Update on my previous post:
Is there anything that'll ruin your appetite quite like reading about an illness before reading about a decadent dessert? Probably not, so if you aren't here to get an update on my life (which really isn't all that interesting and I totally understand if you're not), then you can just go ahead and scroll on down to the recipe for these incredible s'mores bars. I mean really, they're incredible, but I want to talk about mono so they're going to have to wait.
Remember last time we were talking about this and we had no idea what it was and I was going in for multiple blood tests and freaking out because I thought it was lymphoma and I told you about that really embarrassing time in my life during which I slept with plastic wrap on my hands and feet?
If you don't remember that, you're probably confused, so I suggest you read the previous post on this outrageous saga of amoxicillin (and muffins!! :) ), which is what I've come to call all of this.
The Saga of Amoxicillin
This is last Wednesday. I've finished my prednisone prescription. This peculiar rash, which has now strangely begun to spread to the bottom of my left ear lobe and looks more like a nasty purple bruise, has shown hardly any signs of going anywhere and just sits there, plaguing me each morning when I wake up and inspect its progress. The same goes for the ever-present swollen lymph node, the sore throat and the feeling of a burnt, tingly tongue and goodness knows what else -- at this point, it's a running list of symptoms, and of course every single one of them (when frantically googled) points to lymphoma.
That day, I visit my doctor, she inspects the rash/bruising (?) and I take a CBC test. (Which is terrifying to me because there is the possibility that something is awry in my blood, which could indeed be some sort of blood cancer -- enter the thoughts of lymphoma.)
This is last Thursday. I go to work. I get a call from the doctor, who informs me that all blood tests are normal: here is moment of relief number one. IT'S NOT LYMPHOMA. I'M NOT DYING. PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW. With a little nudging from me, my doctor doubtfully agrees to run a strep & mono test later that afternoon. Because why not? Might as well rule it out. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I take the test. It's ready in 5 minutes. 5 minutes later, it's not strep.
But it is, in fact, mono.
Here are moments of relief number two and three: this is a "normal" illness. And it explains literally everything, which I shortly come to find out -- my doctor, although initially shocked because I'm not bedridden and feverish, tells me that it's not the mono that's really been the problem; it's the amoxicillin that I was prescribed a week prior when visiting a walk-in clinic after a night of panic, which was obviously a massive mistake: the "doctor" was perplexed as to why my lymph node had been swollen for 2 weeks, and she did not bother to test for mono, strep nor the flu, because I wasn't fatigued and I wasn't running a fever. Naturally, she sends me home with an amoxicillin prescription, which I am to take twice a day for 5 days. LOL.
As I now know - amoxicillin and mono DO NOT MIX. Immediately after ending the prescription, I break out in the awful aforementioned rash and my face swells to twice its normal size, along with all sorts of other fun symptoms that I'd rather not mention... Obviously, my first thought is a delayed allergic reaction, and that's what we went with, and then off we went with the Benadryl, Cortisone and prednisone.
It was mono. And this is now a PSA for you: if there is any possibility you have mono, don't take freaking amoxicillin. It's an infamous combo. And if you do, you will have a week straight from hell.
We're running on a month of mono now, actually, so I'm beyond the point of being contagious, and now all I'm supposed to do is rest, drink plenty of liquids, and never touch a tube of Amoxicillin in my life ever again. (They didn't say that and I know now that it wasn't an allergic reaction but still, never again.)
ANYWAY, a mild case of mono isn't going to stop me from baking. So now let's talk about these s'mores bars and how ridiculous they are.
If you're like me and you've always had a thang for marshmallows, you are going to love these: a pillowy soft marshmallow meringue sits atop a layer of brownies and a thick, buttery graham cracker crust, and then we torch the marshmallow to get that warm, toasty, straight-off-the-stick-you-found-in-the-woods s'more effect (okay, not quite, but we're close).
A few quick notes about this recipe: my recipe for the brownie layer instructs you to put the pan in the freezer right after the brownies are pulled out of the oven, and you should not skip this step. They will still appear very underdone, and sticking a toothpick in the center will not come out clean. The edges should be set, but don't worry when the middle stays very gooey and soft - it will firm up in the freezer.
As for the marshmallow meringue, do not expect this mixture to whip to stiff peaks. It is meant to be marshmallow-y, and that is exactly what it is. You want the meringue slightly soft but sliceable. I own a blowtorch -- actually, let me reword that: I stole a blowtorch from my pastry chef brother and it works like a dream; but if you do not own a blowtorch, you can pop the brownies into a preheated 325 oven and watch carefully as the meringue browns. Some people will recommend the broiler, but that scares me because I know I would plop down with a glass of wine and then look up to see a gargantuan fire fuming out of my kitchen. :)
For the crust:
3 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the brownies:
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed
3 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
2 large eggs
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
For the marshmallow meringue:
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, making sure 2 sides have at least 2 inches of overhang. Spray with baking spray. In a medium bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs, butter, sugar and salt with a fork until evenly moistened. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the lined pan using the back of a measuring cup. Bake for 10 minutes, until lightly browned and firm. Let cool completely and leave the oven at 350.
In a small saucepan or in increments in the microwave, gently melt the butter with the chocolate over low heat, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in the sugar, vanilla, salt and espresso powder. Whisk in the eggs, then stir in the flour until just combined. Pour mixture into the cooled crust and bake for 30 minutes, or until the edges are set and the middle is still underdone. Remove from the oven and immediately place in the freezer until completely set and cool, at least an hour.
In a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites at medium speed until frothy. Add the sugar and mix until combined. Transfer the bowl of the stand mixer over a saucepan of simmering water and hand-whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the whites are warm, about 3-4 minutes.
Add the vanilla, cream of tartar and salt, and beat at medium speed until firm. Increase the speed to high and beat an additional 7-8 minutes, until the meringue is glossy and very marshmallow-like.
Mound the meringue on top of the filling and use an offset spatula or a spoon to spread evenly over the brownies and swirl decoratively. Using a blowtorch, toast the meringue for desired effect -- or place in a preheated 325 oven and watch meringue carefully. Slice and serve!
S'mores bars can be stored in the refrigerator and gently re-heated in the microwave for serving.