Food has the incredible power of sense memory. One bite of a particular food can send us straight back to childhood. As adults, we’re lucky enough to be able to enjoy more grown-up versions of our favorite childhood treats. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and see how far our favorites have come.
Why eat the traditional Nabisco brand Oreo, with its vegetable-oil-based “creme” center when you can have Thomas Keller’s decadent version instead? Bouchon Bakery offers an incredible take on the classic cookie, using high-quality cocoa powder and a filling made of white chocolate and heavy cream. Find the cookies at bakery locations in Las Vegas, New York or Napa, or make them yourself using Keller’s own recipe.
Pastry chefs are turning to their childhoods for inspiration, the most famous recent example being Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar in NYC. Tosi serves up all kinds of clever twists on cereal, from cereal-flavored milk meant to mimic that bottom-of-the-bowl taste, to Cocoa Pebbles crunch cake and cereal ice cream. On the other side of the country, late-night hotspot Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon, has an entire array of cereal-based donuts that are quite delicious—as long as you can handle the serious sugar rush that accompanies them.
The great thing about s’mores is that they lend themselves to all kinds of delicious grown-up interpretations. Two versions to try at home include: chocolate graham crackers with Nutella and oven-toasted marshmallows, and Kahlua-and-Cognac-spiked mousse with marshmallow meringue.
Don’t want to make them yourself? Head out to D.C.’s Fahrenheit restaurant for a burnt-marshmallow milkshake or a cup of marshmallow-chocolate-graham cracker gelato. Chicago’s truffle truffle will ship you their most adventerous offerings, featuring smore’s flavored with chipotle and peanut butter, coconut key lime and lemon rosemary.
Who knew there would be a whoopie pie renaissance? These East Coast favorites are enjoying a huge comeback, and since they’re nothing more than two soft, cake-like cookies surrounding creamy white frosting, they’re easy to adapt—and upgrade. Beryl Hall makes and ships dulce de leche and pink grapefruit whoopie pies straight to your door. Or whip some up yourself: try Ian Knauer’s delectable “reinvented” whoopie pie recipe.
Kids aren’t the only ones who enjoy a sweet treat on Easter, Halloween, Christmas or any other dessert-oriented holiday. Take your pick: Vosges sells Easter eggs made from organic peanut butter, milk chocolate and sea salt, L.A. Burdick offers a ghoulish coffin filled with truffles and accompanied by white chocolate gianduja ghosts and Callebaut has a chocolate yule log filled with truffles.
What childhood chocolate treats would you like to see a grown-up version of?
Kate Steffens is a pastry chef, writer, DJ, artist, designer and all-around Renaissance woman. She is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy and the University of Texas at Austin. She runs the rock-and-roll chocolate company, Straight Outta Chocolate. When she's not elbow deep in chocolate, you can find her reading, gardening, working on art projects and listening to old records.