My first foray into a professional kitchen was during an afterschool culinary program when I was in kindergarden. I only remember this one afternoon of baking when my teacher taught my baking buddies and me how to make cinnamon sticks. We rolled out the dough and coated them in cinnamon sugar before slipping them into the oven. At the end of the day, we got to bring our creations home. I remember being so excited about this deliciously simple dessert and I was really bummed out once they had all been eaten. If only baking was still on my curriculum… I misplaced that recipe years ago, but this snickerdoodle recipe comes pretty close to the cinnamony goodness I’ve been in the mood for all these years.
Snickerdoodles have a subtle tangy, sour undertone which contrasts with the sweet cinnamon sugar finish. The cream of tartar and the baking soda work together to give the cookies lift. They cause the snickerdoodle to rise quickly before collapsing, which results in the crinkly top. The cream of tartar also provides the characteristic tang.
When I bake, I avoid using vegetable shortening, opting for butter instead. Since this is a tried and true America’s Test Kitchen recipe, I figure they might be on to something. For these cookies, the vegetable shortening is crucial in order to obtain the perfect texture. This ingredient keeps the cookies from spreading too much when in the oven. Results: a thick, chewy cookie you can sink your teeth into.
If you want to make these cookies ahead, portion the dough into balls and roll them in the cinnamon sugar. Place the balls on a tray and slip it in the freezer. Once the raw cookie dough balls are frozen, transfer them to a resealable bag and back in the freezer they go. When a craving hits, place the cookie dough balls on a baking tray and straight in the oven. Do not thaw them and increase the baking time to 12-17 minutes.
Recipe fact: These cookies get their name from the German word “schneckennudeln” which means “crinkly noodles”, and made their debut in America with the arrival of German immigrants!
Recipe adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book
Yields 24 portions
1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
1) Preheat the oven to 375F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2) Mix 1/4 cup of the sugar with the cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.
3) Whisk the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl.
4) In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the buttter, the vegetable shortening and the remaining 1 1/2 cups of sugar together until light and fluffy.
5) Add the eggs to the butter mixture, beating them in one at a time.
6) Reduce the speed to low and carefully pour in the flour, mixing until incorporated. Stir with a spatula to make sure the dough is well combined.
7) With wet hands, roll the dough into 24 balls. Then coat them with the cinnamon sugar set aside earlier. Place the dough balls on the two baking trays. Bake only one tray of cookies at a time for 10 to 12 minutes. At the halfway mark, rotate the tray in the oven. When the cookies are ready, the edges are set and beginning to brown while the centers are soft and puffy.
8) Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.