Monday, August 9, 2010

Vegan Monday: (Vegan) Graham Crackers

I have to admit that I really don't enjoy making cookies that require me to roll them out. Frosted sugar cookies are some of my favorites, but even during my Christmas baking, I seldom make them just due to this small detail. For someone a bit lacking in counter space, roll-out cookies are kind of tedious. They require me to clear a space and devote my full attention to them, and then there is also the "mess factor" for the type of baker like myself that has a hard time keeping the flour from flying.

Graham crackers are my exception. They really don't make much of a mess since the dough is rather sticky, and they include the added guise of being somewhat healthful. I have a couple of favorite recipes, one from Nancy Silverton, that includes a high percentage of butter (I altered it to include wheat flour) and a new favorite from Kim Boyce which is slightly more virtuous in the fats and flours departments. My favorites so far are utterly dependent on butter and honey, two things that I just assumed were what endeared a homemade graham to me - even enough so that I vowed never to buy them again.

While I stick to my vow, I happily add this vegan version to my glass gasket jar: a winning recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero's book Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. They stand with the incomperable butter laden versions as proud substitutes, substitutes that are worthy in every way should you be vegan or not.

Not only is this vegan version butter free, but it includes only whole wheat flour, a staple in my kitchen. I love the slight bitterness of whole wheat, and prefer it most of the time to almost any other flour, save perhaps oat flour. The plain sugar adds to the crispness, as does the oil. I actually was nearly out of canola, so I used about half the amount of olive oil, a savory note that I found extra addicting! Not to mention that the dough can be rolled out right away instead of resting since it is soft and pliable.

Homemade graham crackers last a freakishly long time. I make sure I bake them until they are very crisp - sometimes I even throw them back in the oven again after they have started to cool and don't appear that they are going to crisp up. The girls do mention that you can leave them a bit on the softer side, if you want to make them into "ice cream" sandwiches. Or, simply spread them with this Chocolate Vegan Frosting... seriously, one of the tastiest frostings I've made, vegan or not (I used Spectrum Organic Shortning in place of Earth Balance).

Vegan Graham Crackers (Isa Chandra Moskowiz & Terry Hope Romero)
  • 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon
  • scant 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 c. oil (I used 2 T. canola and 2 T. olive oil)
  • 2 T. molasses
  • 1 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c. non-dairy milk (I used soy milk)
Preheat oven to 350, and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, soda, cinnamon and salt. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk the oil, molasses and vanilla. Pour the oil mixture over the flour mixture and mix with a fork until everything is combined well and it appears crumbly.

Drizzle in the non-dairy milk, and mix together gently with your hands until dough sticks together, and it forms a pliable ball of dough.

Line a work surface with parchment paper, and roll out the dough between two sheets of paper. You can leave them a little thicker, or go for the recommended 1/8 inch thickness. Cut off the edges (I used a fluted pastry roller), and cut into squares or rectangles. Save the scraps and re-roll them. Transfer completed shapes to sheet pan.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, longer if they don't seem up to your crispness desires. I baked some of mine for almost 20 minutes! The more crisp they are, the better they store long term - if you think that you wouldn't be eating them all straight away, that is. Cool completely, and store in a lidded glass jar.

I also really like that I have zero waste when making graham crackers. The texture seems to change a little (I think, for the better!), but you can re-roll your "scraps". I usually use tiny cutters on the last little bits of rolled dough. It's almost a challenge to myself to fit the stars with nearly no space in between. Their diminutive shape also ensures supreme crispness, so addicting that they are usually eaten first.

There are many, many recipes in this book that I have to try. Even more in their sister book, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. If they continue to prove their tastiness, I'll have to pick up copies of both books for myself, since these were lent to me by Ginny. The Post Punk Kitchen website also has many great recipes. I actually found the best frosting ever recipe here before I read their books.

This Vegan Monday installment marks the 12 consecutive Monday of posting. Three months of more mindful eating have seriously flown by! I didn't realize at the time, what a great side challenge this was to myself for the summer months. I've found myself consciously making more vegetarian and vegan foods, and since I am obviously more excited than the rest of my family about it, it is a perfect fit due to it's ease of preparation. I've never been an overly meat-dependent eater, but this summer of vastly meat-free lunches and dinners has really reminded me about the ways I actually prefer to eat. With all the food politic storms around us, completely affordable, balanced and delicious meals can be a mainstay, and not one worry of "where that came from" needs to cross my mind.

I've talked with Sasa before about becoming a "restaurant vegetarian", which I am most of the time. We are fortunate to live in the Milwaukee area, where more and more restaurants are sourcing locally, and cooking with the mindset of sustainability. Many area establishments actually know the farms their meats come from, and the animal is not reduced to a mindless rite of the progressive, affluent world. This is good news - and news I should remember when I actually do eat out. I tend to squirrel my resources into eating at home - completely enjoyable, but I forget the pleasures of dining out. I'll have to remedy that a little bit!

Meanwhile, I think Vegan Mondays will stick around for awhile longer. Next week, I will be away from a computer on Monday, so if you check back in a week and notice nothing, don't despair! (Not that I actually think that you would...) This is one obsession that is going to continue for a long while.

1 comment:

  1. I've never made graham crackers, but my mother used to bake them when I was a kid. I LOVE them lots. Thank you for, again, inspiring me!


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