I am a sucker for recipes that convince me that I can make a snack or go-to item that you would typically grab off of a store shelf ready-made right in my own kitchen. That’s why several years ago I was lured by Katie and King Arthur Flour (two very convincing counterparts in my culinary endeavors) to experiment with an animal cracker recipe. It’s a family favorite now, but when I first looked at the recipe, I was skeptical. Why? I was a relatively early baker, and here’s what I saw:
Oat flour. I didn’t have oat flour. In fact, I still don’t keep oat flour on hand. So instead, I just use rolled oats that I grind up in my food processor until they are mealy. Below is a side by side comparison of one of the crackers with oat flour vs. pulsed oats.
Princess flavoring. Hubba-whaaa? No joke, it’s an actual thing. At first we thought it was only made by King Arthur Flour and would be cost-preventative to trying the recipe, but we found it at a local candy and baking shop for much cheaper. While I was thinking about just using vanilla, this strange-sounding ingredient is what lifts the recipe from just “small cookie things” to “these taste like animal crackers.” Also, once it is mixed into the batter I basically want to just eat the entire bowl with a spoon…
And last but not least…
Animal-shaped cookie cutters! This may seem obvious, but I did have to go buy some because all of my cookie cutters were much too big for your standard “animal cracker.” And if I wanted to pull off “these are just as good (if not better!) than store-bought” with my kids, they were going to expect pint-sized lions, bears, zebras, and giraffes. Also, if they’re not shaped like animals, then… they’re not animal crackers! Luckily, the Michael’s by me had a small set of Noah’s Ark cookie cutters that has been perfect. Plus, I love to use just the small teddy bear cutter with graham cracker dough and make homemade Teddy Grahams. 🙂
What you need:
- 12 T. unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 3 T. honey
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1/2 t. baking soda
- 1 t. Princess Cake and Cookie Emulsion
- 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
- 1 c. rolled oats
- food processor
- electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment
- wax paper
- 2 baking sheets lined with parchment
- rolling pin
- small cookie cutters, preferably about 1″-2″ long
- flour duster, optional
- cooling racks
Time: 2 hours, plus 1 hour of chilling time for the dough
Serves: Makes 5-6 dozen animal crackers
Multiplying the recipe: It would double easily, but one batch already makes a large number since you are cutting them so small.
Homemade Animal Crackers:
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the rolled oats until they are finely ground and mealy. Set aside.
In the bowl of the stand mixer, combine the butter, sugar, honey, salt, baking soda, and Princess emulsion. Whisk together the flour and ground oats, and then add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Combine well.
Divide the dough in half between two pieces of wax paper. Shape each half into a round disc and wrap it in the wax paper. Refrigerate it for about one hour.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350F. Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and roll it out between two sheets of wax paper, sprinkling it with flour as necessary to keep it from sticking. Roll the dough to about 1/4″ thick, and then cut it into shapes. Place the cut animal shapes on the prepared trays. As a tray is filled, place it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. After it has chilled, bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Let them cool on the tray for 2-3 minutes, and then remove to the cooking racks to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough, re-rolling scraps as necessary. If dough gets too over-worked or warm, place it in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes before rolling it out again.
Store in a well-sealed container at room temperature.