Christian Hansen, cheesemaker and founder of South Carolina’s Blue Ridge Creamery, isn’t afraid to take risks. When asked to create a dish for a “glamping”-themed dinner at the 2019 Charleston Wine and Food Festival, he “immediately latched on to the idea of a cheesy riff on s’mores,” he says.
Hansen partnered with master baker Lionel Vatinet of La Farm Bakery in Cary, N.C., and LaRue Fine Chocolate from Pickens, S.C., to execute the idea. Vatinet baked slightly salty graham crackers, and LaRue created bite-size mendiants, or round chocolate discs, garnished with nuts and candied orange zest to pair with Hansen’s cheese of choice. He selected an unctuous, ripe Camembert, calling it a “grownup ingredient to play the role of that gooey, perfectly roasted marshmallow — without having to be heated at all,” he says.
The resulting s’mores were both salty and sweet, sophisticated yet familiar. Dark chocolate is high in alkaloids and provides light bitterness to contrast with the richness of the Camembert. While the cheese coats the tongue, Hansen explains, the chocolate acts as a palate cleanser. “Think of this pairing like a dry red wine, providing a counterpoint to well-marbled ribeye,” he says.
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While home cooks don’t necessarily have access to Vatinet’s custom crackers and mendiants, cheesy s’mores are relatively easy to recreate. The key to a successful cheese s’more, Hansen says, is a ripe, bloomy rind cheese that’s borderline runny. Camembert, double- or triple-crème cheeses, and Spanish torta cheeses are all perfectly spoonable options. Texture is paramount, so he advises against Brie, which can get greasy, or pungent blue cheeses. “I think we’d lose that visceral connection with what eating a s’more should feel like, not just what it tastes like,” he says.
Pair your cheese with the best quality dark chocolate and graham crackers you can afford, and a crisp glass of cider or slightly spritzy Vinho Verde. While these s’mores don’t require a campfire to construct, we doubt anyone will be mad if you build one anyway.
Cheese ‘S’mores’ Recipe
This recipe serves two, but can easily be multiplied for a crowd.
- 1 ounce Camembert (or similar type of cheese)
- 1 mendiant disc or two 1-inch-square pieces of dark chocolate
- 4 graham crackers
- Place two graham crackers on a plate or cutting board.
- Slather approximately 1 ounce of cheese on one graham cracker, and cover the other with chocolate.
- Place second graham cracker on top and sandwich together. Repeat for second s’more, and again as needed to satisfy cravings.