Don’t laugh

[Recipe: Snickerdoodles]

It’s the weekend, and around here we like to celebrate with cookies. Far be it from me to go too long without baking a sweet something. Those lime bars remain on the horizon, I promise. But first I need to share this old favorite with you, because I know you’ve been working far too hard.

So where does the name snickerdoodle originate, anyway? It’s one of those nit-picky things that has always made my eyes roll. Love the cookie, I do. Hate the name.

Who needs a cutesy, gimmicky name for a pastry that’s appealing not for what it’s called, but that’s delicious for its minimalism, its clean and pronounced flavors. Easy as it is to churn out, it really is kind of an elegant cookie that way. Yet someone had to go and give it a name that makes it sound like it came from the state fair.

Of course, I had to Wiki it. I doubt there’s any other space so compact — the space of a few paragraphs — that packs in so many theories, so much lore. But it’s interesting stuff, for a cookie.

Can it be attributed to German baker Paul Gramm, whose assistant sent townspeople into fitful laughter with his tricks, hence the Snicker, and who was nicknamed Doodle? A little unimaginative, don’t you think? I mean, I could have come up with that.

But if it’s true, then the snickerdoodle’s subsequent introduction to the United States was — raise your eyebrows, now — a little scandalous. Get this: the recipe was allegedly stolen from Gramm by one Brian Ullman, a Pennsylvania baker who introduced the confection stateside and dubbed it a powdered Christian cookie. His business partner exposed the theft, they had a falling out, and then they went at it, avenging each other in what was called the Cookie Wars. Dangerous times, to be sure.

Personally — and I do take these things personally — I prefer the next version. I’m a linguistics girl, so I like the Joy of Cooking‘s take: Snickerdoodle is a corruption of the German word for cinnamon-topped sweet rolls, schneckennudeln.  Another author says simply that the name originated in New England, and blames the chefs of the early 1900s for their generally kooky recipe names.

But enough faulty speculation. What follows is the best recipe for a soft, moist snickerdoodle I’ve found, no speculating about it.


Adapted from Cooking Light

1 3/4 C all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

1 C sugar

1/4 C butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla

1 large egg

3 tbsp sugar

3 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda and cream of tartar, stirring with a whisk. Combine 1 cup of sugar and butter in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add the corn syrup, vanilla and egg; beat well. Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture, beating just until combined. Cover and chill for 10 minutes, or overnight.

Combine the remaining 3 tbsp sugar with cinnamon. Shape dough into balls the size of a cookie scoop (about 2 tbsp worth — this will yield about 2 dozen balls) and roll in the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Place balls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray or covered with Silpat or parchment paper. Flatten balls slightly with the bottom of a glass. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes. Cookies will be soft and may appear undone, but they will set up as they cool, remaining soft. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to wire racks.

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    drcorner said,

    Everybody loves a little Snickerdoodles, 😀 .

    Anyway, great history on this tasty pastry…quite a few other foods can attribute their introduction into American-eats by way of “theft”, some pizzas for instance.

  2. 2

    Elle said,

    Thanks for reminding me about snickerdoodles! I never think of making them, but now my 5 year old wants to, so…we’ll be having some soon.

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