When I think of summer desserts, I always think of s’mores. Yet so many s’more desserts have a graham cracker crust that can be too gritty – especially when unnecessary sugar is added to a no-bake crust. If you have been following my blog, you may have notcied that I have a bad habit of starting out blog posts complaining about things I don’t like. Sorry about that! But I guess that’s part of the reason I got into recipe development to begin with – the appeal of taking something that’s been done before and making it better… to me, at least. Taste is of course so subjective.
So for this recipe, instead of going with a basic graham cracker crust, I added graham cracker crumbs to a sweet cookie tart crust. This gives it the flavor of graham crackers with none of the grittiness. Combined with vanilla pastry cream and bananas, and of course milk chocolate and toasted marshmallows, these s’mores banana cream tarts make for a perfect summer dessert.
Notes on Ingredients
Tart Crust Ingredients:
Graham Cracker Crumbs – I used Honey Maid honey graham crackers. These are the kind that I usually use to make s’mores. Obviously, if you use a different flavor or brand, the taste and texture of the crust may be different.
Egg Yolks – I hate when recipes call for only whites or only yolks, and I end up forgetting to use the extras in something else. However, when I tried to use one whole egg in this recipe, the crust came out a bit tough. The yolks add richness to the crust while keeping the texture soft, so it really is better to use them. Extra egg whites are easier to use up than extra yolks anyway. You can scramble them, make an omelette or egg drop soup, or even make meringues.
Pastry Cream Ingredients
Flour – Most pastry cream recipes call for cornstarch, but I prefer the flavor and texture that flour brings. If you can’t use flour, substitute 1 ½ tbsp cornstarch.
Milk Chocolate – I used milk chocolate because I like it the best in s’mores. Dark or white chocolate would also be amazing, it just depends on your preference. Since there is a lot of chocolate here, use a high quality chocolate bar, like Lindt. I don’t recommend using a candy bar or chocolate chips. When melted, these have a waxy texture that doesn’t work well in a ganache.
Notes on Technique
How to Make a Butter Tart Crust:
- If you are using butter in a pie or tart crust, always use it cold. Keep it in the refrigerator until just before using. Some people even freeze their butter and grate it into the flour.
- Chill the dough before rolling and pressing into the tart pans, then chill again before baking. This will keep the butter cold and help prevent it from melting and leaking out during baking.
Rolling the Dough
- After chilling, take the dough out and let it sit for a few minutes to warm up just a tiny bit. If it is too warm, the butter will melt, but if it is too cold, it will tear easily.
- There are two ways of shaping crusts for mini pies and tarts: rolling all the dough out at once and cutting out circles, or dividing the dough into portions and rolling each portion separately. For me, cutting out circles is the quicker and much less frustrating method, even if it does mean you end up with scraps. If you don’t have a cookie cutter the right size, you can make a template from parchement paper, or use a bowl or plate that is right diameter.
- Measure your tart pans. I’ve found that the size of tart pans varies greatly, especially if you are using vintage pans. Yet even new ones are frequently not the size they claim to be. My 4-inch tart pans are actually 4.33 inches on the bottom. You will need to measure the diameter of the bottom of the pan, and then add the height of the pan x 2. So for my pans, which were 1 inch high, I needed to cut out circles with a 6.33 inch diameter.
- Transfer each circle to a pan, and press the bottom down first. Then press the sides from the bottom up. If there is excess crust hanging over the edges, you can press down with the rolling pin to cut it off.
How to Make Pastry Cream:
The most difficult part of making pastry cream is preventing the eggs from scrambling. The trick is to temper the eggs, which means to heat them very slowly, whisking the warmed milk mixture into the eggs a little at a time before returning it to full heat. The proteins in the egg whites coagulate at a lower temperature than the yolks, making them harder to work with. For years, I only used yolks in pastry cream because the whites always scrambled. It was only recently that I learned two key factors in how well egg whites temper.
- Make sure the eggs have come all the way to room temperature before using them in pastry cream. I let them sit out for at least two hours beforehand.
- Use a thermometer to make sure the temperature does not rise above 170 F. Once it hits 180, my egg whites always scramble.
If you follow these steps, and make sure the eggs heat slowly, you can easily make delicious, smooth pastry cream with whole eggs.
S'mores Banana Cream Tarts
For the Graham Cookie Crust:
- 1 cup crushed graham crackers (85 g)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (125 g)
- 8 tbsp cold butter (113 g)
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup heavy cream (60 ml)
For the Pastry Cream:
- 1 1/3 cup milk (315 ml)
- 1/4 cup sugar (50 g)
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour (24 g)
- 2 whole eggs room temperature
- 2 tbsp butter (28 g) room temperature
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For the Ganache:
- 8 oz milk chocolate bar (like Lindt) (230 g)
- 1/3 cup heavy cream (80 ml)
- 3 bananas
- 2 tsp lemon or lime juice
- 18 large marshmallows
Graham Cookie Crust
- First, crush the graham crackers in a food processor. Measure 1 cup of crumbs, and remove any extra from the food processor. In a seperate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and cream.
- Add the flour to the food processer and pulse until the flour and graham cracker crumbs are combined. Then quickly cut the cold butter into large chunks and add to the food processor. Pulse until the butter is in small pieces, about 8-10 pulses.
- Add the yolk and cream mixture to the food processor and pulse until the dough forms a large mass, about 8-10 more pulses. Then flatten the dough into a small rectangle and cover with plastic wrap. Chill it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
- Measure your tart pans. Add the diameter of the pan and the height of both sides to get the diameter of the circles you will need to cut out. For my 4 inch tart pans, I cut out 6 inch circles.
- Roll the crust dough until it is about 1/4 an inch thick. Use a cookie cutter or template to cut out the circles. If you run out of room, combine the scraps and roll them out again.
- Press the crusts into the tart pans. If the crusts are hanging over, press the rolling pin over the pan edges to cut off the excess. Use a fork to poke holes in the bottoms of the crusts, then chill them for about 20 minutes. Preheat your oven to 400° F (220° C.)
- After the crusts have chilled, bake them for about 5 minutes at 425° F. Then lower the temperature to 350° F (180° C) and bake for another 5 minutes. If you are using pie weights, keep them in for about the first 7 minutes of baking, and then remove.
- Allow the crusts to cool for about 20 minutes before removing them from the pans.
- Make sure the eggs are at room temperature before making the pastry cream. Whisk them together in a medium bowl and set it near your stove. Cut the butter into a few small pieces and keep it and the vanilla extract nearby as well.
- In a 2 qt saucepan, whisk together the milk, sugar, salt, and flour until they are well combined and free of lumps. Then begin cooking the mixture on low to medium heat. Cook until it begins to thicken, at about 150° F (65° C.)
- Once the mixture has thickened somewhat, and is no higher than 150° F, add a small ladlefull to the eggs, whisking well after adding. Continue to add one ladlefull at a time, whisking after each addition, until most of the milk mixture had been moved to the bowl.
- Briefly remove the saucepan from the heat to pour the milk and egg mixture back in, whisking well, then return it to medium-low heat. Cook until the pastry cream begins to thicken even more, which should happen at about 160° F (70° C.) When it reaches 170° F (77° C) turn off the heat. Do not allow it to reach 180° F (82° C.) While the pastry cream is still hot, add the butter, whisking slowly until it has completely melted, and then whisk in the vanilla extract.
- Let the pastry cream cool to room temperature, then chill it in the refrigerator for about 1.5 hours.
- Combine the chocolate and cream in a double boiler or large bowl placed over a pan of simmering water, stirring continusly until the ganache is smooth. Let it cool for 5-10 minutes before assembling the tarts.
- The first three components can be made beforehand and stored. The crusts can be stored at room temperature, and the pastry cream and ganache should be stored in the refrigerator. Store for up to 3-4 days. To reheat the ganache, you can microwave it in bursts of 15 seconds, stirring in between.
- Just before assembling, chop the bananas and toss them with the lemon juice. Fill the crusts with the pastry cream, then add the ganache and bananas on top. Lastly, top the tarts with 3 large marshmallows each, and use a kitchen blowtorch toast them.