Summer is my favorite time of year. In fact, even though it hasn’t officially begun yet, I’m already dreading the end of it. There’s something about summer that makes it easier to get up in the morning, easier to smile, something about it that just makes me happy.
Flowers are one of the best parts of summer. Looking out the window as I type this now, my deck is full of pots overflowing with brightly colored flowers. Red, pink, purple, yellow, white, orange. Mandevilla, morning glories, petunias, dahlias, kale, begonias, cosmos, hibiscus. I love them all, and so does Dad who is unable to stop buying flowers for as long as they’re in the stores. Every time he goes to Home Depot, Mom and I joke that he is bound to come home with a new bloom or two. I hate when September and October roll around and the flowers begin to fade, with only mums waiting to be bought.
The abundance of fruits and vegetables is another perk of warmer weather. It’s amazing to have produce that doesn’t come from hundreds of miles away, but instead comes from somewhere probably not too far away. The smell of peaches is the best. That summer smile creeps up each time I pass the fruit bowl and that scent hits me. Farmers’ markets are full of he seasonal bounty. Dad even goes to a local farm to pick blackberries; they’re so good I rarely buy grocery store blackberries anymore, as they can’t begin to compare.
Then there’s being able to take a walk outside, breathing in the fresh air, hearing the birds chirping, butterflies and dragonflies seemingly floating through the air. I love eating dinner when it’s still light outside and love even more when a firefly lights up the nighttime darkness, a surprise that never fails to bring a smile to my face. It’s awesome to put the coats in the back of the closet, to no longer have them covering all my clothes. Being able to wear strapless dresses and sandals without freezing is an added bonus, as I’m not willing to stash those away even during the chilliest months.
I’ve been lucky enough to see tons of baby animals. A family of baby bunnies nested in a hosta plant one past summer. It was never the same, but seeing those tiny bunnies cuddled together in the middle of that plant was more than worth it. Baby groundhogs bounded up and down a hill in the front yard another summer. Almost every year baby ducks waddle along in a line behind their mom, traversing the neighborhood to seek the food in the back yard. This year, baby skunks come out every night, if only for a few moments.
S’mores also remind me of summer. And although there are no traditional s’mores in my future, I’ve made some in the oven with white chocolate chips that aren’t bad. But I figured homemade graham crackers would make them even better. These are by far the best graham crackers I’ve ever had. The edges are crisp, while the center stays chewy and soft. I adapted the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, but felt like the baking process was time consuming and kind of complicated, so I used Alton Brown’s much easier baking process. These would make amazing s’mores or pie crust, but they’re also great for a snack or light dessert. Add a little peanut butter and you’d have breakfast on the go. Just don’t skimp on the cinnamon sugar on top; that’s what really makes them sing.
Summer makes me feel alive, which is why I want to move to California; the closest thing to endless summer. Until that day comes, I’ll treasure every moment this summer has to offer and hope for another mild winter, at least that softens the blow.
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
- ⅓ cup honey
- 5 tablespoons whole milk
- 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- In the bowl of a food processor, pulse to combine flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the honey, milk, and vanilla to the flour mixture. Pulse a few times until the dough begins to come together. Turn the food processor on for about 10-15 seconds, or until the dough fully comes together and starts to form a ball. It is okay if there are still a few small pieces of butter in the dough.
- Dump the mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap dusted with flour and wrap, forming it into a rectangle as best you can. Put it in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. I left mine overnight.
- After the dough has chilled preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Divide the dough in half; you will work with 1 half at a time. Roll the dough between 2 heavily floured pieces of parchment. It is a very sticky dough and excess flour can be brushed off later. Roll the dough into a rectangle, or as close as you can get, about ⅛-1/4 inch thick. Carefully peel the parchment off the dough. Again, it is very sticky, so you will likely have to work to peel it off. Do the same thing with the second half.
- Place each half on its own baking sheet lined with parchment. Using a sharp knife or pizza wheel, cut each half into small squares about 2 inches in size. They will vary in size some, but this is okay. After cutting leave the crackers where they are. You are only scoring them to make breaking them into pieces later easier. Dock the crackers all over with a fork.
- Sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar. It will seem like a lot, but the crackers need the flavor from it.
- Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until brown and slightly firm to the touch. Rotate the sheets halfway through the baking process. When you take them out of the oven, they will still be a little soft, but they will harden greatly as they cool. When cooled completely, break into crackers based on the cuts you made earlier. Store at room temperature in an air tight container for up to 2 weeks.