As any vegan can tell you, there will be people out there who are just out to press buttons and ask antagonistic questions about your choices. From the standard, forgivable “where do you get your protein?” to the completely inane “what would you do if you were stranded on an island with only animals to eat?”- Proving that really, there are stupid questions, no matter what some encouraging teachers may say. One particular query that I recall came while standing by the vending machines in school one day with friends, examining the limited options. “Hey, what about animal crackers? Are those vegan?”, some wiseguy taunted, thinking he was being so clever. “Nope, not vegan- But only because they have whey in them!” I quickly responded.
While it may still be a bit weird to consider eating food shaped like animals, even if it contains no actual animals, there is something about these cute crackers that is just irresistible. Luckily, it’s not at all hard to create these cute cookies at home, and without all of the questionable ingredients too. You can even take a few liberties with flavors and get creative! These zoo creatures above may look just like the classic, but there is a secret that will only reveal itself once it hits the palate…
Curry! That’s right, a pinch of curry powder adds not only a rich yellow color, but a nice warm, slightly spicy flavor. Definitely a more grown up version of the original, these animals are some of the few that are actually fit for consumption.
Animal Crackers with a Kick
1 Tablespoon Chia Seeds
1/4 Cup Water
3/4 Cup Margarine
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
2 Teaspoons Mellow Curry Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Mustard Powder
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
Begin by grinding the chia seeds into a fine meal using a coffee or spice grinder, and then add the water, pulsing to combine. Let sit for 5 minutes for the liquid to absorb.
Meanwhile, cream together the margarine and sugar in your stand mixer until smooth and homogeneous. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt, curry powder, mustard powder, and tumeric. Whisk briefly to combine. Add half of the dry ingredients into the mixer, and mix until smooth. Next, incorporate the chia mixture, and the second half of the dry goods. Add in the vanilla, and allow the mixer to continue working until the dough comes together. It may seem very dry, but just be patient and resist the urge to add more liquid.
Once you get a smooth dough, divide it into two pieces and wrap each up in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before proceeding.
When the dough is thoroughly chilled, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper.
Take one ball of dough and roll it out very thinly, to about 1/8th of an inch in thickness. Lightly flour the surface and rolling pin if necessary to prevent sticking. Use the cutest animal cookie cutters you can find, and cut out your shapes, transferring them to the silpat or parchment paper. Quickly slip the sheets of unbaked cookies into the freezer for 15 minutes before moving them into the oven. This will help to prevent the shapes from distorting or spreading. Bake for 9 – 15 minutes, taking into a account how small or thin the animal shapes are and keeping an eye on the cookies so that they don’t burn. Let the cookies cool on a rack before storing in an air-tight container.