Homemade animal crackers, from Stella Parks’ new book BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts.
I have a handful of baking idols, and let me tell you: Stella Parks is one of them.
Stella was named by Food & Wine as one of America’s Best New Pastry Chefs and is the pastry wizard at Serious Eats. You probably also know her as BraveTart. I started reading her blog BraveTart shortly after I first started blogging. She takes a completely no-nonese guide to baking (especially with her macaron manifesto), and I dig a girl that makes absolutely everything from scratch, even her sprinkles.
She’s been working on her cookbook BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts for about 5 years now, I think. And after one look inside, you’ll see why: Stella has mastered all of your favorite American desserts, from scratch. All of the cookies the elves make in the cookie aisle at the grocery store? Stella’s got you covered. All of the cookies the girl scouts sell to you? Stella teaches you how to make them from scratch. Even the freaking McDonald’s fried apple pies, she has down to a science. Homemade candy bars, ice cream (with all of the toppings you love), pies, doughnuts and impressive cakes—this book is seriously the new go-to baking book.
And if I haven’t convinced you, I want to mention that her homemade cinnamon rolls are made in just one bowl: make the frosting first, then the filling, and then the dough. How genius is that?! But honestly, the entire book is full of genius tips and food history lessons—it’s a freaking gem. This book is the new must-have for anyone who likes to bake.
When I saw she had a recipe for homemade animal crackers, I stopped in my tracks. My parents had just given Camille store-bought animal crackers (yes, I cried a little), and I had just bought animal cookie cutters at a local kitchen shop to try to mitigate the damage (heh). Also, once you make homemade graham crackers, homemade animal crackers are the logical next step.
It was completely meant to be. Plus, Stella’s recipe for homemade animal cracker cookies uses a few unexpected ingredients to make them taste 100% authentic: ground freeze-dried corn and malted milk powder. While it’s an extra trip to the store for these items, the recipe makes about 75 cookies, so the batch lasts me a few weeks (as long as I stay out of them!). But actually, I stock freeze-dried veggies in my pantry anyway because it’s an awesome way to get kids to eat veggies, and my husband has malted milk powder in the pantry at all times because he drinks chocolate ice cream malts for lunch (<–I wish I was kidding about that).
The cookie cutters I used are more like a combo of a cutter and a stamp. The exact ones I used are on Amazon here.
And congrats, Stella. It is absolutely beautiful and I can’t wait to bake my way through the entire thing. I’m tackling your cinnamon rolls next, and then pretty much the entire candy section :D
Yields 75 cookies
Homemade animal cracker cookies from scratch!
40 minPrep Time
12 minCook Time
52 minTotal Time
- 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 3/4 cup (1.5 ounces) freeze-dried corn
- 2/3 cup (4.5 ounces) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (1 ounce) malted milk powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (half as much if iodized salt)
- 1 stick (4 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cubed
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350, and have an oven rack in the middle position.
- Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Into the bowl of a food processor, sift the flour. Add the freeze dried corn. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap before placing the lid back on, and grind until homogenous, about 2 minutes.
- Add the sugar, malted milk powder, baking soda, salt, and cubed butter, pulsing to form a fine meal.
- Add the egg yolks and vanilla, and process until smooth.
- Scrape the dough out onto a work surface lightly dusted with flour, and knead until smooth. Divide the dough in half.
- Re-dust the work surface with flour, and then roll out half of the dough into a 6" square. Sprinkle both sides of the dough with flour, and then roll out until 10" across and just over 1/8" thick.
- Before proceeding, slide a spatula under the dough to ensure it isn't sticking to the work surface.
- Use plunger-style animal cookie cutters no larger than 2" in diameter to cut out animal shapes. For me, it worked best to cut out first, wiggling the cutter to ensure the lines were cut cleanly, and then use the plunger part to press in the shapes and lines of the cookie.
- Use a small spatula to move the cookies to the baking pan. Re-roll the scraps to get more cookies.
- Repeat with the other half of the dough. You'll get about 75 cookies.
- Bake the cookies until they are firm and just beginning to brown around the edges, about 12 minutes.
- Store up to 1 month in an airtight container at room temperature.
Recipe reprinted with permission from W. W. Norton & Company.