You might think a Snickerdoodle is simply a sugar cookie, dusted with cinnamon and sugar…Well not exactly. The one defining ingredient which differentiates it from its sister sugar cookie is Cream of Tartar. If it doesn’t have Cream of Tartar, it’s really just a sugar cookie rolled in cinnamon and sugar, not a Snickerdoodle. The origin is thought to be with the Pennsylvania Dutch, and the German word Schneckennudeln (lit. “snail noodles”) but others claim it’s simply a New England cookie with a “fanciful name.”
Have you ever dipped your finger in some Cream of Tartar? If not, it’s tart, and has a similar taste of baking soda. Cream of Tartar is a natural substance that is derived from crystals that form in the casks during the fermentation process of grape juice. I think it’s safe to say, however that Cream of Tartar is non-alcoholic!
I’ve tried a few recipes that claim to be “the best”. But every good vintage recipe can be better, and I hope that is what I’ve achieved here in salute to the “Snickerdoodle”.
The original recipe I worked from is a typical one found in cookbooks and on-line. It calls for two eggs, which I thought left the cookie with too much of an egg-scented essence, so I removed one yolk and reduced the flour. It also had two teaspoons of Cream of Tartar, which I thought overpowered the overall cookie. It had an equal part butter and shortening component, which works well in some cookies but in this case the cookies were hard rocks by dusk, and a bit greasy on the edges, so I increased the shortening and decreased the butter to leave us with a soft center and butter crisp edge. A cookie that is too greasy is not suitable for dipping in tea, or coffee!
Finally, the instructions in most recipes say to roll the whole ball in cinnamon and sugar, which leaves the bottoms easily scorched because of the sugar. If you are using a thick insulated cookie sheet, you might be able to get away with it, but for best results, only the top part of the cookie should be rolled.
I kept all of the essential ingredients, but rearrange them a bit for the best results.
4 Tablespoons Land O’Lakes or Plugra unsalted butter (room temperature)
3/4 cup Crisco shortening
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg, plus 1 egg white
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
Cinnamon Sugar mixture:
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl, cream together with a fork (or mixer on low speed) the butter, shortening, and extract until light in color. Slowly add in the sugar until all creamed together. Then add the egg and egg white until incorporated well. Set aside.
In another medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, salt, cream of tartar, and baking soda. With a spoon, gradually mix into the wet mix bowl. May use your hands to finish blending as it gets thick.
On plate, mix the 3 Tbs. sugar with cinnamon.
With a cookie scoop, measure out equal Tablespoon- sized balls, and gently roll on one side into the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Place uncoated side down onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. If you do not have parchment paper, lightly grease pan with Crisco shortening or cooking spray.
Bake for 8 minutes or until just golden. Let cool, and store in an air-tight container to keep soft.
The secret trick is to take them out a little bit before they start to golden. The centers will still be bubbling and you might think you are taking them out too soon, but they continue to cook once you remove them. AS soon as they are just cool, put them in an airtight container.
I hope you will enjoy a little classic cookie flavor from the past.