December 08, 2022. Dear Kids– It’s that time of year again- Hookie Cookie Day- the day you take off from school and/or work for a break every holiday season to make your favorite cookies!
This recipe is from GM, whose Snickerdoodles are now legendary in and out of our family, but this was a cookie I hadn’t even heard of, despite the fact that it’s been around since 1891 thanks to Cornelia Campbell Bedford, until you kids were in grammar school. It was on a cold and blustery day when you kids called me while I was running “errands” and after I dropped you off at GM’s condo that was over the road and through the woods from our house, to tell me you were making snickerdoodles. You both giggled as you said snickerdoodles, repeating it many times just for fun, and I was sure right then and there that I would be making these cookies regardless of how they tasted, just based on the name alone.
Then, not long after that, I walked through the garage door into GM’s kitchen to pick you up and was transported to another dimension by the sweet cinnamon and buttery aroma that greeted me as I entered. Just the right amount of spice and not anything like the air that assaults your senses in a gift shop trying too hard to be quaint. If that wasn’t enough, as soon as I bit into one of the few snickerdoodles that remained after you kids and GM had gotten into them, I tasted something very rare indeed in the cookie world- a cookie that defies logic and seemingly even science- a cookie that was both crispy and tender and savory and sweet at the same time- how could it be? First, a hit of crisp and bit of savory from the edge with hints of brown butter and caramel, giving way to the tender and sweet sugar cookie interior that was all set off by the spice and wisp of earthiness from the cinnamon; repeating the symphony of textures and flavors with each bite taken as I worked my way around the edges until the cookies was just a few crumbs on the floor- which is when GM handed me a plate for my future crumbs.
That was the first of many wonderful batches of GM’s snickerdoodles we have enjoyed over the years, asking GM whenever the opportunity arose or when anyone was visiting (double batch time- one for us and one for the guests) to make some. During that time, GM’s snickerdoodle even became my favorite cookie, dethroning the chocolate chip after an impressive 40+ year run.
Funny story, when I finally realized it was time to give GM a break from all that snickerdoodling, I asked her for her recipe, which we all thought was handed down from her mother, your great grandmother. not long after the turn of the 20th century. Well, as it turns out- no- it’s a recipe from a Cook’s Illustrated cookbook I gave GM for Christmas the year she moved to be close to us. No matter the story, there’s no denying the feeling of holiday nostalgia in every bite of these wonderful cookies, so take a break and make some today!
Prep Time: 27.80 minutes
Cook Time: 32.05 minutes
Servings: About 30 cookies (each about 3.5” wide)
GET YOUR STUFF OUT
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter,
- 1⁄2 cup vegetable shortening
- 1 1⁄2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 1⁄4 cups (11.25 oz) all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
COOK AND PLAY
Play “I’m Old Fashioned” by The Ella Fitzgerald and get back to the basics for the holidays while you bake your cookies.
1. Cream of the Crop. Set oven rack in middle position- heat oven to 375°. In the bowl of a standing mixer, with paddle attachment or in a large bowl with electric mixer, mix, scraping sides as needed: butter, vegetable shortening and granulated sugar until light and fluffy (a technique known as “creaming”)-5ish minutes. Mix in 2 large eggs- one at a time- 30 seconds or so each.
2. A Floury Mix. In a large bowl, whisk together: flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and kosher salt. Add this to sugar mixture and, with mixer starting slowly, mix to combine, scraping down sides as needed- a few minutes
3. Sugar & Spice. In a small bowl, combine: 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon and reserve.
4. Balls of Jolly. Scoop out 2 tablespoons of dough (about 30 grams- I love a scale!) and use your hands to roll dough into a ball, then roll the ball in cinnamon sugar mix. Repeat until all dough is rolled and sugared. For easier rolling, refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.
5. Make Room For The Sugar (and Cinnamon) Daddy. Place balls 2.5 inches apart on baking sheet. Keep extra dough balls in fridge will others are baking. Bake, rotating sheet after 5 minutes if you think of it, until cookies start to brown and edges start to set, but center is still soft- 9-11 minutes. Remove sheet from oven and let cookies set for a minute or two before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough balls.
Note- Not to brag, but if you look at the first picture below you can see a piece of kitchen twine I cut to exactly 2.5 inches to help with my spacing, which you’ll see worked perfectly when you get to the next picture.
A Word About Cream of Tartar and Vegetable Shortening. I never used cream of tartar or vegetable shortening before I started making these cookies- heck, I hadn’t even heard of cream of tartar before then, so if you are like I was, here’s the rundown on these two ingredients you should be able to find in your grocer’s baking aisle. Cream of Tartar. It’s not even creamy, first of all- it’s a white powder. It adds a nice bite of bitter to sweets- I just tasted a dab and it is bitter! GM insists she can tell if you use a substitute, so don’t. It also helps to tenderize your dough. Vegetable Shortening. It looks nothing like vegetables- it’s bright white, with the consistency of soft butter and sold in small tubs or sticks like butter. It adds tenderness to baked goods and is the key, along with the butter, to the crisp and tender contrast of these snickerdoodles. It doesn’t contain saturated fats, but may contain trans fats, which are best avoided, so read the label to find a brand without them.
Spice It Up. Mom never likes it when I mess with a Family Classic, but other then Mom, who’s to say swapping out Pumpkin Spice, Chinese Five Spice Powder or some other intriguing spice blend for the cinnamon wouldn’t be a tasty idea?
The Best Cookie. As I said earlier, I’ve had a few favorite cookies over the years, but now I realize I was foolish to limit myself to a favorite cookie when I could have had many favorite cookies. My favorites, really depend on the occasion or my mood. So in that spirit, here are some of my current favorites, in no particular order even though they are actually listed in an order-
- Christmas Cookies To Make WIth Family & Friends. Sugar Cookie Cut Outs with Frosting.
- In The Mood For Chocolate. Dorie Greenspan’s World Peace Cookie
- Looking To Start An International Incident. US Macaroons and French Macarons.
- Bonding with GM. Crisp Molasses Cookie
- Girl Scout Season. Samoas a.k.a. Caramel deLites
- Looking At The Leaves Change Colors. Snickerdoodles
- With Milk. Oreos- not Double Stuffs!
- When I’m Eating Healthy. Oatmeal Raisin
- My Next Favorite Cookie. Alfajores
- When I Want More Than A Cookie. The Brownie Whoopie Pie at Douin’s Market & Diner, New Sharon, ME.
On the other hand, if you are into ranking, here’s a look at the top ten holiday cookies people (likely old people based on the survey source) will be baking this year according to a poll from Better Homes and Garden: 1. Chocolate Chip (40%) 2. Peanut Butter (26%) 3. Sugar Cookies (25%) 4. Gingerbread (21%) 5. Snickerdoodles (20%) 6. Oatmeal Raisin (20%) 7. Shortbread (20%) 8. Kiss Cookies (19%) 9. Snowball/”Why Can’t We All Get Along Cookies” (17%) 10. Thumbprint (16%)
The Missing Ingredient. If you were playing “What’s The Missing Ingredient Game” from the picture of ingredients above- it’s baking soda!
Happy Holidays And Cooking To All!
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