Animal crackers in my soup
Monkeys and rabbits loop the loop
Gosh oh gee but I have fun
Swallowing animals one by one
I don’t know about you, but I spent my childhood eating animal crackers. I loved the things. I also loved the fact that they came in a cute box that looked like a circus railroad car and had a string handle for carrying. If I’m remembering correctly, the ones we used to get actually had little wheels, so you could use the box as a toy. With four kids in the family, I’m sure we had zillions of those things rolling around the house.
We also sang the Animal Crackers a song that Shirley Temple sang in her 1935 movie Curly Top. I do remember wondering why she would put the animal crackers in her soup, given that they were actually sweet cookies. I didn’t find out until later that the original animal crackers were actually not sweet–they were more like what we in the US call crackers. Kind of like graham crackers, which also started out not sweet. If you’re interested in animal cracker lore, there’s a whole site dedicated to it, Animal Crackers.
This post is for Jennifer M., one of my readers, who requested that I develop an Animal Cracker recipe that isn’t too sweet–like the crackers from her childhood. I’m guessing we are around the same age, because I remember animal crackers not being super-sweet. I thought this would be an easy recipe to develop, but for some reason, this recipe was a tough one. I pored over the recipes on the Animal Crackers site, and I made batch after batch, and they never tasted quite like I remember. Then, one day on Twitter I was asking folks what flavorings they thought would go in animal crackers. I had tried vanilla extract, almond extract and those two together. Something wasn’t right. Then my pal Jenifer suggested a drop of orange extract–and voilà! That was it! A drop of orange extract brought everything together. I found it in the baking section of my grocery store. It’s optional, of course, but try it and see what you think.
Animal Crackers, Gluten-Free
Special Equipment Needed
-animal cookie cutters, small or large
1 C (140 g) Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix
1/4 C (35 g) sorghum flour
1/8 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 C (1/2 stick; 55 g), unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 C (60 ml) mild honey
1/4 C (60 ml) heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp orange extract (optional)
In a large bowl, mix together Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix, sorghum flour, xanthan gum, salt, and baking soda.
Add the cold butter pieces. With fingers, squish the butter into the dry ingredients. Do so until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Add honey and mix with a fork. Add cream, mix well with the fork. Add vanilla extract (and orange extract if using). You will have to use your hands to do a final mix–to bring the dough together.
Shape the dough into 2 disks, and place each between two pieces of wax paper. Roll out each disk to 1/4″ thick. Place in refrigerator for 15 minutes to firm up enough to cut out shapes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C/Gas Mark 6. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. After your dough has firmed up, remove first batch from refrigerator. Unwrap from wax paper and cut dough into shapes using your cookie cutters, and place on the parchment-lined cookie sheet, with about 1/2″ between each. Repeat this process until all of the dough has been used.
Bake at 400 degrees F for 5-9 minutes, until the crackers are a bit brown. Transfer the crackers to a plate to cool completely. Remember, they will be the most crunchy when they are cool.
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