them and how crunchy you like your graham crackers. The longer you bake them the crunchier they will be after they cool. I cut my crackers into about 2 1/2 inch squares and 10 minutes in the oven gave me golden, soft crackers while 15 minutes made crisp, crunchy crackers. Check them throughout the process to make sure they don’t burn.
Whiskey (or Bourbon) Marshmallows
3 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
½ cup cold whiskey (or bourbon, your preference)
½ cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Coat a 9 x 13 baking pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.
In the bowl of your electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, pour ½ cup cold water and 3 ½ packs of gelatin. Let the gelatin sit while you beat the egg whites and make the sugar mixture.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
In a medium pot combine the sugar, bourbon, corn syrup and salt. Heat over low heat and whisk until sugar is dissolved, about 3-5 minutes. Turn up the heat to medium and let the sugar come to a boil. Watch it to make sure it does not overflow. Let it boil for 8-12 minutes, until it reaches 240 degrees F (measure with a candy thermometer, or just set a timer). The mixture will appear to be a light brown color – have no fear, the marshmallows will still be white (or at least off-white).
Once mixture is at 240 degrees F, turn off the heat. With the mixer on low speed, gently pour it into the mixer over the gelatin. Once all of the sugar has been added, turn the mixer to high and beat for 6-8 minutes. The mixture will grow in size and become white, fluffy and sticky. About 3-4 minutes in, add the stiff egg whites and the vanilla extract. Beat until just combined.
Pour marshmallow mix into the prepared 9 x 13 pan. It will super sticky and you will not be able to get it all out of the bowl. Scrape out as much as you can, then spray a spatula with non-stick spray and smooth. Dust the top of the marshmallows with powdered sugar and let sit to firm up for 3-5 hours. Once firm, you can turn the pan upside down on a cutting board to release marshmallow rectangle and cut into pieces of whatever shapes and sizes you like, or cut them directly in the pan.
With the graham crackers, marshmallows (preferably toasted) and some chocolate, assemble the s’mores how you like them best (more chocolate is always acceptable) and enjoy!