The humble soda cracker has long been the stage for us to privately explore our most bacchanalian culinary instincts. Admit it — you’ve done weird stuff with them.

Salty, crispy and available at retailers as varied as Whole Foods and gas stations, they’re a perfect vehicle for just about any flavor. My favorite late-night soda cracker delicacy is saltines with slices of cheddar cheese and kimchi, a creation I would never serve on a plate to another human soul but will happily chomp down standing in front of an open refrigerator late at night.

This recipe did not begin with a late-night rummage through the cabinets, but rather at a holiday gathering where I glumly stared down an ignored platter of the Midwesterner specialty of saltines topped with melted chocolate chips and sometimes toffee. (It is often made with matzoh around Passover, too.) This stuff just isn’t as mind-blowingly good as its premise hints at. It’s primarily too sweet, and visually it doesn’t beg for real estate on whatever tiny appetizer plate you’re holding. Don’t threaten me with a good time and then not deliver.

Saltine S’mores takes the core elements and turns them up to 11, transforming chalky melted chocolate into glossy chocolate ganache and introducing homemade marshmallow fluff to the equation. Can you sub store-bought fluff? Actually, no. The Voraciously team tried and found it was too soft and sticky to hold its shape, as well as being overly sweet. But homemade fluff is transcendent, and this is coming from a reformed marshmallow hater.

While the description of “dessert lasagna” certainly has a Buddy the Elf quality about it, I find that it’s a useful way to think about the assembly of this treat. You start with a layer of crackers, then marshmallow fluff, then crackers, then ganache and peanuts, and keep building until your lasagna is four layers of saltines high (any taller and it becomes a bit unwieldy). Top it off with sprinkles and you’ve got a treat that can’t be ignored.

Recipe notes: The marshmallow fluff recipe does not use gelatin, making this recipe vegetarian and kosher. We don’t recommend using store-bought fluff.

The s’mores can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week, as can any leftover fluff (you may need to whip it again to reach full volume). Store in the freezer for up to 1 month.

If you are concerned about the risk of salmonella from not fully cooked egg whites, buy pasteurized egg whites, such as Organic Valley, Bob Evans or Davidson’s brand. To get the necessary volume, you will need to increase the amount of whites by about 1/4 cup (about 60 grams, the equivalent of 2 whites), for a total weight of about 150 grams. Bring the whites to room temperature and note they can take as long as 15 minutes to reach soft peaks — that is, almost hold their shape but still flop over at the top.

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Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (180 milliliters/255 grams) corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup (80 milliliters/80 grams) water
  • 3 large egg whites (90 grams) (see recipes notes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 11 1/2 ounces (326 grams/1 bag) milk chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup (180 milliliters) heavy cream
  • 64 saltines (from 2 sleeves)
  • 1/2 cup (70 grams) finely chopped unsalted peanuts, raw or toasted
  • Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
  • Sprinkles, for decorating

Step 1

In a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar, corn syrup and water until combined. Attach a digital or candy thermometer with a clip to the side of the pot, ensuring the tip is submerged. Turn the heat to medium-high and leave the mixture undisturbed from this point on — stirring it will create pesky sugar crystals.


Step 2

While your sugar syrup heats, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar.


Step 3

The sugar mixture will probably reach around 200 degrees relatively quickly and then slowly creep toward 225 degrees. When the syrup is just about at 225 degrees, start whipping the egg whites at medium-high speed to soft peaks, 4 to 5 minutes. (Pull the attachment out of the bowl, invert it and look at the whites attached to it. You should see the whites almost hold their shape, but still flop over at the top.) Keep an eye on the egg whites, and be sure not to over mix. You should be at soft peaks as the sugar mixture reaches 240 degrees.


Step 4

When the mixture hits 240 degrees, remove the saucepan from the heat, turn the mixer to medium and get ready to pour: You’re aiming to pour the mixture in the sweet spot between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Slowly and carefully pour the sugar syrup into the whites in a steady stream (it’s okay if the attachment flings some of the mixture to the sides of the bowl, but don’t pour the mixture onto the metal), then increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whip for 8 minutes, adding the vanilla in the last minute or so. The fluff should be soft, thick and glossy and stretch a bit like saltwater taffy when it’s ready. Transfer to a large piping bag or gallon zip-top bag with the corner snipped (you may need to work in two batches of the fluff so it all fits in the bag).


Step 5

While your marshmallow fluff is whipping, make the ganache. Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Pour the heavy cream into a microwave-safe glass measuring cup and heat for 1 1/2 to 3 minutes, until hot. Keep an eye on it, as you don’t want it to bubble over.


Step 6

Pour the heated cream over the chocolate and let sit for 1 minute before slowly stirring smooth. It may look like it’s not going to come together, but it will as you keep stirring.


Step 7

Line an 8-inch square pan with crisscrossed sheets of parchment or wax paper that have plenty of overhang on all sides.


Step 8

Line the bottom of the pan with 16 saltines (four rows of four). Then, pipe tidy lines of marshmallow fluff over the saltines. If you want to be precise, use about 250 grams of fluff. Add a second layer of saltines, then pour half of the ganache (also about 250 grams) into the pan and spread it over the saltines using the back of a spoon. Add half the chopped peanuts, plus some flaky sea salt. Top with a third layer of saltines and follow with the last layer of marshmallow fluff, followed by your final layer of saltines. Pour the rest of the ganache into the pan and top with the remaining peanuts and more flaky sea salt. Top with your choice of festive sprinkles.


Step 9

Freeze in the pan for at least 3 hours. Remove the s’mores slab from the pan by using the paper overhang as handles. Unwrap to reveal the layers, and cut into 16 saltine-sized servings (2-inch squares). Eat right away and/or leave them uncovered at room temperature for a few hours to let the marshmallow fluff dry out a bit and stiffen so they more resemble a candy bar. For longer-term storage, transfer to an airtight container to keep at room temperature or in the freezer.


Nutrition Information

Per 2-inch square

Calories: 292; Total Fat: 12 g; Saturated Fat: 6 g; Cholesterol: 15 mg; Sodium: 172 mg; Carbohydrates: 45 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 28 g; Protein: 3 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.


From Emily Nejad of Bon Vivant Cakes in Chicago.

Tested by Becky Krystal; email questions to voraciously@washpost.com.

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