When were animal crackers invented? Until I saw a recipe for Chocolate Animals (Chocolate Animal Crackers) in a hundred-year-old cookbook, I’d never given it any thought.
I knew that animal crackers have been around for a long time (or in other words, since I was a child), but I would have guessed that they were invented mid-century. However, the recipe in the 1920 cookbook suggests that they have been around much longer.
This led me to check what it said in Wikipedia. I was surprised to discover that animal crackers have been around since the late 1800’s. It also said:
Animal biscuit crackers were made and distributed under the National Biscuit Company banner. In 1902, animal crackers officially became known as “Barnum’s Animals” and evoked the familiar circus theme of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. Later in 1902, the now-familiar box was designed for the Christmas season with the innovative idea of attaching a string to hang from the Christmas tree.
Here’s the original recipe:
I used a small (2.125 ounce box) of animal crackers when I made this recipe, so I only needed a little chocolate. If I’d made more Chocolate Animal Crackers I would have need to use more. chocolate.
The old recipe describes a process for making tempered chocolate. This is necessary to get a smooth, glossy coating – or chocolate melting wafers or chocolate candy coating can be used. I generally try to be true to old recipes – but ended up deciding that making a small batch of a fun recipe was the time to make an exception – so I went with the melting chocolate waters.
Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:
Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:
Chocolate Animals (Chocolate Animal Crackers)
chocolate melting wafers / chocolate coating
Put a piece of waxed paper on a plate. Set aside.
Using the microwave or low heat on the stove, melt enough chocolate to coat the animal crackers. (If a small 2.125 ounce box of crackers is used, melt about 1/2 cup of chocolate.) Dip the animal crackers in the melted chocolate, and then place on the waxed paper-covered plate.
Let the chocolate thoroughly cool and harden before serving. (I put the plate of chocolate-covered crackers in the refrigerator for a few minutes to quickly harden the chocolate.)
Last week I did a post on a hundred-year-old recipe for Mint Syrup. In that post, I said that the syrup could be used in coffee (it’s delicious) – but several readers suggested that it would be wonderful on ice cream, especially if it was mixed with chocolate syrup.
Well, great minds think alike – and it goes across the years. The magazine that contained the Mint Syrup recipe, also contained a recipe for Chocolate Mint Sauce for Ice Cream.
This sauce was much thicker than most modern chocolate syrups, but it was delightful on vanilla ice cream. The hundred-year-old recipe calls for lots of brown sugar and only one tablespoon of cocoa. I expected the syrup not to be chocolaty enough – but I was wrong. It had just the right amount of chocolate with the brown sugar apparently contributing to the rich flavor.
Here’s the original recipe. (I’m also including the Mint Syrup recipe, so that you don’t need to go back to last week’s post.)
I found this recipe challenging. When I made it, the sauce quickly hardened into a candy-like consistency. I reheated it and added butter. I then removed from the heat and stirred rapidly until the sauce began to thicken – and it again got too thick, so I added water (quite a bit of it), and stirred until the consistency seemed right for a sauce.
Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks – though I feel like it still needs a bit more tweaking. If you try this recipe, I hope you’ll add comments about how well it turned out – and whether you made additional revisions to the recipe.
Put the brown sugar and cocoa in a sauce pan; stir to combine. Gradually add the milk while stirring. Bring to a boil using medium heat, then reduce heat and cook until it forms a soft ball when dropped into cold water (238° F.). Remove from heat, stir in the butter. After the butter has melted, add the mint syrup. Stir rapidly until the sauce begins to thicken; add water if the sauce is too thick. Serve on ice cream.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup mint leaves
Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan; then add the mint leaves. Bring to a boil using medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer until the liquid begins to thicken to a syrup consistency (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat; strain and cool.