I’ve always been slightly prejudiced against marshmallows. I don’t know why but I always feel like I’m cheating when I use them. Yet, in certain special recipes they really do perform a kind of magic. Here, you might ask, “why not just use ice cream for this?” You could, certainly. And that would be delicious. However, this combination of melted chocolate and marshmallows folded into sweetened whipped cream creates something that tastes very much like ice cream, but stands up to the elements a little bit better. It is, in other words, a frozen dessert, that doesn’t turn into a big melted mess within a few minutes of being taken out the freezer.
I’m not saying that you can put this on a picnic table in the middle of July and expect it to hold up, mind you. It just does better than ice cream.
I am giving this recipe to you in the order that I used the ingredients, because after about six tests it produced the best results. Chocolate is really finicky. It is miraculous, but it is fragile and fickle. How can something shelf stable for a year or more behave so badly with the slightest abuse? The good news is that even if you screw it up…it tastes wonderful. My daughter, who is somewhat finicky, herself, loves this dessert like crazy.
16 squares of graham crackers (4 oz.)
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup finely chopped pecans
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup whole milk
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
4 cups miniature marshmallows
1 cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a re-sealable plastic bag, crush the graham crackers to a sand-like consistency. Add the brown sugar and the chopped pecans to the bag and mix the ingredients thoroughly. Add the butter and toss the ingredients in the sealed bag until it is evenly distributed. Spray a 10-inch tart pan (with a removable bottom) with non-stick cooking spray and then distribute the crumbs in the pan. Firmly press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan with your fingers. You may also use the bottom of a measuring cup to tamp down the crust. Bake the crust for 13 minutes and then remove it from the oven to cool.
In a double boiler, or over extremely low heat in a regular saucepan, warm the milk to approximately 120 degrees. Turn off the heat. Add the marshmallows and stir them into the milk. Allow the marshmallows to melt in the milk, stirring occasionally. You may warm this mixture back up to 120 degrees to get the remaining bits of marshmallow to melt if there are any left. But in no case should the mixture be above 120 degrees when you add the chocolate.
Off the heat, add the chopped chocolate to the milk and marshmallow mixture. Using a rubber spatula, slowly and gently stir the chocolate into the milk using a folding motion. The chocolate will begin to melt immediately, but it takes several minutes to completely melt and to combine it with the milk and marshmallows.
Allow the chocolate mixture to cool until it is near room temperature. Meanwhile whip the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add the confectioners’ sugar and continue to whip until strong peaks form. When the chocolate has cooled, slowly begin adding it to the whipped cream, folding it in with every addition (you can also use your mixer on low speed). Make sure to give the bowl a good scraping when you are finished adding the chocolate to avoid any stripes in your tart. When all of the chocolate has been added to the whipped cream, pour the chocolate mixture into the crust and smooth the top with a spatula. Place the tart in the freezer for at least four hours. This may be served with sweetened whipped cream but it is wonderful all by itself.
My limited research over the years has resulted in the following bullet points on chocolate etiquette. When trying to melt chocolate and combine it with other things: 1) don’t expose it to even a drop of water and don’t melt it in too little liquid if using liquid; 2) don’t burn it and don’t even get it too hot; 3) don’t dump hot melted chocolate into something cold and don’t put cold things into melted chocolate. Why? Chocolate actually has a crystal structure and it matters how you melt it and how it cools back down (re-crystallizes). The two things you are trying to avoid are SEIZING and SPECKS. If chocolate has ever seized on you, you know it. It goes from melting and lovely to a chunk of solid wasted awfulness in the period of 10 seconds. It is like the chocolate equivalent to fingernails on a chalkboard.
The specks, well, let’s just say I have an ongoing battle with them. They can happen if you burn your chocolate, or more likely in this dessert, 1) if you don’t let the chocolate melt all the way into the marshmallows and milk, or 2) if you fold the chocolate into the whipped cream when it is still too hot, causing little bits of chocolate to harden into specks. It is like mini-chips in your dessert. Good news…this outcome is not perfect, but you will not taste any difference (unless you burned the chocolate) and no one will know unless you tell them or they are a pastry chef. All of this comes into play here so I’ve just made the instructions in keeping with these issues. If you follow my directions, you will not encounter seizing unless you actually get water in your chocolate. And you will not encounter specks if you let the chocolate cool before adding it to the whipped cream.
If you are a chocolate pro (I am not), and you have anything to add…or any helpful advice on chocolate behavior, I’m sure we would all like to hear it. So, comment below and lets all learn together.
NOTE: Those paying attention will see that the speck phenomenon is the nemesis of those who multi-task and do not have a personal SLOW setting. I want the chocolate to be melted NOW (burnt). I want to dump the chocolate into the whipped cream NOW (specks and melted whipped cream). So, while this dessert comes together rather quickly, it cannot be rushed. Plus don’t forget to factor in freezer time when deciding about when to begin the recipe. Clear out a spot in the freezer before you even start the crust.