December 16, 2008

Chocolate Dipped Animal Crackers




Ingredients:
for the cookies:
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
5 1/2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon mace
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg, at room temperature

to decorate:
6 oz semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter
nonparils

animal shaped cookie cutters

Directions:
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, spices, salt and baking powder in a small bowl. While the beater is going, slowly incorporate the flour into the egg/butter mixture and mix until a thick dough forms. Place in a bowl, cover and refrigerate 1 hour or until it is quite cold and stiff. Flour a clean, flat surface. Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpats. Place the chilled dough on the flour and roll it out until it is about 1/4 of an inch thick. If the dough is too cold to successfully roll out, wait a few minutes then try again. Cut out into animal shapes. I do not suggest re-rolling the dough so try to cut out the cookies as close together as possible. Place each cookie onto the lined cookie sheets about 1/2 inch apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile, in a small pan, melt the butter and chocolate chips together. Dip the bottom of the cooled cookies into the chocolate (carefully!) or brush the chocolate on to the bottoms to form a thin layer. Sprinkle with nonpareils if desired.

Yield: about 2 dozen cookies

Note: if you are doubling or tripling this recipe it will probably take more than an hour to chill. Even overnight would be okay.



My thoughts:
After sampling a number of animal crackers (and reading their ingredients) I became convinced that the secret ingredient, what gives them that distinctive animal cracker taste, is a fair amount of mace. You don't see many recipes that call for mace (and it is the spice I get the most e-mails from people asking for a substitution or if they can just leave it out) but adding it really made the difference. Mace is made from the reddish outer coating of the nutmeg seed* so it has a similar flavor to nutmeg but is a bit more spicy and much stronger tasting. Mace is most commonly found ground but it is possible to purchase mace "blades" which are pieces of this outer coating. By incorporating mace into my go-to sugar cookie recipe and scaling it down quite a bit (but feel free to double or even triple the above recipe-I just made a manageable amount of cookies for us) and making a few tweaks here and there and voila! Animal crackers! I think these would make great gifts or a lovely addition to a cookie swap-who makes homemade animal crackers? People are always impressed by homemade versions of traditionally store bought treats. Dipping them in chocolate makes them a bit more festive looking but isn't completely necessary.


*Quick fact: it takes 100 lbs of nutmeg seeds to produce 1 lb of mace!

6 comments:

  1. How cute is that!! You know, I've seen pictures of mace but have never, ever cooked with it. I'm curious to try this to see what it tastes like.

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  2. Aha, it's mace that makes them taste so good! Genius! And they're adorable.

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  3. My son would love these! How cute.

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  4. Hello, Rachel,

    Given that Mother's cookies is defunct, this is a really timely post, thanks!

    ps You've been tagged :-)
    http://tr.im/2d2f

    Why? Because I love your site and your "tweets"!

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  5. This sound and look really good. I love animal crackers!

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  6. I love giving sweet things as pressies Christmas time, and these are adorable.

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