Animal Cracker Cookies


I remember eating animal crackers as a kid…I loved holding that adorable red box that looked like a circus car. I would take each cracker out and match it up with the picture of the animals on the box. They kept me occupied for many car trips.

I’ve always wanted to make my own version of animal crackers. Here’s a point of debate: Are they a cracker or are they a cookie? They are sweet like a cookie, but not too sweet. They are crispy like a cracker. How would you categorize them? This recipe produces cookies with a good crispy texture, but are a tad more buttery than the original. All in all, it’s a pretty good facsimile of an animal cracker.


from Williams Sonoma

Animal Cracker Cookies

Animal Cracker Cookies

Ingredients

2 ½ c all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and mace. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter on medium speed for 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low, and slowly add the sugar. Beat until fluffy, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for 1 minute.
  3. Stop the mixer and add half of the flour mixture. Beat on low speed until most of the flour has been absorbed. Add the remaining flour and beat until all of the flour has been absorbed and the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide into 2 equal balls. Shape each into a disk and wrap separately in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
  5. Let the dough stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. Place dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll out the dough to ¼ inch thickness. (If the dough cracks while rolling, let it stand at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes more.) Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour.
  6. Preheat an oven to 350°F.
  7. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Dip cookie cutters into flour just before using and cut out shapes. Place cookie cutouts on prepared baking sheets. Gather up the scraps, re-roll and cut out more cookies.
  8. Bake the cookies until very light golden brown, 12 to 16 minutes, depending on their size. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the cookies cool to room temperature.
http://kokocooks.com/2012/01/animal-cracker-cookies/

 

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Butterscotch Shortbread


Okay, last cookie post for a while. Promise. And it’s a short one to boot. These cookies also were part of the boxes of goodies I gave to friends and family. Chopping the chips was a little tedious, but worth it. In hindsight, perhaps the vitamix would’ve helped with that. After tasting them, I thought they could use a teeny extra bit of salt, so I added that to the recipe. Because I used a smallish cutter, I got about 40 cookies from one batch. Always a good thing when making 80+ cookies at a time.

adapted from Cookies & More 2011
published by Taste of Home

Butterscotch Shortbread

Butterscotch Shortbread

Ingredients

1 c butter, softened
½ c powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 ¾ c all-purpose flour
½ c cornstarch
¼ tsp salt
½ c butterscotch chips, finely chopped
½ c toffee bits
Kosher salt for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat liner. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and powdered sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Gradually add dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix well. Fold in butterscotch chips and toffee bits. Cover and chill for 1 hour.
  3. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to ¼” thickness. Cut into desired shapes, and place on prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle a few salt crystals onto each cookie. Bake until lightly browned, about 10-12 minutes. Cool on wire racks.
http://kokocooks.com/2011/12/butterscotch-shortbread/

 

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Lemon Almond Springerle


I am proud to announce that I was a part of the inaugural Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. One of 625 participants. Each of us made and sent a dozen cookies to 3 people. In turn we received a dozen cookies from 3 other people. Participants hailed from multiple countries. That means there were about 22,500 cookies zipping around the world in the past few weeks.

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011

For my part, I made lemon almond springerele. I got some new molds, and was eager to see how they worked. They were a lot finickier (is that a real word?) than the previous molds I had used. But the end result was totally worth the slight hassle. I also really wanted the lemon flavor to come through, so I tweaked the recipe a bit.

Swapped cookies: peanut butter toffee pretzel cookies from Emily of Life On Food, snickerdoodles from Chung-Ah of Damn Delicious, sunflower butter chocolate chip cookies from Michele the Food Librarian, cookeys from Michele.


The best part of the swap was getting to know new bloggers. Oh, and the excitement of opening a box of cookies! I got two boxes in one day, and the third came a few days later. My favorites were the peanut butter toffee pretzel cookies because I’m a sucker for anything with peanut butter. Thank you Chung-Ah, Emily, and Michele for all the wonderful cookies! And a HUGE “Thanks!” to Lindsay of Love and Olive Oil and Julie of The Little Kitchen for the huge task of organizing the swap. Can’t wait for next year!


adapted from House On The Hill

Lemon Almond Springerle

Lemon Almond Springerle

This recipe makes a ton of cookies. I recommend making a half batch to start with.

Ingredients

1/2 tsp baker’s ammonia (Hartshorn)
2 Tbs milk
6 large eggs, room temperature
6 c powdered sugar
1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp of almond extract
1 tsp lemon oil
grated zest of 2 lemons
2 lb. box cake flour, sifted, plus more as needed

Instructions

  1. Dissolve baker’s ammonia in milk and let sit for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, beat eggs till thick and lemon-colored (10-20 minutes). Slowly beat in the powdered sugar, then the softened butter. Add the hartshorn and milk, salt, almond extract and lemon oil, and lemon zest. Gradually beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer, then stir in the remainder of the 2 lbs. of flour to make a stiff dough. Turn onto a well-floured surface and roll out to a ½ ” thickness. If the dough keeps sticking to the rolling pin, knead a little more flour into it.
  2. Dust molds with some flour, making sure to get in all the crevices. Press molds into dough to imprint and cut out cookies. Repeat with remaining dough. Place cookies on a baking sheet lined with a single layer of parchment (DO NOT USE SILPAT MAT.) Let cookies dry for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.
  3. Bake on cookie sheets at 250° till barely golden on the bottom, about 10-15 minutes or more, depending on size and thickness of cookie.
  4. Store in airtight containers or in zipper bags in the freezer. They keep for weeks, and improve with age.
http://kokocooks.com/2011/12/lemon-almond-springerle/

 

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M&M Cookies


Been busy with Thanksgiving preparations. I’m also simultaneously jump-starting my holiday baking. With all the stuff scheduled in December, I’m trying to bake as many cookies this week as I can.


I love these cookies 1) for all the fun colors in them and 2) because I can make them with my son. He’s really good at dumping ingredients into the bowl. And he loves topping the cookies with more candy. Usually, some m&ms magically find their way into his mouth. (Sorry about the blurry phone picture.)


adapted from squidoo.com

M&M Cookies

M&M Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup of soft butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
2 c M&Ms

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F . Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or silpat mats.
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and the vanilla.
  3. In another bowl, mix together flour, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix. Stir in the M&Ms.
  4. Using a spoon or a scoop, drop cookies of about 1 heaping tablspoon onto your cookie sheets, making them about two inches apart. If you have extra candies, push them into the tops of the cookie mounds. Bake for between 10 and 13 minutes. Cool on wire racks.
http://kokocooks.com/2011/11/mm-cookies/

Preheat oven to 350°F . Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or silpat mats.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and the vanilla.

In another bowl, mix together flour, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix. Stir in the M&Ms.

Using a spoon or a scoop, drop cookies of about 1 heaping tablspoon onto your cookie sheets, making them about two inches apart. If you have extra candies, push them into the tops of the cookie mounds. Bake for between 10 and 13 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

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Springerle

Nothing says “holiday season” more to me than springerle cookies. They are a traditional German cookie, and are stamped using either a mold or a rolling pin. I love their intricate images, but was a little intimidated by them. This year, I finally decided to try making some. I consulted a friend who makes springerle every year, and has experience baking them in this climate. She recommended letting them dry for 24 hours and to bake at a super low temperature – 225 degrees F.


I found molds on the House on the Hill site. The hardest part was choosing among all the beautiful prints. I already am planning out which ones to purchase next. While browsing, I also ordered hartshorn (baker’s ammonia) and some flavor oil. Anise is the traditional flavor for springerles, but I’m not a fan of licorice. The “bitter” almond flavoring I got is much stronger than regular almond extract, but the bitter label is a bit misleading.


The dough was easy to work with. Stamping and cutting the cookies was time consuming, but not difficult. I used a small paintbrush to dust the mold with powdered sugar to keep the dough from sticking.

The only problem was with my oven. It runs hot, and I had trouble maintaining a low temperature. If the oven is too hot, the cookies puff up so much that the images fade considerably. I ended up keeping the oven door open a little during the baking to prevent this. I figured it was better to err on the side of caution and bake them at a lower temperature.

Adapted from houseonthehill.net

Springerle

Springerle

Ingredients

½ tsp baker’s ammonia (hartshorn) or baking powder
2 Tbs milk
6 large eggs, room temperature
6 c powdered sugar
½ c (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
½ tsp salt
½ tsp anise oil (or almond oil)
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 lbs cake flour, plus more for rolling

Instructions

  1. Dissolve hartshorn in milk and set aside for 60 minutes. Beat the eggs until thick and light yellow – 10 to 20 minutes. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar, then the butter. Add the milk mixture, salt, anise oil, and zest. Gradually beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer, then stir in the rest by hand to make a stuff dough.
  2. Turn dough onto a floured surface (use the cake flour) and knead in enough flour to make a good print without sticking. Dust the mold with powdered sugar use a soft brush to get in all the crevices. Transfer cut cookie dough to a parchment lined baking sheet. You can place the cookies close together. Let the cookies “dry” for 24 hours. Drying the cookies helps preserve the image during baking.
  3. Bake for 225˚F for 20-25 minutes. Check frequently to make sure the cookies don’t puff up. If they do, keep the oven door cracked open and continue baking until the cookies are barely golden on the bottom.
http://kokocooks.com/2010/12/springerle/

 

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Independence Day Cookies

 

Tomorrow is July 4th! Normally we hang out at a friend’s house, eating lots of food and watching fireworks. Sadly, our friend will not be in town this weekend. Hubs has a gig over on the east coast of the state, so the squirt and I will probably go hang with him for part of the day.

 
I usually make sugar cookies only in December. I’m not the kind of person who busts out the cookie cutters for every celebration, although I really wish I were. When faced with a large batch of cookies to decorate, I sometimes feel a little daunted. However, this occasion I had a patriotic design in mind, so I didn’t mind the detailed work.

From my meager sugar cookie experiences, I have learned a few things. Here are my tips for the cookie decorator:

-Plan ahead for what colors you will need, and in which order you need to use them.

-Use a very small amount of water at a time to thin the icing, and mix well before adding more. To outline the edges, you want a consistency that flows easily, but still holds its shape. To flood with color, you want a thinner consistency so the icing spreads out after piping.

-Cover the mixing bowl of icing with a damp cloth while you work.-Keep piping bags upright when not in use. Dampen a paper towel and place at the bottom of a glass. Set the bag in the glass.


-Wear gloves when adding coloring.


Hope these tips help. Happy Independence Day!
 
Adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe

Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

2 c sifted all-purpose flour
¼ tsp table salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, sift flour, salt and baking powder. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with a hand mixer until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Add the flour mixture, and mix until thoroughly combined. Shape dough into a flat disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and let chill for at least 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Dust a large surface with flour. Unwrap the dough, and roll out to ¼ inch thickness, dusting generously with flour. Cut into shapes using a cookie cutter and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Re-roll out the scraps to cut more shapes.
  3. Bake for about 15 minutes, until cookies are golden. Cool cookies on a wire rack and decorate.
http://kokocooks.com/2010/07/independence-day-cookies/

 

Royal Icing

Ingredients

1 lb powdered sugar
5 Tbs meringue powder
½ c water (slightly less if you live in a humid climate like I do)
Small splash of almond extract (or whatever flavoring you like)

Instructions

  1. Place ingredients in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium until fluffy but still dense, about 7-8 minutes. Thin with water as needed.
http://kokocooks.com/2010/07/independence-day-cookies/

 

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Peanut Butter Cookies, and an unexpected arrival


To continue on Hubs’ nesting/baking, he made peanut butter cookies. I have spent a good deal of time searching for a favorite recipe. My idea of the perfect pb cookie is soft, chewy, and very peanut buttery. Most are crispy, crunchy, or overly-buttery and not enough peanut bettery. My favorite batch was from grad school, when I made them with my friend Jenn. She sent me the recipe, but it didn’t taste the same.

I told Hubs of my ideal cookie, and he set about finding a recipe to fit. He found one on epicurious.com, and added a few extra scoops of peanut butter. I loved them! I came home from my regular Sunday church gig, starving (as usual), and walked into the house to the aroma of peanut butter. Despite the considerable size of the cookie, I scarfed down two. It was all I dreamed of and more.


This ended up being the last baked good that Hubs was able to bake. That evening, we ended up at the hospital because I went into early labor. Maybe I was in denial, but I was thinking the whole time that it was nothing (I didn’t feel any different), and that we’d be able to go home. Turns out, our little guy wanted to meet us 5 weeks early. Monday morning my water broke, and since he was in a breech position, I was scheduled for an immediate c-section. Two hours later, our son made his entry into the world. He weighed 4 lbs, 13 oz, measured 18 inches, and amazingly enough, was in perfect health. We named him Tyler. Despite his premature arrival, he did not need any additional care, and spent my recovery time in the hospital in the room with us.

Since we were expecting him in mid-October, we were caught quite off guard. I hadn’t even had a baby shower yet. Friends and family have stepped in to get us things that we needed, and to lend their love and support as we had a crash course in baby care. We are now settled in at home, I am tying up loose ends at work, and we are spending many sleepless nights as new parents. Tyler is a wonder. I didn’t think I could love my husband more than I did, but seeing him with Tyler melts my heart every time.

Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Cookies
from Bon Appetit
January 1998 (also found on epicurious.com)

3 c all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 c peanut butter (creamy or chunky, but not freshly ground)
2 tsp vanilla
1 c packed brown sugar
1 c sugar
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat butter, peanut butter, and vanilla. Beat in both sugars. Scrape down sides of bowl. Stir half of the dry ingredients into the mixture. Add eggs, 1 at a time, stirring well after each addition. Mix in remaining dry ingredients.

For each cookie, roll 1 heaping tablespoonful of dough into a ball. Arrange dough balls 2 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Using the back of a fork, flatten the dough balls and form crosshatch design on tops. Bake cookies until dry on top and golden brown on bottom, about 14 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets 5 minutes. Using a metal spatula, transfer cookies to racks and cool completely.

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ATK’s Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

Hubs and I were both in the mood for cookies earlier this week. Luckily, a recent issue of Cooks Illustrated had their version of the “perfect” chocolate chip cookie. Their recipe calls for browning the butter, giving the cookies an even more caramely flavor. The recipe testers also strived for a crackly surface, which worked on one of the cookie sheets we used, but not as much on the other cookie sheet.


The cookies came out gigantic, but I should have expected that since the whole batch made only 16 cookies total. I’m not sure that they attained perfection, but they sure hit the spot.

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Cooks Illustrated
May/June 2009

1 3/4 c unbleached flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
14 Tbs (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 c sugar
3/4 c packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 375 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with
parchment paper.

Whisk flour and baking soda in a medium bowl; set aside.

Heat 10 Tbs butter in a skillet over medium high heat until melted. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown. Remove skillet from heat and transfer browned butter to a large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 Tbs butter into the hot butter until completely melted.

Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter, and whisk until fully mixed. Add egg and
yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds.
Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny.
Using a rubber spatula, stir in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Divide dough into 16 portions. Arrange 2-inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 cookies on
each sheet. Bake 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and puffy, and edges have
begun to set but centers are still soft, 10-14 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack; cool
cookies completely before serving.

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Cookies amid the chaos – July Daring Bakers

The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

With the bustle of purchasing a home, and the subsequent move, the July DB challenge completely slipped my mind. I decided to christen the kitchen in the new place with these yummy cookies. Boy, was it an adventure trying to find ingredients and baking equipment when nothing has a place yet.The oven looks like a throwback from the seventies. This is impressive considering the house was built in 1990. As antiquated as it looks, it worked fine. I was worried when the first batch came out looking like this:


I realized that Gale Gand’s definition of a small tip (for piping the batter) and my definition of a small tip were vastly different things. The following batches came out much better. I had a bit of trouble incorporating the egg whites into the creamed butter and sugar, resulting in the white lumps in the cookies. This, however, did not affect the taste. Assembling the cookies was a snap, and like the faux Hostess cupcakes, they tasted even better than the original.

I leave you with a picture of my savior during this chaotic phase: our pool.

The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.


Milan Cookies

Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies
• 12 tablespoons (6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested
1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

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