Sophisticated and Reminiscent: Vanilla Bean and Lemon Animal "Crackers"
Who says that animal crackers are just for kids? They're definitely not..in my book..that's for sure. As a young lass eating this fine snack.. I was a bit beheading actually..in a literal sense.. i'd take them by the legs and would always and only begin head first! Don't ask me why, although I do find it zany..and yet still anomalous. Oh well..I was just being an innocent young child who probably had her parents scratching their heads on many occasions.
Remember that store I mentioned up in Acton?..Kitchen Outfitters? Well I picked up these adorable cookie cutters that caught my eye just because they were so ..cool! Call me old school but gosh..these cookie cutters were not the norm..and I say this because they were colored! I always only see the plain metal only kind which didn't really entice the whole idea of making animal shaped sugar cookies to begin with. But anyway.. I picked up 6 cutters and I suppose I was a little particular with my choices, for example my love of horses.. so of course that was a given.. the scottie dog for mcgyver, an elephant and chick for Mrs.M, and the piggy and bear for T! I was brooding over the fact of what cookie I'd make while I chose my fantastic 6 and decided that plain ole' sugar cookies just couldn't make the cut.. and the thought of icing them after just made me feel lazy. But, I soldiered on and threw that thought out the window, threw my game face on and rushed home to begin the soon to be cookie army.
I definitely wanted the cookie to have a distinct vanilla taste to it, and since that's pretty boring too..I thought the addition of lemon zest would give it a nice lift and just bring it up a few notches. These may not be your childhood animal crackers..but.... they could be your adult ones!
I started with a super simple sugar cookie recipe and added the additions of vanilla syrup and lemon zest. What is vanilla syrup you ask? Its a hell of a lot better ..and a lot more different than plain ole' vanilla extract..which, by the way, is mostly just the imitation stuff! This one is a whole jar full of thick molasses like vanilla extract, seeds, and just a touch of sugar. It makes the finished product look good too! with its tiny black dots on an off white canvas.
I didn't decide to ice my cookies till I was staring at them looking all sad and ...nude... I know animal crackers aren't originally iced.. but this now became a cross between a sugar cookie/animal cracker.. and it's fun to do anyways. The icing is very simple.. all you need is egg white powder, gel food paste (different colors), confectioners sugar, lemons. first start with 1/4 cup of egg white powder...and reconstitute it in a cup of warm water. Mix it well, it will start to foam. I eyeballed for consistency so I placed about a cup of confectioners sugar and while whisking slowly poured the reconstituted egg whites very little at first. I wanted to look for a ribbony consistency, not too thin or it won't create the border thickness I want for the cookies' outline. Just add more powdered sugar if it is too runny. I separated them into 3 bowls adding just a drop of black, pink and brown, a drop of one kind only in 1 bowl. Now, I didn't have any piping bags in hand and if you don't have one either I only hope you have parchment or wax paper because that's a great alternative! It take practice but you shape it into a ice cream cone with a very sharp and pointy tip, fill in your desired color icing and just barely snip the tip. There you go, your very own "pipe" bag!
If you want to try them out, I have left the recipe below.. Try and add flavors or essences you like.. cinnamon sugar..rose blossom.. almond.. I'm sure your versions are going to be amazing! and do share too!
...waiting to head into the oven..!
Aren't they just adorable?
This is my interpretation of mcgyver...I think he's still in the cookie jar..
Vanilla Bean and Lemon Sugar Cookies
3 C All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 C sugar
1 C butter (room-temp)
1 egg (beaten)
3 T half-n-half
2 T vanilla extract (syrup)
zest of a lemon
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C)
2. Sift together all-purpose flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.
3. Cut in butter and blend with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly.
4. With a fork, stir in lightly beaten egg, vanilla, lemon zest, and half-and-half.
Blend well with fork, then your hands to ensure thorough blending.
Chill dough for one hour in saran wrap for easier rolling.
****If you are not rolling the dough, chill for 15 minutes then skip to step 6 for baking.5. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into shapes6. Place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Sprinkle with sugar or leave plain for decorating with icing.
7. Bake for 6 - 7 minutes, or until lightly brown.