Thursday, August 28, 2014

When are crackers not crackers? When they're Animal Cracker Cookies

Whoever named animal crackers must have been a marketing genius. Kids know they're cookies, but parents see the word "crackers" and think they're probably better than those cookies right next to them.

I remember loving animal crackers, and the box with the string was an added bonus. I could carry it around like a little purse.

Did you know ... that originally that string was on the box for ...

Heh. I'll let you think about that. Answer at the end of the post.

Maybe it was my fascination with animal crackers that fueled my adult love for cookie cutters, and recently my obsession is with the more elaborate cutters that emboss designs or that let you assemble 3-D cookies, like the birdhouse cookies I made a while back.

When I saw these animal cookie cutters, I had to have them. And when my buddies at 37 Cooks announced a challenge featuring Bob's Red Mill products, I decided that these cookies would be a perfect way to show off both the all purpose flour and the whole wheat.

The recipe here is perfect for cookie cutter creations, since the cookies don't rise or spread much at all, so you don't lose the shape or the embossed design.

Shortbread Cookies with a little Whole Wheat
Makes 2-3 dozen very small cookies

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour

In a medium bowl, cream the butter, sugar and salt. Add the vanilla extract and continue beating until combined.

Add the flours and mix until combined. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten to a disk, and refrigerate until chilled – or for several days, if desired.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, lightly flour your work surface, and have baking sheets standing by.

Working with portions of the dough at a time, roll the dough to about 1/4 inch and cut with cookie cutters as desired. Right out of the refrigerator, this dough tends to be a little brittle and tends to crack apart, but as it warms slightly, it's easier to roll. If it does break apart, you can just gather up the pieces and mash them together.

Place the cookies on a cookie sheet. Parchment paper is fine, but you don't need a greased cookie sheet.

You can re-roll the dough scraps and cut more cookies, but if the dough gets too soft, it can be hard to work with as it sticks to your work surface and flops about when you try to pick up a cookie. If that's the case, just refrigerate it for 10 minutes or so, to let it firm up, then continue rolling and cutting.

Bake the cookies at 350 degrees until lightly browned on the edges, about 14 minutes.

Let the cookies cool on the pan for a while before you transfer them to racks to cool completely. They're a little fragile when warm, but they'll firm up as the cool. These are still slightly delicate when completely cool, so don't plan on putting them in a box and shipping them across the country.

Warning: Don't store your predator cookies with the prey cookies.
And now for the answer you've been waiting for. The colorful Animal Cracker box with the handy string was intended so that you could hang the box ...

... wait for it ...

... on your Christmas tree. Yup, the box was like a free ornament for your tree.