I love my job. No really, I LOVE my job and the people I work with. And they love whisk + wander cookies (or so they’ve said). So this past Valentine’s Day I made them all a special little treat. These little hearts were inspired by the old-fashioned frosted circus animal cookies that held permanent residence in the cookie jar at our family cabin for probably about 40 years. Seriously, who doesn’t love those things?
In searching for a recipe I found another love, copycat recipes. If I had a bucket list, I think mastering a homemade Oreo cookie would be on it. Don’t go far, I’ll be trying them ALL and posting the results for you.
Choosing a candy coating
This version of the circus animal cookie isn’t sweet. It’s almost savory. But, after a quick dip in candy coating it’s completely transformed. The result is a sweet morsel that melts in your mouth. Mercken is my favorite candy coating. I prefer it to Guittard. Ghirardelli White Melting Wafters taste great, but have a yellow tint, like white chocolate. Mercken's Super White Candy Melts were the perfect choice for this project.
How to dip cookies in candy coating
For me, the best way to dip cookies in candy coating is to melt the coating in a microwave safe bowl (I usually use my Pyrex measuring cups). I microwave on defrost until the candy coating pieces are just starting to melt. I give them a good stir until the warm candy melts the rest. When it starts to harden again, I pop it back in the microwave again for a few seconds. I’ve tried a few of the candy dipping tools out there, but my favorite is a kitchen fork. I drop the cookie into the candy, top down. I flip it over with the fork and with the fork under the cookie I lift it to the side of the bowl. I drag the fork and cookie against the edge to remove any excess coating. Then I place it on a baking pan lined with waxed paper. I’m not a fan of putting coated cookies on a cooling rack. In my experience that causes the coating to drip off and as it cools it creates little “icicles” of coating that then need to be broken off. I find that if I take my time and drag off most of the coating before I put it on the waxed paper I end up with a nice smooth finish to the bottom of the cookie. IF I get a pool of coating on the waxed paper, I use a knife to trim it off after it hardens.
I finished these with red, white and pink nonpareils. I let the coating cool just a bit before dropping them on so they don’t sink in. This also helps keep the colors from bleeding into the warm coating.
I packed them in pairs so my friends could share them with their sweethearts. Partager l'amour!
Mother’s Brand Circus Animal Cookies Copycat
Makes about 60 cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large free-range egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
18 ounces candy coating melts (Merken's super white)
1/4 cup rainbow nonpareils
Americolor candy coloring (optional)
Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on high speed until fluffy.
Mix in egg, vanilla and almond extract until well combined.
Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until completely incorporated.
Divide dough and form into 2 equal discs. Wrap separately in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour. Can be chilled overnight.
If dough has been chilling for more than an hour, let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes, or until slightly softened. Remove the plastic wrap and place dough between two 1/2 sheets of parchment paper. Roll out to 1/8-inch thick. Chill rolled dough for about 10-15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350º.
Cut dough to desired shapes and place on baking sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Re-roll scraps only once to avoid tough cookies. chill again until ready to bake.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the edges start to turn golden brown. Let cookies cool for about 5 minutes in the pan then transfer to wire racks to cool at room temperature.
Melt candy coating wafers in microwave safe bowl using the defrost setting. Watch closely and remove when some of the wafers begin to melt. stir to melt remaining wafers. Add coloring and stir until incorporated.
Drop cookies, one at a time, into melted candy coating face down. Flip with a fork. Pick up and drag bottom of cookie and fork against the edge of the bowl, removing most of the coating on the bottom of the cookie. Transfer to waxed paper to cool. Repeat previous step with another cookie. Go back to the first cookie and sprinkle with nonpareils. Allowing the coating to cool a bit will keep nonpareils from sinking and bleeding into the warm coating. Let cool until coating hardens.