24 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
Make new friends but keep the old; those are silver, these are gold.
I made two S’Mores Pies in the span of two days last week. My important, necessary work was met with your murmur of, “Another s’mores pie? I’m impressed!” This pie is dangerously easy, meaning there is a very good chance one will be waiting to meet you at the end of a long day’s work more often than perhaps it should. (Aren’t you the one who joked about buying a house where I could bake pies to my heart’s content and cool them by the windowsill? This problem is your fault.)
Of all the pies, why S’Mores Pie? And why make two of them in two days? Fair question, and the answer can be found in a snippet of a conversation that happened several weeks ago now in my grandparents’ backyard between my BFF (as the Goobie girls would call her) Molly, and me.
The conversation happened during those in-between days after you packed up the trucks and set off for Kansas, but before the Goobies and I hopped on an airplane to follow you. We were camped out at my grandparents’ house, laying low and trying to catch our breath after the frenzied weeks that led up to that point. The reprieve of the quiet was soothing at first, but turned stifling pretty quick without our usual arsenal of scooters, barbie dolls, monster trucks and art supplies. So we bought a kiddie pool and amused ourselves by splashing each other all day long. The kids got bored and I got anxious: we said goodbye but hadn’t left yet, and that span of four days felt tiresome without you. (Luckily hanging out with grandparents still entertains the Goobies for hours on end; I think it was me that was more anxious to go.)
After a particularly insufferable day in which the heat and the attitudes converged and threatened to steal the last morsel of sanity left in reserve, my phone lit up and revealed a refreshing surprise from Molly: she was up from San Diego that weekend and wanted to know: “Any chance I could run up and give you a hug tomorrow?” My answer? Of course. I’m pretty sure I cried as I typed my reply, because my heart was feeling anxious and timid, like it needed a reminder that it could do brave, fun things. Molly always did that for me, and now on the verge of plunging into a great unknown, one more hug from a friend who has always given me the courage to be myself was a sweet gift indeed.
Molly loaded her boys up into her minivan and made the trip over to see us and wrapped us up in big monster hugs and hung out with us in my grandparents’ backyard one more time. We spent the morning watching her boys attack the bowl of salsa I set out on a whim, scooping it up with chips so fast I could have sworn the kids hadn’t eaten in weeks. (I guess that’s life with boys?). In between bites her boys regaled me on everything from Broadway musicals to All Star games, and grilled me about my favorite kinds of sauce (chocolate, of course). Molly updated me on her teacher-life and how her son will turn student in her English class this year, and taught me how to use Facebook Marketplace to snag an amazing deal. We talked camping and s’mores and allergies too, and then, (and this is the clincher)–she told me about s’mores pie. (Real friends share all their best secrets, don’t they?)
Our visit wasn’t emotionally charged with the pressure of saying goodbye; instead, it was just a normal visit. We’ve known each other since before we could speak or walk, and change is a constant in our friendship. College, marriage, children, moving away–every time something changes in our lives, John Rutter’s “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” rings in my ears and stings my eyes with the overflow of a swollen heart as we wrap our arms around each other for one more hug before parting. It reminds me of high school, and how things just kept changing after that last concert at Mission San Jose our senior year. All these years later, we knew this change wouldn’t alter our friendship. We parted ways with a hug and an unspoken (yet understood) blessing.
And so, S’mores Pie stuck with me since our last visit on that old patio that saw us through our growing up years. When new opportunities began presenting themselves to engage with the people who populate this new life of ours, Molly and S’mores Pie were the things I couldn’t shake, and I found myself feeling like a shy kid all over again, leaning on my more outgoing best friend to help steady me as I jumped into new social situations. When we were kids, Molly was the one who first gave me courage to interact with others, forced me to join in instead of sitting at home bored and alone, and showed me how to be part of the life going on in front of me. She taught me how to make new friends.
I am well past that now, really; social situations don’t tend to terrify me the way they did when I was a little girl, but in this unfamiliar place where history hasn’t knit me together with the people around me, I feel a little unsteady and uncertain, and I found myself wishing Molly were here so she could help break the ice for me. But in her stead, S’mores Pie helped me do that last week, and it turns out it was a suitable stand in: it’s interesting and special; never boring, always playful and fun–a conversation starter, for sure; comfortable and familiar even while it’s deep, rich, and complex. It’s so much like Molly, and taking it with me this week into two unfamiliar situations made me feel a little more empowered to be myself. Both Molly and that pie helped me take the first few steps toward forging new relationships, new friends, which I’m sure will be beautiful and sweet in their own right, too.
But this pie, this friend–these are gold.
Inspired to make S’mores Pie, but curious about other folks’ methods, I found this recipe that could easily be modified to fit our family’s food allergy requirements. I made that recipe as written the first time around (swapping out regular milk for flax milk; coconut milk for heavy cream; Enjoy Life Chocolate Morsels for the chocolate chips, etc.) but wasn’t satisfied with the end result. The next time around, I tinkered and came up with the version that is written below. Nana tasted it and loved the crust (Gluten free graham crackers for the win!), and declared the filling very rich indeed. I suppose the highest compliment came from my niece (who isn’t easy to impress when it comes to food), who came to find me after finishing her slice and asked, “Did you make the pie? It was really good.” (Also, an empty pie plate on the buffet table speaks volumes.) If your family doesn’t have food allergies, swap dairy ingredients for the non-dairy ones (milk = flax milk; heavy cream = coconut milk; butter = Earth Balance) and use regular graham crackers and chocolate chips. You can’t mess this pie up: it’s gold.
Note: I recommend using Kinnikinnick S’moreable Graham Style Crackers because they’re gluten free, dairy free, peanut/tree nut free, sunflower seed free, etc., and they make a crust that’s indistinguishable from its traditionally made cousin. I stock up when they go on sale at Sprouts.
For the crust–
- 2 cups gluten free graham cracker crumbs (Kinnikinnick brand, if possible)
- 1/2 cup Earth Balance vegan buttery spread, melted
For the filling–
- 3/4 cup plain unsweetened flaxmilk (without protein)
- 3/4 cup full fat coconut milk
- 9 oz. Enjoy Life brand dark chocolate chips
- 2 large eggs, whisked
- 1 T honey
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- pinch of sea salt
For the topping–
- 25 large marshmallows (or so), cut in half
First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Next, crush the graham crackers into fine crumbs (the whole package of graham crackers, please), then mix the crumbs with the melted Earth Balance. Press the mixture into a 9″ pie plate and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the crust is fragrant and golden (but not burned).
Meanwhile, while the crust is baking, whisk the eggs together until they’re a soft yellow color. Then, in a medium saucepan, warm the flax milk and coconut milk over medium heat and add the chocolate chips. Whisk until the chocolate is smooth. Turn the heat down to low. Ladle a little bit of the warm chocolate mixture (about 1/4 cup or so) into the whisked eggs and stir quickly, then pour the mixture into the pan of chocolate and whisk vigorously. Then, add the honey, vanilla and salt and whisk until combined. Remove the filling from the heat and set it aside until the pie crust is done.
One the crust is golden, remove it from the oven and pour the chocolate pudding-like mixture into the still-hot shell and spread the top smooth with a rubber scraper. (Then proceed to lick that scraper clean.) Put the pie back into the oven and bake for about 30 more minutes, or until the filling doesn’t jiggle or wiggle much at all when you move the pie plate.
While the pie is baking, snip the marshmallows in half. When the pie is done baking, change the oven from bake mode to broil mode, and set it to the low setting. Arrange the cut marshmallows on top of the just-baked pie and set on the middle rack under the broiler AND WATCH CLOSELY because it won’t take long for the marshmallows to puff up and turn golden brown. Remove the pie as soon as they look golden enough for your taste. (My pies are perfect after two minutes under the broiler.)
Refrigerate for 4 hours (or more, if you can)–but don’t cover it with plastic wrap unless you want an effective way to remove all the gooey golden goodness from the top of your pie. I know from experience.