Lemon Ginger Shortbread S’mores

homemade smores
He was pretty angry at having to cross four lanes of traffic so I could barf along the side of the road on the Schuylkill Expressway. He probably never knew about all the times I held it in until we paused at a rest stop. But I don’t think my dad will ever forgive me for yakking in the back seat of his Porsche.

To be fair, it wasn’t the first time I had tangled with motion sickness and lost, so my dad and stepmom were somewhat prepared for what was going down. A beach towel (why did we have a beach towel when we were taking a trip to Toronto? Still a mystery.) was quickly thrown into my lap, though not quick enough to offset all the damage. My Mickey Mouse sweatshirt and denim skirt also took a pretty direct hit.

It was only after this particular instance of breakfast suddenly meeting Porsche leather in a spectacularly violent fashion that my parents started putting two and two together. Casey is a nerdling who reads in the car… Casey is a sensitive flower who always throws up in the car… DING DING DING.

Thus began a lifetime ban from cracking a book on any car trip, even to the grocery store or (gasp!) library. The Walkman, then later the Discman, then later the iPod became my constant travel companion. I got to be scarily adept at dropping into a deep catnap on any moving vehicle.

Since I can’t read in the car—even checking Facebook on my phone can give me the jibblies—and because listening to music tends to lull me into a thoughtful stupor, by now I’m used to my mind wandering and taking long trips of its own on multi-hour car rides. Like a personal game of Telephone, a simple discussion on the brilliance of Bob’s Burgers can lead me down five different mental tangents so that the next thing that comes out of my mouth is “I really think I should start trying to make my own cheese.”

(See, on Bob’s Burgers, there’s a character named Jimmy Pesto, and pesto usually contains basil, and I can never get basil to grow in my garden, and I’d also like to grow a fig tree in our yard but think I’ll kill it, but I do like to eat fig jam with cheeses, and wouldn’t it be nice if you could have wheels of cheese aging in your basement at all times?)

This is how overly ambitious dishes come about. If, say, the concept of s’mores drifts idly through my brain, why wouldn’t I start thinking about graham flour, and how maybe you could make a shortbread cookie with it? Or how a little lemon zest… and ginger?… might make their way into that cookie? And at this point, it would be silly not to add some ginger to the chocolate layer. Which means that the marshmallow on top should definitely taste like lemon. Why not?

homemade smores
If you’ve never attempted homemade marshmallows, and you’ve got a stand mixer, a candy thermometer, and a bit of an adventurous spirit, I strongly urge you to try it just once. The big hurdle for most home cooks is finding gelatin sheets, which have a sturdier protein structure than egg whites do and give the marshmallow its signature bounce; the gelatin makes a stronger, more shapeable goo that won’t weep moisture or deflate over time.

Amazon sells gelatin sheets, as do many dedicated baking stores like my favorite, New York Cake, and they never go bad, according to David Lebovitz. He also has a wonderfully comprehensive gelatin FAQ that includes a ratio for using powdered gelatin in place of the sheets, if you’re willing to give it a try. (I haven’t tried yet, so report back if you do attempt it!)

Honestly, the shortbread is fantastic on its own, and if you wanted to make it a softer, chewier cookie, just omit one of the cups of graham flour. Topping it with lemon curd and a blob of homemade marshmallow fluff (no gelatin or stand mixer required) makes it a lemon meringue cookie instead of a s’more-stravaganza.

Oh, and ginger is a natural digestive—dare I suggest bringing a few along on your next road trip? You might also want to bring a beach towel, though; I make no guarantees.

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  1. Joan says

    Wow, do these sound good despite the queasy beginning of this story!! Don’t know that I have the patience to make all these homemade ingredients, but I’d sure love to try them sometime when I’m visiting my grand-cats! :)

  2. wino says

    Very funny. Sometimes good things come out of unpleasent things.
    The S’mores look terrific, but please do not eat any before a long trip.

  3. says

    I seem to recall that there is a vegetarian ingredient one can use in place of gelatin, but what it is escapes me at the moment. do you know, Casey? and have you tried it?

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      Kerry, just tonight I got a recipe for marshmallows that uses xanthan gum (the same stabilizer used in a lot of gluten free baking recipes) in place of gelatin. I’ll play with it and update the recipe with my findings – and email you directly when I do so.

  4. Carol Mastria says

    Hi Casey! Looking for the graham flour and even Whole Foods staff looked at me like I was crazy! Seems no one has heard of it, although the manager of the Foodtown in Cedar Grove will look for it for me. Can I just run graham crackers through the food processor? I’m going to try that tomorrow because I want the cookie part of this.
    ps. I have a yummy peanut butter kandy kake recipe that I made for my husband’s birthday. He said it is better than the store ones. Let me know if you want it. See you soon!

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      Carol, larger Whole Foods markets like the one in West Orange (shock! now you all know my local Whole Foods and can stalk me there accordingly) do have it in the baking aisle – it’s with all the other Bob’s Red Mill products. King Arthur Flour also carries a whole wheat pastry flour/graham flour online, so in a pinch, you can use whole wheat flour. In this recipe, I would substitute cake flour for the all purpose flour and whole wheat flour for the graham flour if necessary.

      Regular graham crackers run through the food processor won’t work as well because they’ve already been baked – the flour in the crackers has already been cooked once, so it won’t have the same effect on soaking up the butter and sugar.

  5. says

    Thanks for this recipe. These sound delicious. I totally get car-sickness when reading by the way. I have never been able to do it. My husband? Reads the whole trip. Ugh!

  6. NoPotCoooking says

    I haven’t made marshmallows, but maybe I will give it a try. These look sooo good – a grown up twist on a child’s dessert!

  7. Jane Boursaw says

    Holy cow, those look dreamy. And I could never read in the car as a youngster without getting sick, but oddly, have been able to in recent years. Maybe all that time reading stuff on my iPhone is shifting my sensibilities or something. It’s weird.

  8. Sheryl says

    Every single time I took a car trip as a kid,we always had to pull over. Not much has changed, either.
    These S’mores look quite awesome, though!

  9. says

    I love this combination–so you put the ginger in the ganache. Brilliant. I don’t get car sick, but maybe I should feign it so I have an excuse to make these? Bananas also ease tummy troubles…

  10. says

    Well, at least some good has come of your wandering mind while riding. These look delicious. Motion sickness does tend to subside as we grow older. I had it terrible when I was a child and after a very eventful and not very pleasant train ride from Kansas City to California, I was drugged with dramamine for every long ride until I was about 11. No problems now. Maybe you can finally read in the car now!

  11. says

    Impressed you can even think about food if you’re in the passenger seat and fighting off motion sickness. (Fellow sufferer here, too, which is why I prefer to drive.)

    These treats look divine and, to echo Merr above, classy.