A while back I got it in my head that I could make crackers at home. You see, crackers are, after all, simply cookies that are not sweet. They are similar ingredients, at least, and the process is similar to making cut out or roll out cookies. The results of this experiment were mixed though. Fresh out of the oven, they were the best crackers I'd had in a very long time. Stored, though, they lost their crispness, their crunch, their innate 'crackerness'. And so, the recipe stayed where it had come from, in a cookbook I dearly love but don't always use.
Then I found this recipe. It is the inverse, nearly, of what I'd tried to do before. These are cookies, really, meant to mimic crackers. They are good if they are crisp, but if they are not, well, they are still cookies, still good. If they dry out a bit, well, they are animal 'crackers' after all. There is inherent forgiveness to this recipe, when you approach it this way. I like that.
Animal Crackers, from Homemade Kitchen, by Alana Chernila
8 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 t. kosher salt
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. grated nutmeg
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/4 cup honey
1 large egg
1 T. vanilla extract (I added about 1 1/2 T.)
1 cup rolled oats, blitzed in a food processor or finely chopped with a sharp knife
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for the counter
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
Combine the butter and brown sugar in a bowl, and beat until the mixture is smooth and evenly colored. Add the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Once the spices are beaten in, add the honey, egg and vanilla. Beat for a moment, then scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat until fully incorporated.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the oats, all-purpose flour, and the whole-wheat flour. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until fully combined. Form a ball with the dough, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but up to 12, wrapped in plastic wrap or wax paper.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF and remove the dough from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before you want to roll it out. Lightly grease two baking sheets, or cover them with parchment paper or a silpat. Set aside. Lightly flour the counter or board you plan to roll the animal crackers on. Roll out half the dough to an 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Use your favorite cookie cutters to cut shapes in the dough, and transfer those shapes to your baking sheets. Leave about a 1/2 inch between the animal crackers. (I left considerably less room on my cookie sheet and had none grow together. Crowd at will, but with caution.) Reroll any scraps, until all the dough is used. Repeat with the second half of the dough.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, (11 to 12 for me), switching the trays midway through baking, until the edges of the cookies are golden. Enjoy!