IMG_3312It might have been an odd decision to go to culinary school. As a vegan I was quite out of place in the classic baking and patisserie program I attended. While attempting to keep my lifestyle choices quiet, it inevitably leaked and very quickly I was weird.

“What are you doing here?” People asked.

I never knew how to respond. I attended because I wanted  to use my classic training in a helpful, innovative way,  furthering the progress that veganism has made over the past 10-15 years. But I could not make the connection between culinary school and my vegan lifestyle and as time went on, when asked “what are you doing here?”, I internally answered with, “What am I doing here?”

Towards the end of school I bought Martha Stewarts Baking Handbook, a very complete book of classic baking and technique. From yeast breads to pastries, cakes to cookies, this book covers it all. My first thought when flipping through the recipes and looking at the big, beautiful pictures: this book needs to be veganized. And with my training, I believed I was the one to do it.

That was in 2010. I was both working and studying full time, then I bought a home, got a dog, switched jobs, got pregnant, became a mom, started The Sweet Life, wrote my first (e)cookbook, and now here I am, 2013 flipping through this book thinking the same thought.

I probably won’t get around to the entirety of this large book, but there are definitely some recipes in here that will be getting a good vegan makeover. I wanted to start big. Pizza Marguerite with a cashew “fresh mozzarella” on an herbed flatbread crust but with a weekend full of editing the cookbook, I never even got around to soaking cashews. Instead I kept it simple with these easy to make Graham Crackers. These Graham Crackers were basically vegan in the original recipe, but as I continue through some of the more difficult recipes I hope to prove, once and for all, that anything can be veganized.

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Homemade Graham Crackers
*adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook
makes 2 dozen

3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cups graham flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegan butter, room temperature (I use Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp brown sugar, packed
2 tsp agave nectar
up to 1 tbsp cold water

In a small bowl combine flours, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and set aside.

Combine butter, sugar, and agave nectar in a stand up mixer. Using the paddle attachment beat together until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. With mixer on low, slowly add in the dry ingredients scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix until dough is smooth and fully hydrated. You may need to add 1-3 tsp to help the dough come together. Do not overmix.

Remove dough and separate into two equal balls. Place each ball of dough on top of a sheet parchment paper. Flatten. Top with another parchment paper and roll out to a rectangle approximately 6 inch x 9 inch, squaring the sides with a bench scraper or offset spatula. It should be about about 1/8 inch thick.

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With a pastry cutter cut or knife score the rectangle into 12 pieces. Score about halfway through the dough, be careful not to cut through it.  Stack the parchment papers and place on a baking sheet. Freeze for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Once dough has chilled, remove from freezer and place on individual baking sheets, keeping the bottom parchment paper to line the sheet. With a fork, mark each cracker with several indentations.

 

Bake 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned and crisp. Remove. Set on cooling rack and let cool completely. Once crackers are cool, break apart into individual crackers. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

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 What classic baking recipes would you like to see veganized? 

On the top of my list are classic breakfast pastries: pinwheels, croissants, danishes, etc.

 

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