Romance comes in packages besides the cache of chic chocolates, all cocooned in paper and tidily tied with ribbon.

Romance comes in packages besides the cache of chic chocolates, all cocooned in paper and tidily tied with ribbon.

The sticky, gooey campfire classic — s'mores — also can be "a gift from the heart," says chocolatier Charlie Douglass.

S'mores, he says, already "taste really good." A custom cookie, chocolate dip and — for the ambitious — homemade marshmallows elevate this summertime staple of prefabricated ingredients to gourmet status. A class next week at Ashland Food Co-op will show baking enthusiasts how to marry these components in time for Valentine's Day.

"I usually don't teach baking," says Douglass, Harry & David's chocolate guru and the Co-op's board treasurer.

Candy-making has been Douglass' calling from childhood at his family's taffy and fudge shop on the New Jersey boardwalk to a short stint making lollipops at Walt Disney World to his 32-year career at Harry & David, where he holds the position of manager of confectionery research and development.

When Douglass isn't dreaming up and testing new products for Medford's mail-order giant, his home kitchen serves as a chocolate laboratory. He shares his passion for all things cocoa in Co-op classes and at community events like the Oregon Chocolate Festival, planned for March 1-3 in Ashland.

"Chocolate's kind of a mysterious substance," says Douglass. "It's so different than anything else."

Next week's class also is different from Douglass' usual lessons in confectionery techniques and specific styles of chocolates. It begins with a baking demonstration of heart-shaped graham crackers, delves into chocolate coatings and explores embellishment. While Douglass will discuss making marshmallows, he'll stop short of showing that specialty in action.

"It's a little tricky," he says. "If you've never done it before, it could be interesting."

He suggests using commercially prepared and jarred marshmallow fluff for his s'mores. Co-op culinary educator Mary Shaw went one better and developed a homemade marshmallow with agave syrup instead of corn syrup for participants to try.

"I think it's fun; I think it's easy," she says. "I think there's fewer ingredients, and they taste better."

Fluffy, from-scratch marshmallows share little in common with their rubbery, mass-produced counterparts. Making them from sugar and gelatin costs more than buying a bag of marshmallows, but homemade ones can be cut into virtually any shape and flavored with extracts, such as fruit, mint and florals.

Agave syrup, says Douglass, yields a slightly softer marshmallow than corn syrup. Try the recipes for marshmallows and s'mores-inspired treats.

Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email