What is a Snickerdoodle?
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. They said it’s from 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? 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! It will help to stabilize a baked good that contains egg whites.
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 my salute to the Snickerdoodle.
The Standard Ingredients
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. There were also 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 by the end of the day. I increased the shortening and decreased the butter to leave us with a soft center and butter crisp edge that is less greasy. A cookie that is too greasy is not suitable for dipping in tea or coffee!
Sugar Burns Faster
Finally, the instructions in most recipes say to roll the whole ball in cinnamon and sugar, but leaves the bottoms easily scorched because of the sugar. For best results, just roll the top part of the cookie in the sugar mixture. Here is what happens when you roll the whole ball in sugar.
I hope you will enjoy a little classic cookie flavor from the past.
- 3/4 cup vegetable shortening
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, plus 1 egg white
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
Cinnamon & Sugar Mixture
- 3 Tablespoon granulated white sugar
- 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- In a large bowl, cream together with a fork (or mixer on low speed) the shortening, softened butter, 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 un-coated side down onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheet or baking mat. If you do not have parchment paper or a baking mat, 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. Special Note: 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. This prevents them from getting hard.