National Animal Crackers Day is celebrated on April 18th.
You’re never too adult to enjoy animal crackers..and since your palate is likely much evolved since childhood, to taste the superiority of homemade versions.
Any adult will smile at a plate of cookie nostalgia with a cup of coffee or tea (and listen to six-year-old Shirley Temple sing “Animal Crackers In My Soup”).
The standard-bearer, Barnum’s Animal Crackers, have far less sugar than other cookies. In fact, they’re barely sweet enough to be called a cookie.
So why are they called crackers?
Animal crackers originated in Britain in 1889, when P.T. Barnum toured with his circus. British manufacturers called them animal biscuits, biscuits being the British word for cookie.
The cookies were exported to the U.S. When American manufacturers made their own versions, they changed the word biscuit to cracker instead of cookie (we opine, because consumers would expect cookies to be sweeter).
Today, brands like Annie’s and Best Choice call their products animal cookies…and add a more sugar to the recipe.
Here’s more history of animal crackers.
This recipe, from King Arthur Flour, uses small (2” to 2¼”) spring-loaded plunger cutters. You can buy a set of four for $9.95: elephant, giraffe, lion and zebra. You plunge down, then pop the dough right out.
If you don’t want to buy the cutters, use whatever animal cookie cutters you have—even large ones.
RECIPE: ANIMAL COOKIES
This recipe, from King Arthur Flour, makes sweet, buttery cookies. It uses Princess Cake & Cookie Flavor, an extract that combines vanilla and lemon and emulates the flavor profile and aroma of Barnum’s Animal Crackers.
If you don’t want to purchase a bottle, you can substitute only vanilla extract, 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract, almond extract, anise extract, other flavor of choice.
Prep time is 15 to 20 minutes; bake time is 8 to 10 minutes per sheet.
Ingredients For About 5 Dozen Cookies
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) butter, soft
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Princess Cake and Cookie Flavor (or substitute)
1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup oat flour or finely ground rolled oats