My oldest daughter, who is six, loves s’mores. She is, however, intensely afraid of open flames, so actually making them is not an option at the moment. Sure, we could pop the assembled s’more in the microwave and watch the marshmallow puff up (don’t think we don’t do that for peeps in the spring), but then we wouldn’t get the toasty roasty flavor that makes a s’more so special. She recently asked me to make something that tasted like a s’more without her having to do any roasting. She did not ask me to combine chocolate and marshmallows with cheesecake, and in fact seemed pretty skeptical when I started experimenting with this, but I did it anyway. Luckily for me, she was too busy trying to sneak bites of the finished cheesecake bars while I was trying to photograph them to remember that they weren’t exactly what she asked for.
My love affair with cheesecake started at a young age. My mom’s hair salon happened to be next to a cheesecake shop (seriously, they only make cheesecake, and they’re still around if you’re in the metro Detroit area). When I went with her and waited while she got her hair done, she’d let me have a cheesecake cupcake. I’d go for the original, plain cheesecake with the graham cracker crumb, and I’ve been unable to turn down a slice of cheesecake ever since.
I decided to make these bars rather than a whole cake to mimic the size of a s’more. Then, in thinking about how to get the components of a s’more into a cheesecake in a way that still lets you taste each element, I remembered a recipe for marbled cheesecake I’d seen in Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home To Yours. (I’ve taken inspiration from this book before here). She suggested taking a third of your cheesecake batter and adding melted chocolate to it, then either layering or swirling it with the plain cheesecake. I decided to use a similar approach, but added marshmallows into the chocolate layer as well.
I made a thick graham cracker crust to make sure that each bar had some crunch, and then whipped together cream cheese, sugar, salt, vanilla, eggs, and sour cream to make a cheesecake batter while it parbaked. I created the chocolate layer by taking a cup of the batter and mixing it with melted chocolate and mini-marshmallows. Once the crust had cooled after its initial bake, I layered the chocolate cheesecake layer on top, followed by the plain cheesecake.
This ended up being delicious, but it still needed more roasted marshmallow flavor. After cooling the cheesecake overnight, I cut up the bars into nine pieces (you could easily cut them into smaller pieces to serve more – these are really rich, so a little goes a long way). Then I added a shiny chocolate sauce to the top of each bar, broiled some mini-marshmallows for a few seconds to toast them, and sprinkled them on top. The result is a bar that has the crunch of a graham cracker crust, the creaminess of cheesecake, and the chocolate and roasted marshmallow flavors of a s’more. It’s a cool and rich treat on a summer day that still packs the flavor of a campfire s’more.
- 1 ¾ cups Graham crackers, crushed (15 crackers)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 5 tablespoons butter, melted
- 16 oz cream cheese (2 packages), at room temperature
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup bittersweet or dark chocolate chips, melted and cooled
- 1 cup mini marshmallows, plus extra for garnish
- ¾ cup dark chocolate chips
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Get out an 8” by 8” baking pan and line it with a piece of aluminum foil large enough to cover the bottom and overhang the sides. Butter the foil completely.
- Combine the graham crackers and sugar in a medium bowl. Pour the melted butter over it and stir with a fork until combined.
- Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes, then take out of the oven and let it cool while you make the cheesecake filling.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the sugar and salt and beat for a few minutes more, until fluffy.
- Add the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time, beating for about a minute after each egg is added. Add the sour cream and beat to combine. This makes about three cups of cheesecake filling.
- Pour 1 cup of the filling into a large measuring cup or small bowl. Stir in the melted and cooled bittersweet or dark chocolate, then the mini-marshmallows.
- Pour the chocolate layer into the pan and smooth with a rubber spatula.
- Pour the plain cheesecake layer over the top, smooth with a clean spatula, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until puffed up and the edges are just beginning to brown.
- Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight. When ready to put on the toppings, cut into desired sizes and top individually.
- Put ¾ dark chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl.
- Heat heavy cream over medium-high heat until simmering, then pour over chocolate chips and let sit for 5 minutes.
- Whisk together and pour over cheesecake bars as desired. Cool in the fridge for a few minutes to allow chocolate to harden.
- For the marshmallows, if using a hand torch, place the marshmallows on top of the cheesecake bars and then brown as desired. If you don’t have a hand torch, place about a cup of mini-marshmallows onto a greased baking pan, spreading them throughout the pan so they don’t all melt into one big gooey mass. Pre-heat your oven’s broiler to high. Place the pan under the broiler, watching the marshmallows constantly to make sure they don’t burn. This took me about 45 seconds, and I left the door propped open slightly so I could see when they were done. Place marshmallows as desired on top of cheesecake bars and serve.