Thursday, August 18, 2011

Homemade S'mores

Part 1: Making the Graham Crackers
Here's a good basic
recipe with easy to find ingredients that draws on kids' natural affinity for measuring, pouring, and mixing. And who doesn't love to play with different textures like soft silky flour, coarse brown sugar, creamy milk, or syrupy honey?


graham cracker tips: let the kids know that the dough needs to be chilled for at least 2 hours, OR overnight before baking, and then chilled again for a bit once it's rolled out. (And have a few interim activities waiting in the wings.)
If you don't have a food processor (we didn't), a blender is a good way to start it off, but it doesn't quite do the job properly. We started with a blender and finished by hand, a little clunky, but OK.

Graham Cracker recipe
*adapted from Nancy Silverton's Pastries from the La Brea Bakery
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (375 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (176 grams) dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon (6 grams) baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt (4 grams)
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces or 100 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon squares ✳ and frozen
1/3 cup (114 grams) mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons (77 grams) milk, full-fat is best
2 tablespoons (27 grams) pure vanilla extract

for topping: 2 tablespoons (43 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) ground cinnamon


Measure out and combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, and pulse on low to incorporate. *if using a blender instead, please see "tips" above.
Add the cut and frozen tablespoons of butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, vanilla extract and honey. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.


Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and form into a square about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight. To prepare the topping: In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon, and set aside.
Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator.
Sprinkle an even layer of flour onto a sheet of parchment paper. Roll the dough onto parchment paper, into a square about 1/8 inch thick. The dough is sticky, so flour as necessary.
Cut into shapes about 2 1/2" square-ish.
Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Remove from refrigerator and place the crackers about 1/2" to 1" apart on parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping.
Using a fork, toothpick or skewer, form dotted rows in the dough.
Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.
Yield: 10-12 large crackers

I love homemade versions of foods that we usually get from boxes and bags
We burnt the first batch just a little, but given that a couple disappeared even before I could snap this picture, I think they were a success.


Above: Our graham cracker-making was a rainy day activity on vacation. The rain didn't let up and we had to cancel our campfire. So on to plan B: store-bought marshmallows, a bar of chocolate, our homemade graham crackers and a microwave. (Rave reviews!)

Part 2 Making the Marshmallows
We made shapes based on one of our favorite books, Cloud Boy by Rhode Montijo, and the clouds that we saw that day.

The recipe for the piped marshmallow is from Martha Stewart.com
Piped Marshmallow tips: ✵ You'll need a candy thermometer for this recipe.
✵ I think it's fascinating to watch boiled sugar go from a glassy liquid to a white fluffy cloud, but obviously boiling sugar is definitely not a kids activity.

Step #1: adults only. ✵Once its white and fluffy and ready to be piped, it's all good!
✵Tie the end of the piping bag with a twist-tie or rubber band to keep the marshmallow from coming out the other end.
✵We used a plastic coupler as our piping tip because we didn't have a tip large enough to pipe the shapes we wanted. You could also use a large zip baggie and snip a corner off for the tip.

click here for recipe.



Sunday, August 14, 2011

Baseball Cake in the Dog Days of Summer


(A tribute to love of baseball, they can have their cap/cake, and eat it too.)

My brothers came to town this summer with their families.
This means, that we were all going to see some baseball.
I've always loved baseball, but not so much for the sport itself. It was that growing up, I knew that through baseball; (through time spent playing, watching, talking about, and fighting about baseball), the men in our family truly connected.
It seemed to me then that the language of baseball was a sort of secret language of brotherhood...
(Although, now some of my nieces are world class ball players themselves, and I can see that language is pretty universal.)

☆a big hit with the kids, (I highly recommend): Staten Island Yankees Minor League Baseball game

happy birthday, Kelly!