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The Yummy Factor appeals to adults

(ran ST NP TP editions)

Ring Dings, Yodels, Devil Dogs, S'Mores. Oh, the junk we ate when we were kids. We loved it then, and, truth be told, we love it still, and that may be why professional chefs increasingly are turning out adult versions of favorite childhood desserts.

Ira Freehof, owner of the the Comfort Diner, a popular eatery in Manhattan, remembers when he was the food service manager at a Long Island yacht club and first realized the strong pull kids' desserts have on adults.

"We were having a holiday barbecue, and we had things like key lime pie and cheesecake for the adults and S'Mores for the kids," Freehof recalls. "Well, the adults practically tackled the kids to get to the S'Mores."

When Freehof opened his nostalglia-filled East Side diner, that memory inspired him to put on the dessert menu Grilled S'Mores, a dish that takes the graham cracker, milk chocolate, marshmallow favorite a little farther by adding hot fudge and ice cream to the gooey mix on the plate.

Lynn Septoff, the pastry chef, took her own childhood favorite, Snickers candy bars, as inspiration to create Snicker's Pie, a dense chocolate peanut butter, caramel and peanut confection that has become the most requested dessert at the diner.

Chocolate, peanuts and graham crackers are tops at the trendy Mesa Grill as well, where executive pastry chef Wayne Harley Brachman's sophisticated approach to S'Mores, a Chocolate-Peanut Graham Cake, with homemade roasted marshmallows and peanut butter ice cream, is the most popular sweet on the menu.

Ice cream sandwiches, another staple of childhood, are also a hit here, only Brachman's variations are decidedly for grownups. Consider, for example, the cherry hazelnut tollhouse cookie sandwich with blackberry chocolate crackle ice cream.

Why are so many calorie-conscious adults happily devouring versions of the super sweets of their youth?

"Because these desserts make us feel like kids again, without any worries," says Michael Schneider, editor-in-chief of Chocolatier magazine.

Mesa Grill's Brachman believes that there is a simpler explanation: "It's the yummy factor."

That certainly is what keeps customers clamoring for the homemade Ring Dings at Picnic, a stylish Manhattan gourmet takeout. "People are hooked by the idea of a homemade Ring Ding, but it's the taste that brings them back back for more," says Picnic co-owner Stephanie Greenberg.

The cake melds rich butter cream with two layers of moist devil's food cake all wrapped up in a thin coat of ganache. Greenberg usually sells out (at $2.75 a pop) the 75 to 100 Ring Dings she makes each morning.

If you loved Jell-O as a kid, you will love this. Diane Forley, chefand owner of Verbena, has come up with sweets such as Coconut Tapioca Parfait with Sweet Aspics of Blood Orange and Tangerine. and at Fifty Seven Fifty Seven, in the Four Seasons Hotel, executive pastry chef Bruno Feldeisen offers raspberry-flavored, cone-shaped Jiggling Fruit Mold.

Today's delicate gelatin-based desserts are built on jelled fresh fruit juices and bear little resemblance to the artificially flavored, often rubbery, jelled desserts of your youth.

For the hard-core, there is the East Village and First Restaurant, where chef and owner Sam de Marco lets customers make S'Mores at the table. They get marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate pieces plus twigs and a cast-iron crock with hot coals for roasting the marshmallows.

Patrons who order this dessert have plenty of company. According to de Marco, the S'Mores outsell all other desserts 3-1.

Wayne Harley Brachman's

Chocolate-Peanut Graham Cake


\ cup unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Cake filling:

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

} cup hot coffee

2{ cups graham cracker crumbs

1 cup peanuts, chopped


8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

6 ounces heavy cream

1 cup mini marshmallows

Crust: Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease the sides of a 9-inch springform cake pan. Melt butter. In a medium bowl, mix melted butter with remaining crust ingredients. Pat mixture on the bottom of the cake pan. Bake 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Cake filling: Place chocolate in a large bowl. Bring the coffee to a simmer, then pour over the chocolate. Let sit 1 minute and stir until melted and smooth. Mix in 2{ cups of graham crumbs and 1 cup chopped peanuts. Gently pat mixture over crust. Set aside to set for at least 1 hour.

Ganache: Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring cream to a boil in a saucepan and pour over the chocolate. Whisk until melted and smooth. Pour over top of cake. Let sit 15 minutes.

To serve, remove sides of pan. Scatter marshmallows over the top of the cake. Place cake under broiler for 1 minute to brown the marshmallows. Serves 8-10.

Source: Mesa Grill

The Comfort Diner's Snickers Pie

Pie dough:

2{ cups all-purpose flour

[ teaspoon teaspoon salt

{ cup sugar

{ pound butter chilled, cut into pieces

1 egg


6 eggs, beaten

1 cups sugar

2 cups light corn syrup

cup butter, melted

4 cups unsalted peanuts, divided


1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons butter

{ cup heavy cream, room temperature


8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, cut into small pieces

1 cup heavy cream, scalded

1 cup peanut butter

One day ahead, make pie dough: In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine dry ingredients. Add butter a piece at a time and mix until mixture becomes crumbly. Add egg. When dough comes together, scrape it onto a floured work surface and form into a ball. Flatten it into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill { hour. Roll dough to \-inch thickness and fit into a 10- by 3-inch deep-dish pie pan with removable bottom. Refrigerate { hour.

Meanwhile, make pie filling: In a bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar. Add corn syrup and butter, mixing well.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. After removing the pie pan from refrigerator, place 3 cups peanuts evenly in pie shell. Pour { Snickers pie filling over peanuts. Let sit for 10 minutes. Pour remaining filling over the nuts, making sure to cover them all. Place pan on middle rack of oven. After 30 minutes, cover top of pie with foil. Because the pie is deep, it takes a long time to bake. Total baking time will vary depending on your oven, but it may take as long as 1\ hours. Pie is done when the sides are set and middle is slightly loose. Allow pie to cool for 30 minutes and then refrigerate overnight.

On day of serving, make caramel. In a heavy saucepan over very low heat, slowly melt the sugar and butter, stirring occasionally. When sugar is completely melted and golden in color, take pan off the heat and slowly pour the heavy cream into it, stirring constantly. The cream will bubble rapidly. Set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile make ganache: Place chocolate in small bowl. Pour heavy cream over chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool.

Remove pie from refrigerator and remove sides of pie pan. Spread the cooled caramel to cover the top of the pie. Refrigerate { hour or until caramel is firm to touch.

Spread peanut butter evenly to edge of pie. Carefully pour cooled ganache over peanut butter. Make sure it reaches the edge of the pie. Refrigerate 15 minutes or until ganache doesn't run. Place 1 cup chopped peanuts around edges of pie surface. Refrigerate. Remove from refrigerator { hour before ready to serve.

Start this pie the day before you plan to serve it because it has to chill overnight, says pastry chef Lynn Septoff. Serves 16.