Wednesday, January 26, 2011


First of all, I'm embarrassed to admit that after a year of this blog, I only just put in a proper email subscription option (see box, right).

I'd added a third-party gadget early on, but never had occasion to use it myself and so did not realize it was a giant spambot. If you ever tried to subscribe via email, I can only offer sincere apologies. The FeedBurner subscription service should be working fine now.

I would not have learned any of this had I not been working on a second blog. DH and I are starting a local chapter of Young Makers. As part of this, we were advised to set up a website; we thought it would be most fun to have a multi-author blog that the kids themselves could contribute to. Whether or not this will actually happen is anyone's guess, however. My past experience setting up (at different times) both a website and a wiki for our local homeschooling group taught me that most people have little interest in sharing resources and experience.

In the meantime, the new blog is starting to record an unknown path of making projects in a group setting. If I'm posting even less frequently than before here at unschoolplus, its likely because I'm working on things at Young Makers Yolo. Please check it out here if the projects and resources might be of interest to your family.

Oh, and you can also safely subscribe. :)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

midwinter s'mores

Last summer some friends were planning a day at the beach and asked our family to bring something for roasting marshmallows. Our first thought involved sharpening some willow twigs, but soon we had another whim and were making a run to the thrift store for 10-cent forks.

In a few minutes, these:
became these:
As things turned out, fire permits were not being issued that day. We held a regular potluck at the beach and stored the willow forks in the garage until the other day when, upon cleaning the pantry and finding graham flour (why would I have bought graham flour?), I decided to make graham crackers.

Alton Brown's Graham Crackers (slightly amended, based on reader comments)
8-3/8 ounces graham flour
1-7/8 ounces all-purpose flour
3 ounces dark brown sugar
3/4 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
3 ounces unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes and chilled
2-1/4 ounces honey
1-1/2 ounces whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
Place both flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add the honey, milk and vanilla extract and process until the dough forms a ball, approximately 1 minute. Press the ball into a 1/2-inch thick disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Unwrap the chilled dough and place it onto a large piece of parchment paper and top with a second sheet of parchment paper. Roll the dough out until it is 1/8-inch thick (or even thinner—the kids and I preferred thin, crisp crackers, while DH liked them thicker and chewier). Slide the rolled dough and parchment paper onto a half sheet pan. Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and cut the dough, using a rolling pizza cutter, into 2-inch square pieces, by making vertical and then horizontal cuts all the way across the dough. Trim off any excess. Using a fork, poke holes all over the top of the dought. Leave the crackers on the pan and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the edges just start to darken. Remove from the oven, set the sheet pan with the crackers on a cooling rack, and allow to cool completely. Once completely cool, break into individual crackers and store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
That evening, we built a fire in the fire pit and finally got to use our willow-and-thrift-store roasting forks.

It wasn't quite a summer cookout on the beach, but s'mores are always a treat—the more so with these very easy homemade graham crackers and free-trade chocolate.

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