Big Daddy Marshmallow Bars from 'Theo Chocolate'

This week we’re taking a break from healthy recipes to focus on one of our favorite, anti-oxidant rich ingredients: chocolate. Below, we’ve chosen an excerpt from Theo Chocolate: Recipes & Sweet Secrets from Seattle’s Favorite Chocolate Maker Featuring 75 Recipes Both Sweet & Savoryby Debra Music and Joe Whinney (Sasquatch Books), which focuses on decadent treats perfect for this time of year. Try making the recipes at home and let us know what you think!


Photograph by Charity Burggraaf

Big Daddy Marshmallow Bars
Makes 18 candy bars or 54 “Fun-size” candies

Here’s another Theo original, inspired by everyone’s summertime, gather-round-the- campfire favorite: s’mores. To make these decadent, chewy, fluffy, totally over-the-top morsels, we start with a handmade graham cracker crust, add a layer of buttery, vanilla- infused caramel, and stack a marshmallow cloud on top—then we envelop it all in a blanket of dark chocolate. The recipe took many months to perfect, but Big Daddies have been a Theo favorite since the moment we introduced them—and now you can make them yourself!

For the graham cracker crust:
7 tablespoons (2 ounces) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons (1 ounce) graham flour
1½ tablespoons (¾ ounce) sugar
¼ teaspoon baking soda
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
4 teaspoons honey
¾ teaspoon molasses

For the caramel layer:
¼ vanilla bean
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons (¼ stick) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces

For the marshmallow layer:
1 packet (7 grams) powdered gelatin
3 tablespoons cold water
½ cup light corn syrup
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch kosher salt
Cornstarch, for dusting

About 3 pounds tempered Theo milk or dark chocolate, for coating

To make the graham cracker crust, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with parchment paper or a Silpat mat and lightly oil the sides of the pan.

Put the flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to blend well. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal.

In a small bowl, stir together the honey and molasses. Add this mixture to the bowl of the food processor and process until completely mixed and no streaks of honey remain.

Press the dough into the prepared pan. It might not look like there is enough dough, but there is! Use a fork to prick the dough every inch or so. Bake until firm and deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. (Don’t underbake: you want the crust to be crispy.) Set aside on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the caramel, use the quantities listed here and follow the instructions for Vanilla Caramels (see recipe below) through step 5, then use a small (2- to 3-quart) saucepan to cook the caramel to make it easier to measure the temperature. After you’ve thoroughly mixed the butter into the hot caramel, pour the caramel over the crust (but don’t scrape out the saucepan—the last bit of caramel will probably have cooked for too long in the residual heat of the pan, and it will get too hard when it sets). Allow the caramel to cool until it’s just barely warm to the touch before you make the marshmallow.

To make the marshmallow, use the quantities listed on the following page and follow the instructions for Marshmallows (see Marshmallows recipe below), with these exceptions: use a small (2-quart) saucepan to cook the sugar to make it easier to measure the temperature. Cook the sugar over low heat until it has dissolved completely. When whisking the marshmallow, it will only take about a minute at medium speed to get the mixture frothy and pale. After adding the vanilla and salt, increase the speed to high and whisk until the marshmallow is thick and very white, about 3 minutes.

When the marshmallow is ready, move as quickly as you can to pour it in an even layer over the caramel (such a small amount will set up very quickly). Use a small metal offset spatula to push the marshmallow into the corners of the pan and get the top relatively smooth. As the marshmallow sits, it will level itself. Let the pan sit for between 12 and 24 hours, uncovered, to set.

Dust the top of the marshmallow layer with cornstarch and then follow the instructions in Dipping Candy Bars (see “Dipping Candy Bars” below) to cut, coat, and dip the bars in the tempered chocolate. The bars will keep at room temperature for up to 3 months.

Vanilla Caramels
Makes one 9-by-13-inch pan of caramels (about 96 one-inch-square pieces)

½ vanilla bean
4¾ cups heavy cream
¾ cup light corn syrup
4½ cups sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
About 3 pounds tempered Theo milk or dark chocolate for dipping (optional)
Flaked sea salt (such as Jacobsen Salt Co.’s), for decoration (optional)

Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Use the back of a knife to scrape out the seeds from both halves. In a large saucepan, combine the seeds, bean, and the cream. Bring the cream to a simmer, then remove the pan from the heat, cover it, and let the vanilla steep for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, line a 9-by-13-inch pan with a Silpat mat and lightly oil the sides of the pan. (Or you can line the pan with 2 strips of parchment paper, one lengthwise and one widthwise, both of them long enough to hang over the sides of the pan. Spray the parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray.)

Put the corn syrup in a bowl large enough to hold it as well as the cream. When the vanilla has steeped, return the pan back to the heat. Bring the cream back up to a simmer, then strain it over the corn syrup, pressing on the solids to extract as much of the flavor and seeds as possible. Cover the bowl with a piece of aluminum foil to keep the cream mixture warm, and set aside near the stove.

Put about ½ cup of the sugar into a large (at least 5- to 6-quart) heavy-bottomed pot, ideally a copper jam pot. Cook the sugar over medium heat without stirring until at least half of it has liquefied, then use a wooden spoon to gently stir it, incorporating the dry sugar into the melted sugar. When it has turned golden and there’s no dry sugar left, sprinkle another ½ cup of the sugar over the surface of the caramelizing sugar and gently stir to incorporate. Repeat this, ½ cup sugar at a time, until you’ve incorporated all the sugar. Don’t add more sugar until the previous addition has melted. If any lumps form, just press on them with the spoon and stir to let the bits melt.

When all the sugar has been added, increase the heat slightly, and stir the caramel gently. It will go from looking opaque and grainy to shiny, smooth, more liquid, and the color will darken as well. When it’s perfectly smooth, very liquid, and just beginning to smoke, add about 1 cup of the cream mixture. Be very careful—wear an oven mitt and stand back—the caramel will bubble and steam vigorously. Stir to thoroughly mix in the cream. When the steam has subsided and the bubbles are lavalike, velvety, and popping slowly, add another cup of the cream. Repeat this process until you’ve added all the cream. Be sure to wait at least 1 minute between additions to let the caramel heat up again. (If the caramel gets too cool, or the temperature fluctuates too much, it can crystallize or seize.)

Makes one 9-by-13-inch pan of marshmallows (about sixty-three 1¼-inch square pieces)

Vegetable oil, for greasing
4 packets (1 ounce total) powdered gelatin
⅔ cup cold water
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2¼ cups sugar
⅔ cup water
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Cornstarch, for dusting

Line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan with a Silpat mat or parchment paper. Pour a nickel-size drop of vegetable oil in the center, and spread it all over the Silpat or parchment paper and up the sides of the baking pan. Set the pan aside. Connect the whisk attachment and bowl to a stand mixer.

Put the gelatin in a small microwave-safe bowl and add the cold water, stirring gently to combine. Set aside to soften.

Pour the corn syrup into a medium microwave-safe container, such as a 2- or 4-cup Pyrex liquid measuring cup, and heat in the microwave until the syrup is quite warm (almost hot) and very liquefied. Set aside next to the stove.

Put the sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan (at least 2 quarts, but no more than 4½ quarts, or it gets too difficult to mea- sure the temperature of the sugar syrup). Add the water, stirring gently, without letting any sugar syrup splash onto the sides of the pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to help the sugar melt evenly.

Meanwhile, melt the gelatin in the microwave until liquid. Don’t overheat it. This will only take a few seconds—you may want to partially melt it, give it a stir, then melt it the rest of the way. Set aside next to the corn syrup.

Use a candy thermometer to carefully check the temperature of the sugar syrup. When it reaches 238 to 240 degrees F, immediately turn off the heat and add the warm corn syrup, mixing gently, then stir in the gelatin.

Pour the hot sugar mixture into the bowl of the stand mixer and whisk it on low for about 10 seconds to mix the ingredients. Increase the speed to medium and whisk until the mixture is frothy and pale throughout, about 3 minutes. Increase the speed to high and whisk until the mixture turns white, about another minute. Add the vanilla and salt, whisk on low to blend, then increase the speed to high and whisk until the mixture is very thick and just warm, another 3 to 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.

Allow the marshmallow to sit uncovered in a cool, dry place overnight to set and cure. (It will set up completely in 4 to 6 hours, but the flavor and texture will improve if you can muster the self-control to leave it overnight.)

When you’re ready to cut the marshmallows, dust the top with cornstarch, then turn the pan upside down on a cutting board. Peel off the Silpat mat or parchment paper and dust the top again with cornstarch. Spray a long, sharp knife with cooking spray and wipe off the excess (or just wipe the knife with a paper towel moistened with a little oil) and cut 12 (1-inch) strips across the length of the block (each strip will be about 9 inches long). Wash and dry the knife as necessary between cuts. Turn the strips so that one of their sticky sides faces up, dust with cornstarch, then flip them all over and dust the other sticky side. Line up 4 or 5 strips and cut them into 8 cubes each, then repeat with the remaining strips. Sift some corn- starch into a bowl and toss a handful of marshmallows at a time to lightly coat the sticky sides, then shake them gently to remove the excess. Repeat with the remaining marshmallows. Stored in an airtight container at room temperature, the marshmallows will keep for 3 to 4 weeks.

Dipping Candy Bars

To dip candy, run a small metal offset spatula along the edges of the pan of candy to loosen the contents. Place a piece of parchment paper over the pan and set a cutting board on top. Flip the pan and the cutting board, holding them together tightly, so that the cutting board is on the bottom. Lift off the pan, leaving the candy on the cutting board. Some types of candy will slide out more quickly than others.

Spread a thin layer of tempered chocolate on whichever side of the candy will be the bottom. This coating provides a sturdy base to protect the candy bar when you are coating it with the tempered chocolate.

Once that chocolate layer has set, turn the block of candy over so that the chocolate is on the bottom, and cut it into individual servings with a lightly oiled, sharp long knife. If the knife gets sticky, clean it well before continuing. If you cut the pieces small enough, you can dip them into tempered chocolate as you would dip ganache confections. If they are too large to use a dipping fork, the easiest method we’ve found to use at home involves setting them about 1 inch apart on a cooling rack set over a sheet pan, then slowly ladling tempered chocolate over them. (You won’t have to worry about covering the bottoms because they’ve already been covered with chocolate.) You can scrape up the excess chocolate and either temper it again if it’s very clean, or use it in another recipe.

Reprinted with permission from Theo Chocolate: Recipes & Sweet Secrets from Seattle’s Favorite Chocolate Maker Featuring 75 Recipes Both Sweet & Savory by Debra Music and Joe Whinney (Sasquatch Books).


More chocolate treats to love:

Apple Cider Caramels

Ooey Gooey Mississippi Mud Brownies

How to Make Homemade Chocolate Zingers