As a self proclaimed Scrooge, the holidays are not the most wonderful time of the year for me. In a normal year the pressure of the holidays feels like Santa is sitting on my chest. But in 2020 everything is stressful enough as is. And the holidays feel just like another Covid Tuesday. Maybe in some weird way this surreal year has lessened the holiday stresses. Or maybe I just care less now because I am behind on everything anyway. Behind on work, behind on life and way behind on baking. But by some holiday miracle, I got in the spirit, just in the St. Nick of time. And I am, dare I say, giddy to share these adorable Reindeer Animal Cookies with you. The cheer is palpable, people. Am I ok?
In years past I have partnered up with my pals from Bob's Red Mill to develop a festive and fun holiday recipe along with a virtual social cookie swap of sorts on Instagram called #illBeHomeForCookies. Last year I baked up these easy Cherry Pistachio and White Chocolate Shortbread Cookies and the year before, my now classic Cardamom Coconut Snowflake Cookies. Both even feature beautiful recipe videos to really get you in the spirit of the season. To sum up 2020, this year stink, stank, stunk. At this stage, my cookies are burnt and my social spirit feels like it got run over by a reindeer. So sadly there is no social campaign this year, but there will be cookies. There will always be cookies. And these are the hap, hap, happiest Christmas cookies since, well, Covid.
Classics never go out of style.
I've actually been making these Reindeer Animal Cookies for years but somehow I've never shared the recipe. That's a real Scrooge move so it's time to gift you all with this spirited twist on my classic Frosted Animal Cookies recipe. I can't believe I've kept these cuties to myself all of these years. Sorry, my inner-Grinch was showing. A big thanks to my partners, Bob's Red Mill for making my spirits bright and helping me share this adorable recipe with you.
Here's the deal, this Reindeer Animal Cookies recipe isn't all that different from the Frosted Animal Cookies, but it has a few distinct changes. For starters, I swapped the shapes from the traditional farm or circus animal cookies to festive reindeer. Cute, cute, cute. They also have a natural, earthy sweetness from the essence of almond extract. But the real game changing, game change here is the spices. I nixed the standard winter spices and blended cinnamon with sumac. What a great Grinchy trick!
What in the world is sumac?
I was hoping you'd ask. Sumac is a middle eastern spice the color of Santa's suit. It comes from the flowering sumac bush and produces deep red berries. The berries get dried and then ground into a coarse powder. The flavor tastes as bright as the scarlet red color. It's zesty like lemon but not quite as puckering, with slight, earthy undertones. It adds a tartness to the cookie dough that buddies up blissfully with the warmly spiced cinnamon. Something surprising happened to the Reindeer Animal Cookies when I added the sumac...
The cookies taste like cherries!
There must have been some magic in the combo of the bright sumac and the sweet and earthy almond extract. I'm not 100% sure, but whatever it was, it WAS merry! VERY! Sumac rewrites the story of these cookies and gives them a bright storybook ending. Insert reference to "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" here. So give it a try, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. But, if you aren't sold on the sumac, I've got a red velvet sack full of alternative ideas...
Get Creative and make these Reindeer Animal Cookies your own!
- Switch up the spices. The original recipe uses cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom. This version has cinnamon paired with bright and zesty sumac. Ginger or allspice would be nice or mix in chai spice!
- Do it for the graham. If you swap in half of the Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Flour for Bob's Red Mill Whole What Pastry Flour, it gives the cookies a deeper graham cracker flavor.
- Shape shift. Just because I used reindeer cookie cutters, doesn't mean you have to. My original version uses farm animals. Trees, Santas, ginger people, snowflakes or stars would all be adorable. Llamas or Christmas Corgis would be pretty cute too!
- C'mon now, dip baby, dip. I used white chocolate but imagine how yummy these babies would be dipped in dark chocolate. You could even go half and half.
- Color your world. I kept these cuties classic white with simple white sprinkles and an occasional red Rudolph nose. But nothing says you have to! Go pink and white like the store bought versions. Or color your white chocolate with any color your heart desires. *But, and this is very important, you must use an oil based (not water based) food coloring with the white chocolate or it'll seize up.
- Top it off. These Reindeer have clean, winter white sprinkles but rainbow sprinkles are classic. Sometimes I use a holiday mix of red, green and white sprinkles. Shower your cookies in whatever sprinkles make your eyes twinkle.
The possibilities are endless with these Reindeer Animal Cookies. The cookies themselves have a snappy bite, just like the originals. But the white chocolate frosting is extra indulgent. And the best part is, you don't need to spend hours of your life ornately piping royal icing. Just melt down that white chocolate and toss those reindeer in for a quick dip. Then hit them with your sprinkles and they set up in no time!
These Reindeer Animal Cookies keep well, so they will last up to 2 weeks when sealed up tight. Making them an ideal bake 'n ship cookie.
These cookies are also great in the 11th hour, when you need something special to set out for the Big Guy but don't have a whole lotta time. You can even make the dough one day, roll out the reindeer dudes and freeze them up. Then on the big day, bake and top them off. Easy, festive and downright delicious.
These Reindeer Animal Cookies add a seasonal spin and tip a nostalgic nod to childhood classic. They are sure to make even the Grinchiest of small hearts grow three sizes. It worked for me.
This post was made is in partnership with Bob’s Red Mill. Follow Bob’s Red Mill on Instagram and Facebook or check out bobsredmill.com to shop their impressive lineup of flours, whole grains, seeds, and so much more.
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