Grown-Up Smores

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Growing up, I was never a big fan of smores. I don’t know why. They never tasted right to me. Maybe it was because I associated them with camping or summer camp, both of which I was definitely not a fan. Whatever the case, it wasn’t until this week that I decided to give them another chance and am I glad I did. Ladies and gentlemen, these are not your 1970’s smores. These are 100% homemade and scrumptious.
Oddly enough, during the time I was making and photographing the recipe, I became acutely aware of the interaction between some children and their parents while out in public. I think this was primarily due to researching the history of the smore which revolves around girl scouts and camping. (recipe published in “Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts,” 1927).
Let me preface this by saying that I know parenting is difficult. I understand that kids need lots of encouragement, love and support. I get it. Completely. But lately I’ve been noticing parents who heap enormous amounts of praise upon their children for incredibly simple behaviors. Not “good job” or “great” but an outpouring of praise usually relegated to a big accomplishment such as finishing a recital or graduation.
Here’s are some comments I’ve recently heard parents make to healthy kids who have no known performance difficulties. Parent to 9 year old girl: “You put on your swim suit all by yourself. I’m so proud of you! You are so wonderful! ” This was punctuated by shrieks of joy. Parent to 10 year old boy: “Good for you. You made it up the stairs! I’m so proud of you.” Parent to 12 year old: “you did such a good job picking out the cereal. You deserve a special treat.” Again, I know these kids are otherwise fine. I’m just trying to figure out what I’m missing.


I’m curious to hear your take on this. Is this form of praise appropriate or insulting to a child? Personally, I would have been mortified if either of my parents praised me for getting dressed or climbing the stairs at age 10. But maybe that’s just me.
So here’s my question: does praising for expected behavior diminish the value of praise for a real accomplishment that requires discipline and hard work? I’d like to hear your input.


Just as an aside, I was recently informed by a blog friend (and parent) that her company is instituting training on how to provide criticism and feedback to the new slate of college graduates they’ve hired. Apparently, they’re seen as fragile and in need of a bit too much praise.
Yes, I am equally frightened by the fact that a simple smore triggered this line of thought. No worries though. I can assure you that this smore is made to exacting standards and is most definitely a praise-worthy dessert.
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Homemade Graham Crackers (adapted from Baking Bites)
75 g all-purpose flour
232 g stone ground whole wheat flour
100 g sugar
6 g baking powder
3 g baking soda
3 g salt
1 g cinnamon
115 g cold butter, cut into cubes
36 g honey
30 g molasses
50 g cold water
4 g vanilla extract


In a food processor, mix together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add the cold butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 30 seconds or so. Add the honey, molasses, water, and vanilla. Mix until the dough startes to come together in a ball, another 30 seconds. Scrape dough out of the mixer.


Between 2 silpat sheets, roll the dough to about 1/8-inch thick. Chill for at least 1 hour, until firm (I chilled for several hours).


Preheat oven to 350F. Working quickly, use a cookie cutter to cut dough. Arrange the crackers on silpat lined baking sheets. With a skewer, prick several holes in each cookie. Sprinkle with sugar.


Bake for 8-12 minutes, or until lightly browned at the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan.


Note: I baked 1 sheet at a time and put the dough back into the refrigerator until it was ready for the oven. I also sprinkled the sugar on at 8 minutes and returned them to the oven for another 1-2 minutes. Otherwise the sugar melted into the cookie.


Chocolate Marshmallows (adapted from Baked)


12 sheets gelatin
400 g sugar
300 g light corn syrup
8 g vanilla extract
100 g water
1 g salt
30 g good quality cocoa powder, sifted
Powdered sugar for dusting.


Grease a 9X13X2 inch pan with vegetable shortening


Soak gelatin sheets in cold water until soft.


In medium saucepan, stir sugar, 1/2 cup corn syrup, and 1/2 cup water.


Put remaining 1/2 cup corn syrup in bowl with whisk attachment.


When mixture on stove hits 200 degrees, melt gelatin in microwave 5-10 seconds. Pour gelatin into mixer bowl and mix with corn syrup on low speed.


Cook mixture to 240 degrees (soft ball) and slowly pour into corn syrup/ gelatin mixture. Once added, mix on medium high for about 5 minutes. When mixture gets white and fluffy add vanilla, sifted cocoa powder and salt and beat on high. Pour into pan. Sprinkle on powdered sugar and let set for 6 hours. Cut into cubes.
Assembly (per smore)


2 graham crackers
1 piece dark chocolate, thinly sliced
1 chocolate marshmallow


Place one graham cracker on plate with underside facing up. Place a thin slab of chocolate on top of the cookie. (I put mine in the microwave for about 20 seconds until it began to soften and then used a thin spatula to lift it onto the cookie. Otherwise, it may not melt thoroughly).


Place marshmallow on a fork or skewer and heat over flame, stove or preferably campfire until the marshmallow gets brown and starts to melt. Immediately place on top of the chocolate. Top with second cookie and squish down a bit. Eat immediately.


Congratulations to the winners of the blog and Twitter giveaways: Chez Us, Emma’s Family Farm, Anali’s First Amendment, Happy Yolks, and Food & Style. Special thanks to the River House Cafe for their generous gift certificate donation.
Thank you all for your kind words and wonderful feedback about the portfolio I designed. It’s appreciated more than you know.


Bon Appetit!



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  1. I think the key to a good smore is making sure the chocolate is melted. We used to put chocolate on each graham cracker and leave it close to the fire while the marshmallow toasted.

    You are seriously tempting my obsession with making things from scratch here. I’ve made marshmallows before, but not graham crackers, I hope I’ll have a chance to make these this summer.

  2. You really nailed the smore. Gorgeous photography and it looks delicious. I definitely know what you mean about some of the parents. There’s a fine line between love and insanity!

  3. Over-praising is extremely condescending and insulting to the kid’s intelligence. I agree- I would have been really annoyed had my parents praised simple things like getting dressed or climbing the stairs.

    Those smores are wonderful! I love the pinkish tint of the marshmallows.

  4. You’re not missing anything. Some parents are afraid of being parents. They’d rather be buddies with their kids, and this is not going to help them become competent adults. Spectacular smores by the way. I’d like a poster of them for my office!!

  5. I swear I don’t recall ever being praised for any of my daily activities, when I fell, my parents yelled “get back up” although I wish I would have had more praise, this over praising is really scary, these kids will grow into adults and won’t be able to fend for themselves or might end up living with mom and dad well into their 30’s.

    You still blow my mind with each and every post, I can grub down on some gourmet smores, I’ve only had smores once, in fact I think it was during camping. Beautiful photography.!

  6. And to think that I was just complaining that my thesis advisor is incapable of praising me. However, that’s a bit different than Amazing Stair Walking. Maybe once I master that he’ll notice all the other great things I’m accomplishing. Then again, maybe not.

    I’m forever indebted to the wonderfulness of s’mores, and of Girl Scouts. All memories of Girl Scout-related activities are positive for me, except the one time I stayed at summer camp. I, also, was not a fan.

  7. I went through your blog and I love it. I’m so inspired.
    Can’t wait to learn how take good photographs for my new blog!! Stunning-thank you for the journey!

  8. I’ve always loved s’mores. Your 100% homemade ones look amazing!
    I don’t have kids, so I sometimes feel bad when I judge parents, but I know my parents would have never treated me like that. I was praised when I excelled, not just for doing mundane tasks like walking. I think that’s ridiculous.

  9. I have 3 kids and I agree definitely think it’s important to raise the bar for them in terms of the standards they have for themselves. I’m not sure how else they’ll get confidence or fend for themselves once they’re grown up. I think we’ll also make these smores together which look like a lot of fun. Smores build confidence, right?

  10. Thanks again for the lovely gifts! What a treat to win! Your smores look divine as usual. I used to love them as a kid. We’d have them for an extra dessert after family picnics and barbecues. Now I like them as an adult too. : )

  11. Your pictures are gorgeous! such great composition. I’ve never had smores till I came to the U.S. and a friend of mine had me try them when she dragged me camping one summer. 🙂

  12. I must admit, praising the 8 and 10 year old for those particular “accomplishments” seems extreme to the nth degree. I would have rolled my eyes. Now if they were 2 or even 3? Different story.
    In was a Girl Scout leader in my day and knew the history of the smore, but had no idea it was 1927. That’s the one thing the scouts teach: character and confidence. I’m so relieved my child-rearing days are over. (And they turned out OK, too.)

    Love your “from scratch” version of this campfire delight. I would never have taken the time…which is why your blog is called FRESH!! 🙂

  13. These photos are so cool. Smores are one my my favorite desserts. I’ve never tried homemade graham crackers but but I’ve seen a lot of recipes. Is this the best one? They definitely look yummy. The parents sound a bit strange. I could see if they were 3!!

  14. LOL. Your stories are hilarious! That’s strange oh boy. Definitely too much and age inappropriate. I feel bad for the kids. Must say the smore pics are lovely and delicious looking.

  15. Love your blog! And I’m sure there are plenty of parents who heap unnecessary praise at times. Just a thought to add to the conversation from someone who works with children with developmental disabilities – not all disabilities are obvious at first glance, and many grade school students possess uneven skill sets. A child may appear to be developing typically in all other areas, but may have difficulty with fine motor skills, gross motor skills or sensory processing that are all but invisible to someone they meet in passing – some parents may be legitimately following through on OT, PT or behavioral plans to reinforce something that truly is an accomplishment for their child, regardless of the fact that most other children mastered that particular skill much earlier in life. It’s *entirely* possible that the parents you observed (maybe you know them and know for sure!) have typically-developing kids and they simply went overboard, whether as part of habitual overpraising or due to the kind of underlying emotions that sometimes turn even the most rational parents into sentimental fools. I just wanted to mention developmental disabilities as something else we can all keep in mind when we see such behavior – as the incidence of diagnosis is rising every year, and since things are not always as they seem. Thanks as always for your wonderful posts – I always come away with great recipes and good food for thought!

  16. I am in awe of these s’mores and would love to make some, middle-eastern style, soon!
    Parents who praise their kids for normal behavior are lacking in basic psychology and really should be called on it; I was not a young mother myself, but I did notice this behavior common with older moms. Maybe I am generalizing.

  17. Thanks for the comments everyone.

    Delishy Dish- I’ve made several graham cracker recipes. This is the best one I tried. The most important thing is to keep the dough cold as it goes into the oven.

    Emma- Lol. I never met a thesis advisor who gave much praise. I think they try to toughen you up for the defense!

    Rachel- I’m not sure if smores by themselves build confidence but learning to bake would certainly help ;>)

    Anonymous- As a a former educator, I did think about what you’re saying. Your point is well-taken and respected. You can’t always tell and there are times when people are overjoyed by a bit of progress in such cases. That being said, I think there are also a lot of cases where that is not true.


    So glad to have stimulated some discussion here. And to think I didn’t even tell you about the child <10 who whipped a credit card out of her little Fendi bag to pay for her hot chocolate!

    You guys are the best. El

  18. El you’re so funny. Now I want to hear more about the pocketbook story. Yes there are kids with problems but some people do overboard with praise. My brother and sister & law treat my niece like that and even she gets embarrassed. Great looking smores by the way. Your photos make my day!

  19. I love the smores and your photos of the smores. You have made me very hungry with this post. I get what you’re saying about the parents who pile the praise on. I’m not sure who it helps but it must make the kids feel silly.

  20. I had a hard time with the camp fire smores too. The marshmallows made it a bit too sweet for me. But these smores are so sophisticated and beautiful!

    Funny that you mention this topic of parenting. Senior managers at my company are trying to figure out how to handle the incoming class of college graduates being recruited. The problem they must tackle is how to teach these kids to take criticism. Apparently it’s a big enough problem that managers are having to be trained on how to handle this generation. Can you believe it? All their life they have never been criticized, and fragility of their ego is what is keeping them from thriving in the big real world.

    I have no answers. Parenting is hard enough. But if you constantly praise your child over the small stuff it diminishes its power and value when they accomplish something truly worthy.

  21. Such elegant and refined s’mores, much better than the stuff of childhood. As to the question of praise, I’m afraid those people have taken things to an extreme. We used to raise children with an iron fist with little attention to their feelings and now perhaps the scale has tipped the opposite direction?

  22. These are INSANE. I love that you made every component from scratch…these definitely raise the bar on awesomeness!

    And yeah it is super weird to congratulate a NINE year old on putting on her bathing suit. A three year old…I could understand. But nine? That’s just weird.

  23. Yes. That’s strange. Not sure I’m pretty sure it prepare the child for nothing. The smores are incredible. I can’t get over the photos.

  24. Christine- that’s unbelievable. Thanks for the insight. I’ll update the post with your work story.

    Sylvie- Great point. Maybe we’ve just the pendulum swing a bit too far in the opposite direction!

    Thanks again everyone. Tremendous insight.

  25. I didn’t have my first s’more until I travelled to America. I was an instant fan. I love your delightful version here. All my favourite things. Chocolate, marshmallow and graham crackers!

    Love all the thoughts and feedback on this post. Even though my bub is only 9 months old, and my ‘praising experience is limited’, I only give her encouragement for appropriate things.

    Last thing I want is to inappropriately inflate her confidence and create an ugly sense of entitlement.

    Otherwise there could be a rude shock waiting for her in her future when she enters ‘the real world’.

  26. What an interesting topic to write about, all from a Smores recipe 🙂 Coming from Asia I do think that American parents tend to heap on the praise a fair bit so I’m not very surprised by your examples of the 9 year old and the 10 year old. That said, we in Asia have the opposite experience where praise is limited (if ever given) so we grow up with our own set of issues 🙂 Like most things in life, balance and common sense is key…

  27. What gorgeous photos! There’s no way I’m going to be patient enough to create the items that go into a s’more, but I’ll definitely be passing this on to my more industrious friends.

    As for your questions about excessive praise, there was a really good article in The Atlantic yesterday called “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy” by Lori Gottlieb, a mother & therapist who was examining the same phenomenon. I’d post a link, but don’t want to look like a spammer. The basic premise is that she and other therapists are noticing an increase in people who find it impossible to be content with life, because they were raised to believe that if you’re not happy all the time, you’re doing something wrong. Parents who rush to protect their kids at every turn rob them of the opportunity to realize their ability to overcome obstacles and learn from disappointment. Very much worth the read.

  28. we have a one and a half year old, and while he gets praised for doing new things, most of the things already expected of him are just that. expected. we would never want him to think he needs our praise for his every action. why feed an attention loving addiction? he needs to work for himself and do what he knows to do, and do it well. i know he will succeed in life, but he will never be over praised for it.

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