While writing S'more Murders, the 5th Five-ingredient Mystery, I researched the history of s'mores.
A s'more is a sandwich of a toasted marshmallow and a piece of chocolate bar between two graham crackers. This treat isn't the product of a chef's kitchen, but of cookouts where children made their own desserts over campfires.
The first printed recipe for s’mores is in the 1927 Girl Scout handbook, "Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts." The recipe continued to be in Girl Scout publications under the name "Some More" for the next five decades. Though it took the scouts to figure out how to combine the three ingredients, The ingredients of s’mores are all products of the 19th century.
Presbyterian minister and dietary reformer of the early 19th century, Sylvester Graham, promoted temperance and vegetarianism. He believed in using whole grains as a remedy for the poor health. His followers, known as Grahamites, developed and marketed graham flour, bread, and crackers. Opposed to adding spices or stimulants to food, the minister would be appalled at the use of graham crackers for s’mores.
For nearly all of its long history, chocolate was prepared as a drink. Mayan tombs have residue of chocolate on them. After chocolate was imported into Europe from the New World in the 16th century, it was used to make hot cocoa, served along with tea and coffee. In 1847 a solid form of chocolate candy was introduced by an English manufacturer, Fry and Sons. A Swiss company created solid milk chocolate in 1876. Not long after that, arsenic-laced bonbons turned up as a murder weapon in real life and in mysteries.
The third component of s’mores has a long history. In ancient Egypt the sap of the marsh mallow (a relative of the hollyhock) was used for medicinal purposes. Early in the 19th century French confectioners created spongy treats by whipping dried marshmallow roots with sugar, water, and egg whites, and sold them in the form of lozenges. By the end of the century, a new process and the addition of gelatin resulted in a more stable form of marshmallow that would get gooey when heated without falling apart.
S’mores have come a long way. They aren't just for campfires anymore.
Upscale restaurants now serve s'more layer cakes, s'more pies, and s'more parfaits. All of them start with the same three humble ingredients as the campfire treat the scouts popularized a century ago.
Read more about S'more Murders.