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The Sweet Story of Snickerdoodle Cookies

A photo of Oz Girl

The snickerdoodle has been around a long time. Depending on who you believe, the snickerdoodle came from Germany, or is Dutch in origin, or perhaps got its start in New England. According to one source, “The Joy of Cooking claims that snickerdoodles are probably German in origin, and that the name is a corruption of the German word Schneckennudeln, which means ‘snail dumpling.’ A different author suggests that the word ‘snicker’ comes from the Dutch word snekrad, or the German word Schnecke, which both describe a snail-like shape. Yet another theory suggests that the name comes from a New England tradition of fanciful, whimsical cookie names. There is also a series of tall tales about a hero named ‘Snickerdoodle’ from the early 1900s which may be related to the name of the cookie.”

Snickerdoodle cookies

I’ve varied my snickerdoodle cookie recipe many times in an attempt to bake the perfect cookie. But in many ways, the basic recipe IS the best cookie, with some minor variations that involve tricks more than ingredients.

Tip No. 1: The texture of your cookies will benefit greatly from hand mixing the dough, as opposed to beating with a mixer. I don’t know the technicalities behind this, but I know I’ve seen this advice several times and I’ve tried it myself, and it DOES seem to make a difference. Try your snickerdoodles both ways, and see what you think.

Tip No. 2: Make sure your butter and eggs are at room temperature. The obvious? Not only is it easier to mix the butter by hand when it’s soft, but having these ingredients at room temperature also benefits the final cookie texture.

Tip No. 3: Be sure your baking soda and cream of tartar are fresh. Outdated ingredients will compromise the final cookie.

The Recipe

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs (use large, not extra-large)
2 tsp vanilla
2-3/4 cups flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbls. sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
Heat oven to 400. Mix the butter and shortening thoroughly (by hand!) … yes, it is a strange feeling to cream by hand. But hey, the pioneers must have done it, right? I don’t think they had any hand mixers in the 1800s.
Cream butter by hand for snickerdoodle cookies
After you’ve mixed the shortening and butter, add the sugar and cream further. Add eggs and vanilla.
Add eggs and vanilla for snickerdoodle cookies
In separate bowl, mix the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture.
Add flour mix for snickerdoodle cookies
Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small plastic bag. Shape dough into rounded teaspoons – I make mine a little bit larger because we like big cookies – and shake balls lightly in plastic bag with sugar/cinnamon mixture.
Sugar and cinnamon in a plastic bag for snickerdoodle cookies
Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. I use parchment paper and airbake cookie sheets for the most even baking.
Snickerdoodle cookies on a cookie sheet
Bake 6-10 minutes, depending on your preference. If you prefer a crispier cookie, then bake for 8 mins or more. I baked mine 6-1/2 minutes for a soft middle; be sure this timeframe suits your oven temperature. When the cookies look like they are beginning to crack on the top and they look moist between the cracks, it’s time to take them out. Let sit on the cookie sheets for a minute or two while they finish baking, then remove from sheets. Makes about 6 dozen.

Be adventurous and experiment with your sugar coating. I’ve added nutmeg, allspice, ginger, etc. It all depends on your taste preference!

Snickerdoodles store well in airtight containers at room temperature. I don’t know if they freeze well, because they don’t last more than 3-4 days around here.

Happy Snickerdoodling!