Books for cooks

Savory animal crackers from "The Big Dish" are whimsical and perfect for entertaining.

'The Big Dish: Recipes to Dazzle and Amaze from America's Most Spectacular Restaurant."

Under the umbrella Barton G., author Barton G. Weiss commands an empire of restaurants, event services and catering. His goal in all is "to create drama and theater, devising a different story to pair with each situation and individual."

The results are flamboyant, full of lush dishes overflowing with food and trompe l'oeil displays producing intriguing illusions.

The tongue-in-cheek animal crackers are the book's simplest presentation. You will be dazzled by the display of "Seedling Salads," amused by the delivery of dessert in "Cake in Progress," and downright delighted by the array of manly meats in the "Bucket of Bones."

This cookbook can enliven Spoleto entertaining, with its colorful backdrop of international opera, theater, and dance. Published by Rizzoli. $30.

Reach Marion Sullivan at

Makes approximately 30 crackers

Cheese crackers take on a nostalgic form when cut into animal cracker shapes. Who says animal crackers have to be sweet or that they are just for kids? It's so much fun to present these spilling out of colorful boxes at a cocktail party.

- From "The Big Dish: Recipes to Dazzle and Amaze."


1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

11?2 cups bread flour, plus extra for rolling

1?2 teaspoon table salt

1?4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1?4 teaspoon cayenne pepper


Combine the cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low speed for 1 to 2 minutes just to combine. Add the flour, salt, white pepper, and cayenne pepper and beat on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes until all the ingredients are incorporated and a ball of dough is formed. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out to 1?4-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface.

Using 2-inch animal-shaped cookie cutters, cut out crackers and arrange them 1?2 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Gather the dough scraps together and roll them out again, until all the dough has been used. Return the dough to the refrigerator if it becomes too soft to easily roll. Refrigerate the crackers in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Bake the crackers for 15 minutes or until they are lightly browned and cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the pan for about 5 minutes before gently moving them to a metal cooling rack. Cool completely and store in an airtight container until ready to serve.