Animal Cracker Cookies

Animal Cracker Cookies Recipe

I picked up a box of cute, animal shaped cookie cutters at Williams-Sonoma the other day. The box contained one lion, one tiger, one giraffe, an elephant, and a seal with a ball on its nose. And although it took two tries, my second attempt at a dough worked out nicely - a couple of my favorite two-year-old friends told me so. Made from whole wheat pastry flour, a dollop of coconut oil, shredded coconut, ground walnuts, a touch of salt, and as little sugar as I thought I could get away with, the cookies baked up fragrant, golden and crisp.

Animal Cracker Cookies

I should mention that some of the circus animals are better behaved than others. The lion and tiger, with their open shapes, were a breeze to stamp out. The elephant was pretty great too - aside from the occasional missing trunk mishap. On the other side of the spectrum, I had a number of beheaded giraffes.

Animal Cracker Cookies

For those of you who are curious, my first attempt dabbled with olive oil as the fat, and honey as the sweetener - I wanted to explore a non-granulated sweetener in this type of cookie/cracker. They came out dry as Mojave Desert - dry, dry, suck the last drop of moisture from your mouth dry, and not very tasty on top of that. I took a moment to say good-bye to those little lions and tigers, and they spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around the compost bag.

Animal Cracker Cookies

I know some of you are going to ask - I don't see why you couldn't substitute unsalted butter for the coconut oil if you like, it should work out fine, but I haven't tested that variation. I should also mention how important it is to chop the shredded coconut in these cookies into tiny, tiny, flecks - this way it won't look like your animals have "grass" stuck to their feet, and will make stamping out the cookies easier.

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Animal Cracker Cookie Recipe

The kind of coconut oil you purchase is key. You want it to actually smell like coconut. You want pure, unrefined coconut oil - it will likely have the words virgin or extra-virgin and (hopefully) organic on the jar. If you see the word "refined" on the jar, find a different brand. I've just finished off a jar of Nutiva, and really enjoyed cooking with it - but there are other great brands out there as well. You can make your own walnut (or almond meal) by pulsing almonds in a food processor until it is the texture of sand - don't go too far or you'll end up with almond butter. For added depth feel free to use lightly toasted shredded coconut.

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup walnut of almond meal (see head notes)
1/2 cup unsweetened finely shredded coconut, very finely minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin coconut oil, softened
1/3 cup fine-grain natural cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten

a few tablespoons big-grain turbinado sugar

Whisk the flour, walnut meal and shredded coconut together in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a separate medium bowl, beat the coconut oil with the sugar and salt until it's smooth and looks a bit like a brown sugar frosting. Beat in the egg until everything is uniform in appearance. Add the flour mixture and stir just until incorporated. Turn the dough out onto the counter-top, knead it once or twice and gather it into a ball. Cut the dough in half, flatten each piece, wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Place the racks in the middle and line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper. On a floured work surface roll the dough out 1/8-inch thick. If the dough cracks, let it sit and warm up for a couple more minutes. Stamp out shapes with floured cookie cutters and place the cookies an inch apart on the baking sheets, sprinkle with a bit of the turbinado sugar. Bake until the cookie are just beginning to color at the edges 7-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool the cookies on racks if you have them.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies, depending on the size of your cookie cutters.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Comments

  • In my latest issue of Cooks Illustrated there was a great tip for cutting out cookies with soft dough: cut the cookies out on the cookie sheet, that way you don't have tor risk smooshing them when you move them to the sheet. Just roll out the dough on a piece of parchment cut to fit your cookie sheet. Place the parchment with the rolled out dough on to the cookie sheet, cut out the cookies, and then remove the pieces of dough left between the cookies with a small metal spatula.

    Willi
  • Ooh i haven't baked with coconut oil before but sounds like a great thing to try. And just bought a bag of Almond Meal (real cheap) at Trader Joe's the other day. These animals are great!

    Michelle @ What Does Your Body Good?
  • these are quite possibly the cutest animal crackers i've ever seen.

    ila
  • Oh my gosh, those are adorable! Great recipe.

    Erin
  • oh...I would love to bake these..I am constantly looking for healthy treates for my 14 mo. old daughter.but, she is not allowed to eat nuts yet...Heidi, do you think roasted sunflower seeds can be substituted for walnut or almonds?

    Nushma
  • This is a great recipe! I'd love to make this as a treat to bring to my daughters school except there is a tree nut allergy in her class. Any suggestions for substituting the nut meal? Thank you for your wonderful blog I really look forward to reading it.

    Kristin
  • Is it just me, or would these make excellent wedding or party favours? I think receiving a little bag of these would make guests of all ages feel welcome.

    Madeline
  • They look adorable....

    iffet
  • Heidi, these are too cute! I love them. I have a photo-related question...how do you light your photos? Is it always natural light? I absolutely swoon over your blog, especially the pictures. I'm always wondering just how you do it! :) HS: Yes, I always use natural (or available) light. No artificial lights.

    katie
  • I just saw a Cook's Illustrated tip for dealing with fragile forms like the giraffes and elephants: roll out the dough right onto the parchment/Silpat, stamp out the cookies as close together as possible, and remove the dough between. I haven't tried it yet, but it seems to have great possibilities. Love the site and your recipes!

    MSMama
  • Even when you post about things that are not particularly to my taste, I want to make them cause you take such great photos, and make them sound so tasty, and not TOO difficult!! And most of the stuff does sound great to me, even without your lovely photos etc!

    Lee Cockrum
  • These are about the cutest cookies ever! They might be difficult to pull off gluten-free, but if I ever feel daring, I'll try substituting a mix of sorghum and brown rice flour (and a few other odds and ends). I love using coconut oil for baking as well. And sauteing. And as a skin lotion. Lots of good uses for coconut oil. This is such a fun post; even if I never use the recipe, I've thoroughly enjoyed it. The photos are some of your best! Melissa

    glutenfreeforgood
  • Adorable! My kiddos would love this. Thanks for mentioning how to pick out a "good" coconut oil. I get asked that in my classes quite a lot these days b/c apparently coconut oil is en vogue for the wellness crew as some magic panacea. I do tell them if it doesn't SMELL like coconut then it is most likely refined and whatever natural benefits that are in the oil have been lost. Still, fat is fat, good fat or bad fat, and should be consumed in moderation. Hey... I'm WAY off topic here. Lovely cookies!

    LifeChef
  • This is exactly my kind of recipe! I always look for alternatives when it comes to cookie dough. I usually want to reduce the fat and the sugar but too afraid to mess around with the amounts...don't want them to turn all dry. So thank you for this! Great :)

    Tal Stadler
  • I was wondering what I could substitute instead of walnut or almond meal. I am allergic to nuts, but really wanted to make these cookies!!

    Laura
  • Now, you're making me regret passing up the animal cutters at Williams-Sonomsa...

    tommy
  • These look super! I have recently acquired a Kangaroo shaped cookie cutter in honour of family who are heading off to Australia for a year from Ireland. While I always use a simple butter, lemon, flour and sugar recipe, this is definately going to go down a treat! With a bit of luck, the family will make like boomerangs and come back to us soon! Thanks Heidi!

    Orlieoaks
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