As much as I love rolling up my sleeves, getting in the kitchen and baking up all kinds of desserts, one of my very favorite treats is actually no-bake and comprised of just three ingredients: s’mores! You simply can’t go wrong with the combination of marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers. My favorite part of a s’more has always been the marshmallows. While I don’t adore marshmallows in their natural state, add some fire to the equation and it’s a completely different story. I’ve always been the type to “toast” my marshmallows until they catch fire and then blow them out so they’re left with a dark crackly exterior and a warm gooey interior. We don’t have a fire pit at our house so s’mores are a very occasional treat though I will admit to having toasted marshmallows over the flame on our gas stove a few times when desperate :)
The simple, classic s’more will probably always be my favorite, but it’s also fun to try s’mores inspired treats. These cheesecake bars are a cool variation – a graham cracker crust topped with a creamy chocolate cheesecake layer and finished with toasted marshmallows and melted chocolate. I used my kitchen torch on the marshmallows and let them catch on fire briefly to replicate that authentic campfire taste. You could probably also brown the marshmallows under your broiler if you don’t have a torch (just watch them very carefully), but I baked in a glass pan and wasn’t confident about sticking it under the broiler. I used milk chocolate in the cheesecake layer because that’s what I would use if I were making classic s’mores, but I think semisweet or bittersweet is probably a better option in these bars and I’ll go that route next time.
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (from about 7 graham crackers)
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
4 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1/2 cup marshmallow cream
2 teaspoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
Milk chocolate chips, melted (optional)
To make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil leaving an overhang on opposite sides to lift the bars out. Spray the lined pan with cooking spray. Stir the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, salt and melted butter together in a small bowl with a fork until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Press the mixture in an even layer into the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden and fragrant. Transfer the pan to a wire rack while you prepare the filling. Reduce oven temperature to 325 F.
To make the filling: Put the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in 30 second bursts on 50% powder, stirring in between, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, sour cream and marshmallow cream on medium-high speed until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Add the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and eggs to the bowl and beat until incorporated. Finally, beat in the melted chocolate. Give the batter a final stir with a rubber spatula to ensure everything is evenly combined. Pour the filling over the graham cracker crust and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the center is just set (does not jiggle when shaken gently). Transfer the pan to a wire rack and spread the mini marshmallows evenly over the cheesecake layer. Return the pan to the oven for about 2-3 minutes, or until the marshmallows just begin to melt into one another. Remove the pan to the wire rack and, using a kitchen torch, brown the tops of the marshmallows. Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature then drizzle with melted chocolate, if desired. Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours before cutting into squares and serving.