Wee Work Wednesday: Making Animal Cookies Healthy and Delicious
There’s not much of a story to tell you about these cookies. I mean I could go on about how much my kids like animals. Or about how we are like everybody else and could eat cookies all day long. Or about how this recipe is whole wheat, no refined sugar, and no processed oils. But I won’t share about all those things. I’ll just say that these cookies are delicious and you shouldn’t feel too guilty about eating a ton of them. (Which I have).
While testing recipes for the right dough to use for these animal cookies, I had the opportunity to prepare these with and without my kids. And, no surprises here, it is much faster and easier to do it alone. And sometimes that’s just what you need to do. But when you’re up for it, call in the kids and whip up a batch of these cookies. Taste the dough together , chat about safari animals, giggle over silly jokes, and linger a while together in the kitchen. Take your time and remember that these days of watching their chubby little fingers work and having their undivided attention is just too short.
Making Cookies Healthier- A Note About Ingredients
This recipe calls for white whole wheat flour. This is a whole wheat flour that is a little finer than a regular whole wheat flour. I prefer it to regular whole wheat in cookies and other lighter baked goods. I especially like to try to keep it on hand for homemade flour tortillas. I buy the King Arthur White Whole Wheat in the orange bag.
Coconut oil. It’s uses are endless. It’s health benefits are many. Just check Pinterest if you don’t believe me. Today the coconut oil becomes a good substitute for shortening.
Honey. Often (not always) I like to try to substitute honey or maple syrup for refined sugar in recipes. It is rich in nutrients and local honey has been linked to allergy relief. Honey can overpower the flavor if you use a lot, but this recipe only calls for 1/3 cup so it’s not too strong. If you want to learn more about different types of sweeteners, Keeper of the Home has a helpful resource here.
A Few Tips Before You Begin
This recipe calls for chilling the dough in the refrigerator before you roll it out and cut the cookies. Don’t skip this step as it’s needed for the flavors to meld and the dough to harden enough to be rolled out and cut.
When you are ready to roll out the dough, spread flour across your work surface. The key is to add a little at a time. Use enough to keep your dough from sticking but not so much that your dough gets tough. This is one of those “learn as you go” situations. If you are having a hard time moving the cut cookies onto the baking sheet, then you probably need to use a little more flour. If the dough is sticking to the rolling pin as you roll it out, sprinkle a little flour across the top and also rub a little along the rolling pin.
Your dough will get softer the longer you leave it out. Only take out what you will need, leaving the rest of the dough in the refrigerator. If it starts getting too soft and warm, return it to the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
Using the cookie cutters is a great job for kids. My two year old could use the cookie cutters well but could not transfer the cut dough. My three year old, though, was able to do both steps after a little practice. This becomes a good opportunity to encourage patience and perseverance. It also become a good opportunity for moms to let go of a little control and be okay with headless elephants and lions who lose their legs. (Ahem. Finger pointed at myself).
Whole Wheat Animal Cookies
- 2 C white whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/3 C honey
- 1/4 C coconut oil, melted
- 5 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and spices in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, cream together the honey, coconut oil and butter until well blended, about 3 minutes.
- Add the egg and both extracts, one at a time, letting each mix in before adding the next.
- Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add in the flour mixture. Continue to mix on low until all the flour is incorporated and the dough comes together. Remove bowl from mixer and use your hands to press together the dough if necessary.
- Take the dough out of the bowl and divide it in thirds. Wrap each third in plastic wrap, flatten slightly into a disk, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour (or up to 24 hours).
- After the dough has chilled, take out one of the disks and let stand on the counter for 5 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350°.
- Lightly dust your countertop or work surface with flour. Remove the dough from the plastic wrap and dust each side with flour. Roll the dough to a quarter inch thickness. Dust your cookie cutters with flour, cut out the shapes from the dough, and transfer them to a baking sheet topped with parchment paper. Press the scraps back together and repeat.
- Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 10-12 minutes or until just starting to darken at the edges. Let cool 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack or your belly or both.
- Continue to cut and bake cookies until you’ve used all the dough.
- Keep the cookies in a container at room temperature until you’ve gobbled them up or about a week, whichever comes first.
Animal cookie recipe adapted from Casey Barber’s cookbook Classic Snacks.
What are your kids’ favorite fun snacks? Have you ever tried making them at home?