Hello blogging world. I know I’ve been gone a pathetically long time. I have no excuse other than life being busy. Or me being lazy. Or both.
Believe it or not, I did start composing a handful of posts just to get interrupted and then not come back and finish them. And I’ve had ideas for many more posts that never got started. It’s not that I haven’t been doing anything. I’m actually in the midst a sewing streak right now – the longest I’ve had in years! If I work my way back to try to cover some of the interesting/creative things I’ve done over the past few months, I could have content for weeks! But that’s a big “if.”
As much as I like writing and as much as I like crafting, it can be counter-intuitive for me to try to write about crafting. Because then I’m spending time writing instead of crafting and vice verse or something. But enough of my sad story.
Here is a quick project I was thrilled to stumble upon.
I love me some Mother’s Circus Animal Cookies. There’s something so perfect about the frosting, the soft cookie inside, the SPRINKLES outside. Mmmmm! But they get pricey when added to the weekly grocery budget.
What isn’t so pricey is the drab, boring, frosting-less, sprinkle-less animal crackers. I have a HUGE bear-shaped tub that Cailyn is currently (and quickly!) working her way through.
It occurred to me that even though the plain version is called a cracker, it’s probably the same thing as the inside of the Circus Animal Cookies.
THAT insight joined a long-overdue lightbulb that goes waaay back to November when I helped my MIL make cupcakes for my SIL’s baby shower. The cupcakes we made came from the book What’s New, Cupcake? by Karen Tack & Alan Richardson which contains some of the cutest, most creative cupcakes I’ve ever seen. We made the cupcakes called “Shower Heads” which is such a clever play on baby showers.
(Picture snipped from Amazon’s book preview, to show them in their full glory, and because I can’t find the pictures I took of the ones we made.)
They are simply mini-cupcakes with wafer cookies on top to make the faces. As you can see, the wafer cookies have a smooth coating which I thought would be chocolate. BUT IT ISN’T! No, not at all. The amazingly smooth, creamy coating for the faces is FROSTING. Just plain-ole, store-bought, in-a-jar frosting!
When I heard that I almost gave up hope. I’m not at all a cake artist and I definitely can’t manage frosting. If I get it on the cupcake (and not in my mouth by the spoonful) that’s an accomplishment. Forget trying to make it smooth!
But let me tell you a secret: This was the EASIEST thing EVER. It took a little practice to not make a mess but as far as making it smooth – no effort!
Want to know how? I’ll tell you!
But, I’ve taken a detour from my original topic. Although I’m hoping you have guessed where this goes. The brilliant method I discovered back in November for making cute little edible baby faces could, get this(!), make ANIMAL COOKIES!
So I took a couple big handfuls of the plain, boring animal crackers out of my daughter’s tub. (She loves them, by the way. But she doesn’t know better, yet.)
I took a large sheet of wax paper spread over a plate.
I took my jar of store-bought frosting.
And, of course, my fun, colorful sprinkles.
I scooped a few generous spoonfuls of frosting into a microwave-safe bowl. And… I microwaved it! For all of 5 seconds. And then another few seconds at a time until it was smooth.
See? You know it’s ready when it’s the texture of melted chocolate. And yes, that’s a cookie hiding in there.
(You’ll have to forgive me for the pictures. The project went so fast I only got some pictures when I was almost finished with it.)
Then you take a regular dinner or salad fork and use it to dip the cookie in the frosting. If your frosting is deep enough in the bowl, you can just dip the cracker in on the fork and pull it all out, nicely coated. If you’re reaching the bottom of your bowl, like I was, you can flip the cracker over a couple times until it’s coated.
Then – this is important – take advantage of the slots in the fork and let plenty of the runny, goey frosting drip off. Even rub the bottom of the cracker against the side of the bowl, to get rid of excess. Believe me, the cracker will still have plenty of frosting on it. If you leave too much, the frosting will form a big puddle under your cracker when you set it down.
Then just slide the crackers (crackers? I should start calling them cookies now that they officially have more sugar than nutrients) off the fork and onto the wax paper. Gravity will do most of the work for you.
Keep dipping cookie and sliding them onto the wax paper until you have enough to make you happy. And I’m sure you can be a lot more careful and precise and make your animal cookies look a lot prettier, but I have an bad habit of racing sloppily through a project to get to the end results (a tasty cookie, in this case.)
If your frosting starts to loose its smoothness or gets difficult to work with, just pop it in the microwave again. Unlike can happen with chocolate, I never noticed any detriment to my frosting when I re-microwaved it. I guess the time is so short (again, just 5 seconds!) that you aren’t coming close to burning it.
Then give the dipped crackers a few minutes for the frosting to set and sprinkle with multi-colored (or your favorite colored) sprinkles. The traditional nonpareils do the trick.
I found that when I sprinkled too soon, the sprinkles would sink down into the frosting after a while. It didn’t affect the taste at all, but they didn’t look quite as pleasant as when the sprinkles rested on top of the frosting a little bit. So test it out to find the right timing to let the frosting set without letting it get so solid that sprinkles won’t stick. And if you’re making a large batch of cookies, take a couple breaks in between dipping to sprinkle.
Another trick I found is that when I set the cookie on wax paper that already had sprinkles spilled all over it, the sprinkles stuck to the bottom of the cookie and actually gave it a nice resting place that kept the frosting from oozing out around the cookie as much.
Once you’ve finished these unbelievably simple steps, you’ll want to dig right in. (Cailyn obviously did.) So go ahead. But popping them in the fridge for a few hours definitely helps them set! The longer they were in the fridge (12+ hours) the more the frosting hardened so the texture became like that of the Circus Animal Cookies. Until then, they tasted wonderful but there was a distinct difference from the store-bought kind. The homemade ones were.. moister? They were pretty much like frosting on cookies (and who would argue with that?!) But giving them that time to set allowed the frosting to become a little more candy-coating like, as you expect from the store-bought variety. If that makes sense?
Anyway, the only way they lasted the 12+ hours is because I wanted to test the time they needed to set. I think I snuck one (or more) every hour. It was just the right amount to feed my sweet-tooth. (Okay, who am I kidding? I could’ve eaten 50 of them without blinking an eye.)
Cailyn thought they were pretty exciting, once I let her at ’em. I only let her have a few because I didn’t want her to get smart and start rejecting the frosting-free animal crackers (and because I obviously ate the rest of the frosted ones.) But she certainly enjoyed them!