The snickerdoodle cookie is a perennial favorite. Consisting of a sugar cookie base that is coated with a mixture of white sugar and cinnamon, this relatively basic cookie is very popular during the holidays, but can be enjoyed year 'round. Some snickerdoodle aficionados prefer a crispy cookie, while others like their cookie a little on the soft side. Either preference can be achieved by simply adjusting the baking times, baking a couple of minutes longer for crispy and a couple of minutes less for soft. Since most snickerdoodle recipes are very simple to follow, they make for a good family-friendly kitchen activity.
The ingredients needed to make snickerdoodles are very basic. Equal parts of butter and shortening are called for, as well as two large eggs. Make sure the eggs are large, not extra large. Extra large eggs could add too much liquid to the batter. Other ingredients include white sugar, all-purpose flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, a mixture of sugar and cinnamon, and salt.
What separates the snickerdoodle from the traditional sugar cookie or shortbread is the crispy coating of white sugar and cinnamon. This is achieved by forming the dough into 1-inch balls and rolling the balls in the sugar and cinnamon mixture before baking. Some cookie bakers like to flatten the balls by placing them on a cookie sheet and pressing down on them with a fork in a criss-cross pattern. Others prefer to flatten them gently with the palm of the hand, allowing the cookie to create its own crackled pattern as it bakes.
The sugar cookie may be a close cousin, but the snickerdoodle has a flavor all its own. This is due largely to the cream of tartar that is a staple of the standard snickerdoodle recipe. The cream of tartar has a way of combining with the cinnamon to create the gentle bite of spice that the cookie is famous for.
A number of countries have claimed to have given birth to the snickerdoodle, but no one knows for sure. In the well-known cookbook "The Joy of Cooking," author Irma Rombauer recounts that the snickerdoodle's origins can be traced back to Germany, with the cookie's endearing name derived from the German word "schneckennudeln," which means "snail dumpling." Perhaps a more appetizing explanation is that the snickerdoodle has Dutch roots and its name is an abbreviation of "Saint Nicholas."
Variations on the traditional snickerdoodle include the Chai snickerdoodle and the chocolate Chai snickerdoodle. Chai recipes call for a little extra spice in the form of allspice, ginger and cardamom. Chocolate Chai snickerdoodles, as the name implies, contain cocoa as well as extra spices.
If not prepared properly, snickerdoodles have a habit of going flat. Almost all snickerdoodle recipes call for baking soda rather than baking powder. Baking soda can lose its effectiveness if it sits on the shelf for too long. Always use fresh baking soda to ensure your snickerdoodles will maintain their trademark fluffiness. The cream of tartar should be fresh, as well.
The snickerdoodle has been called many names, including "Cry Babies," "Jumbles" and "Plunkets." In the early 1900s, there was a popular folk character named Snickerdoodle who was the subject of many tall tales. It's claimed that the cookie might have been named after this fanciful folk hero.