Monday, February 1, 2010

When Only a Snickerdoodle Will Do . . .

When you don't know what kind of cookie to make, but you just feel like making something and you know that you don't want that something to be complicated or too time consuming, this is the cookie to go for. The classic won't-let-you-down snickerdoodle is a predictable crowd pleaser. I made a batch of these last Friday while my 13-year son, Nathan, and a bunch of his friends were at our house celebrating the fact that they had a half-day of school. They were raucous and loud and funny. After a stint of skateboarding in the freezing cold, they piled into the house and commandeered our living room to watch a movie, throughout which they all chattered and chuckled in perfect adolescent style.

I knew these cookies would likely be a hit when one of the boys, a tall, cheerful fellow named Zack, popped into the kitchen and asked, "What kind of cookies are you making??" When I responded that they were slated to be snickerdoodles, his face lit up and he blurted, much to my delight, "I LOVE snickerdoodles!" Now, as you well know by now, that's just the kind of response I crave whenever I bake just about anything. So, in case you're reading this, Zack, (the odds of which are slim and none, I'm quite sure) I'd just like to thank you for your support. Oh, and feel free to come back anytime for more cookies.

That's a darn good cookie . . .

I found this recipe in a 1996 cookbook that I picked up at a used book sale this past autumn. The title is a mouthful in and of itself -- Rosie's Bakery Chocolate-Packed Jam Filled Butter-Rich No-Holds-Barred Cookie Book, by bakery owner Judy Rosenberg. The book looks as if it may be out of print, though why that might be true I can hardly imagine. It's "packed" alright, with delectable cookie formulas of every stripe. Each recipe appears with a brief but helpful preamble, and the instructions are so clear that you'd really have to give it the old college try to screw anything up. It's a good book, plain and simple. If you can scrounge up a used copy, go for it.

I like snickerdoodle recipes that include baking powder and cream of tartar, vs. those that just try to pawn off regular sugar cookies as snickerdoodles merely by dousing them with cinnamon sugar. They're not the same. They're just not. These are classics. I promise.

One aspect of the recipe that I changed involved the spices. I grated fresh nutmeg for the dough, and used less than the 1/2 tsp. nutmeg indicated (the fresh stuff is way stronger than the stuff in a jar, you know!). I also used at least twice as much cinnamon as called for in the cinnamon-sugar mixture, just because I adore pungent, high-quality cinnamon and I didn't want the nutmeg to be the dominant flavor (people seem to either love or hate nutmeg, have you noticed?).

I ignored Judy's direction to simply sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar on the unbaked cookies while they're on the cookie sheet. Instead, I scooped the dough with a portion scoop, and plopped each glob of dough right into a bowl of the cinnamon-sugar. That allows the coating to cover the entire cookie, and avoids the mess of wasted sugar baking all over your cookie sheet.

Classic Snickerdoodles

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

3 cups All-Purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (or slightly more if you're using already ground nutmeg)
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 and 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs

For the topping:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 and 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (or less, if you prefer)

Sift the flour, soda, salt, cream of tarter, and nutmeg together in a small bowl and set aside.

Mix the two topping ingredients together thoroughly in another small bowl and set that aside.

In the medium/large bowl of your mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy, about one and a half minutes. Stop to scrape the bowl as needed.

Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing at medium speed for about 30 seconds in all. Scrape the bowl.

Add in the flour mixture on low speed and mix until blended, just about 20 to 25 seconds. Scrape the bowl and blend for 10 seconds more. Don't overmix this dough.

Scoop the dough in portions of about one tablespoon (I used a portion scoop to do this and I highly recommend you use one too!). Drop the dough into the cinnamon sugar to completely coat. Place the unbaked cookies on the parchment lined cookie sheets, about 2" apart.

Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, or until light golden with small cracks on top. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool. (If you'd like completely crispy snickerdoodles, bake them longer; for a more chewy and less crisp cookie allow a little less time in the oven. ) Store the cookies well covered. They'll be good for two or three days.

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or two read any existing comments, just click on the purple COMMENTS below!)


HanaĆ¢ said...

Lovely, Jane. I'm glad your son liked them that much. I have to admit I haven't met a snickerdoodle or a sugar cookie that I liked :o( But your post certainly makes me want to at least give it a try sometime... :o)

Jane said...

Hi there Hanaa,

Thanks! You know, when I was young (uh, let's make that "younger"--ha!) I didn't like snickerdoodles much either (maybe it was too much nutmeg??), nor was I especially crazy about sugar cookies. Somewhere along the way, though, my snickerdoodle opinion evolved. Heaven only knows why or how!

;) Jane

Allison said...

Oh, you have me craving snickerdoodles now! They are my absolute favorite cookie and it has been too long since I made them.

I like how you found a recipe that doesn't call for shortening. I did a search awhile back and honestly had trouble finding one. So I have for sure bookmarked this one!

Marie said...

Can anything beat a snickerdoodle??? I think NOT!! Yours look fabulous!

Mags said...

You're right....sometimes only a snickerdoodle will do. It's one of my family's favorites and I just love the smells of the spices as they're baking.

Irene said...

So pretty, I love these! I wasn't crazy about snickerdllodles before, but I started really craving them in the past few years. YUM!

Marysol said...

Love Snickerdoodles, both the cookie and its name!

My SIL introduced me to these delightful cookies, many years ago. She baked them often, so I always got my fix. That is, until she moved 500 miles away.
I think it's time I started baking my own. And I'll start with your recipe.

grace said...

"I also used at least twice as much cinnamon as called for..."

rock. on. :)
i also love that you roll your snickerdoodles in the cinnamon-sugar--that's the only way to go. also not optional for me is the cream of tartar--without it, they're just not snickerdoodles.

Karen said...

I made these for a pot luck at work the other day. They got raves!!!