Ever since I made homemade moon pies over the summer, I’ve been itching to whip up a second batch. We left for vacation the day after I baked them the first time, so I didn’t really have a chance to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Rather than get started on my holiday baking early this week so I could avoid the usual last-minute madness (when will I learn?), I decided it would be a good time to attempt the moon pies again. I was perfectly content to make the same recipe and fully intended to so, until I came across this seasonal variation: gingerbread-maple moon pies!
Gingerbread graham crackers with molasses maple marshmallow filling and a dark chocolate glaze.
I know, right?
Don’t be intimidated by the various components involved in this recipe. Each of them is relatively simple and if you plan ahead, you can multitask and work on them in concert to speed things along. I do highly recommend reading the entire recipe before you get started – I say that only because I rarely (if ever) do, and I hate when it comes back to bite me. There is some hands-off time in the recipe for chilling/setting up, and I think it helps here to have a sense of the timing before you dive in.
The graham cracker cookies include whole wheat flour, honey, molasses and warm spices giving them a lot of flavor. They’re also pretty sturdy too, which is handy when it comes time to sandwich them with the marshmallow filling and dip them in the chocolate. As for the filling, it’s a fun spin on plain marshmallows that incorporates molasses, dark brown sugar and maple extract (I substituted maple syrup because I can’t find maple extract in any of my local grocery stores), and though the flavors are subtle, they complement the graham cracker cookies perfectly. In the past when I’ve posted things that are dipped in chocolate, I’ve had a lot of people ask how I get the chocolate so smooth. I don’t really have any secret tricks – I usually just place a fork underneath whatever I’m dipping, and use that to lift it out, letting the excess drip off. The underside (where the fork was) won’t be as pretty, but the top comes out perfectly! I also reheat the glaze as necessary to make sure it’s fluid – when it gets too firm, the excess won’t flow off as nicely and your coating won’t be as smooth.
If you find yourself with a little bit of extra time after Christmas is over, you have to give these a try! Whether you make the original or this variation, homemade moon pies are delicious, and just plain fun with a serious nostalgia factor at play 🙂
Gingerbread-Maple Moon Pies
from Gingerbread by Jennifer McGlinn
Gingerbread Graham Crackers
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Molasses Maple Marshmallow Filling
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
5 tablespoons water, divided
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon molasses
2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (a little less than 1 envelope)
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 maple extract
Dark Chocolate Glaze
12 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
To make the graham crackers: Add the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat briefly to combine. With the mixer on medium-low, add the butter one piece at a time. Once you’ve added it all, increase the speed of the mixer to medium, and beat until the texture of the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. In a measuring cup whisk together the honey, molasses, milk and vanilla then add it to the mixer, and beat just until the dough comes together (mine was sort of crumbly, but it turned out fine).
Turn the dough onto your work surface and shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough to a thickness of about 1/8-inch. Using a 2 3/4-inch round cookie cutter, cut rounds from the dough and transfer them to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Reroll the scraps and repeat. Use a fork to dock the graham crackers (poke holes in them).
Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown and firm. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks, and let the crackers cool for about 2 minutes before removing them to the rack to cool completely. (At this point you can store them in an airtight container for up to 4 days.)
To make the marshmallow filling: In a medium saucepan, combine both sugars, 3 tablespoons of the water, the corn syrup, and molasses. Set over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Continue cooking, without stirring, until the mixture registers 238 F on a candy thermometer, about 7-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of water to a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the top and set aside to allow the gelatin to soften. Add the egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. (Try to time it so the sugar and meringue are ready at the same time – if the meringue is ready first, set the mixer on the lowest speed and continue beating until the sugar gets up to temperature.)
When the sugar hits 238 F, turn off the heat under the pan and immediately add the softened gelatin. Stir to combine. With the mixer on medium-low speed, pour the sugar down the side of the bowl into the mixer in a steady stream. Add the vanilla and maple extracts then increase the mixer to high, and beat until the marshmallow is thick and the outside of the mixer bowl is cool to the touch.
Match the graham crackers in pairs by size. Pipe 1-2 tablespoons of the marshmallow filling onto the bottom of one cracker in each pair. Top with the other cracker, and gently press to sandwich, until the marshmallow filling is spread to the edges. Repeat with all pairs. Set aside for about 2 hours to allow the marshmallow to set.
To make the glaze: Add the chocolate to a heatproof bowl. Microwave in 20-second increments, stirring in between each, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in the vegetable oil. Set the moon pies on a wire rack with a piece of wax paper underneath. One at a time, add a moon pie to the chocolate and turn to coat completely. Use a fork, lift the moon pie out of the chocolate, allowing the excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl. Set the glazed moon pie back on the wire rack. Let the glaze set for about 1 hour.
Store the moon pies in an airtight container between sheets of parchment or waxed paper for up to 1 week.
Makes 16-18 moon pies