Thursday, October 15, 2009

recipe: snickerdoodles

I visited my mother's parents every summer when I was growing up. My Grandma Lou baked every day: loaves of butter bread, cinnamon rolls with walnuts and maple icing, fruit pies, angel food cakes, oatmeal raisin cookies, snickerdoodles. My memories of her bright, busy kitchen are a huge part of why I find baking and baked goods such a comfort.

A good friend of mine, Phil Clippinger, died in a car accident on Saturday, September 26th. (I've had a memorial post in the works for weeks, but haven't been ready to talk publicly about everything yet.) The week after his death, I spent a lot of time baking -- it kept me busy and fed my friends -- but on the morning of his funeral, I found myself with a kinda hilariously Jewish need to bake. The funeral was a huge Catholic mass, with a choir, and kneeling, and billows of incense smoke pouring through the thick slant of sunset that fell over his coffin. It's not like his family was sitting shiva. And it's not like I'm really that Jewish -- only half my family is, on my father's side, and I don't even observe the high holy days unless someone else does the planning. But when I woke up on the morning of Phil's funeral, I had to make something to bring to his family. And snickerdoodles were the most comforting thing I could think of.

This recipe makes ~3 dozen chewy, buttery, cinnamon-spiced cookies, and can easily be doubled if you need to feed everyone.

Adapted, as usual, from smittenkitchen.


1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (use a full 2 3/4 cups if you're doubling)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar (If you don't have this, omit the baking soda and use 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder to substitute for both)
1/8 teaspoon salt

8 tbps (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg, room temperature

1/8 cup sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon


A half hour before you get started, set out your butter and egg to allow them to approach room temperature.

When you're ready to start, preheat your oven to 400° F, and prepare a cookie sheet with butter, parchment paper, or a silicone baking mat if you're into that kind of thing. (I've got a nonstick sheet that things come off of pretty well all by itself -- I've found that greasing it just makes the bottoms of cookies burn, and putting down parchment or a silicone mat prevents cookies from getting good & crispy on the bottom, so I leave mine alone.)

Measure out your dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt) and whisk them to combine.

In a larger bowl, measure out your butter and sugar. Beat them with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes, or until they've begun to lighten in color and increase in volume (this is called creaming and it's how air gets into the batter, and thus what gives cookies their awesome chewy-tender texture -- if you creamed the mixture for a couple minutes more, you'd end up with a more airy, cakelike texture in your cookies). Scrape down the bowl then add your egg, and beat the mixture on low until the egg is fully incorporated (1 minute or so).

Pour your dry mixture into your wet mixture and stir manually until everything's incorporated. If the dough seems too sticky to work with, add an extra tablespoon or two of flour.

Combine your cinnamon and 1/8th cup of sugar in a small dish, bowl, or ramekin -- something you'll be able to roll balls of dough around in. Stir to combine.

Use a table spoon (like, a thing you'd eat with) to scoop out a bit of dough -- think something maybe 1 inch to 1.5 inches in diameter, or a bit smaller than a ping pong ball. Roll it between your palms gently to shape it into a ball, and then drop it into the cinnamon sugar mixture. Roll it around to coat it with awesome, and then place it on the baking sheet. Flatten it into a disc maybe half an inch thick and ~2.5 inches in diameter. Repeat with a bunch more cookies! They shouldn't spread too much, so you can place them ~2 inches apart or so on the sheet.

Pop the sheet in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes (or until ~1 minute after your kitchen starts to smell like awesome, or until the cookies have puffed up and then deflated, or until poking one gently on the top yields slightly springy resistance). Allow the sheet to cool for ~5 minutes once it's out of the oven, and then transfer the cookies to a cooling rack until they're just cool enough to serve.

To mix ahead: This dough freezes better if you don't coat it in cinnamon sugar first (the sugar coating may melt when the cookies defrost). So if you're mixing ahead, just roll the dough into balls and freeze them: Either wrap them in plastic so they aren't touching and seal them in a baggie/container, or freeze them on a sheet pan for ~1 hour before tossing them in a baggie/container. Defrost them in your fridge for ~1 hour, roll them in cinnamon sugar, and bake more or less as usual (you might need to add a minute or so to the cooking time).


mommaruth said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. But I appreciate your need to cook. Some of the biggest and best family meals I've ever been to in my life have been on the heals of a family member's funeral. (I'm from the South - we rarely need an occasion to eat, but we always welcome one!)

jules said...

They were delicious. And you're wonderful at taking care of your friends. xoxox

Mimi the Bee said...

In my family, we cook our grief away, too. Only at Bigmama's house, it usually involves a hamhock or bacon grease or both.

the grammar monkey said...

Raaaaar *hugs all of you*