Snickerdoodles – Which camp are you in?

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Awhile back I ran Michael Ruhlman posted an apology on his site about an error in his latest (and greatest) cookbook about an incorrect measurement in his Snickerdoodle recipe.  What I am sure that he did not expect, was the “controversy” it stirred up about the right way to make this tasty little cookies.

His recipe is much different from what I consider to be a true snickerdoodle, in that it doesn’t contain any cream of tartar and also uses brown sugar.  The whole reason I love these cookies so much is the contrast between the cinnamon sugar coating and the tang that is unmistakably cream of tartar.   Since his recipe uses baking powder, I figured I had better do a little bit of research to learn more about the difference.

According to King Arthur Flour’s website (a great resource for any baking information); cream of tartar is a natural ingredient, a fruit acid that accumulates on the inside of wine casks as the wine matures. It’s one of the ingredients that, along with baking soda, creates baking powder. Cream of tartar is often used to stabilize meringue, as its acid helps strengthen the proteins in the egg white, allowing them to trap more air as they’re beaten.  Okay, so now I know why cream of tartar and baking powder are sometimes used interchangeably in these cookies. 

Another difference you will find among recipes is what type of fat is used.  Ruhlman uses all butter in his recipe, but I have found that using all butter, results in a flat cookie, where I want mine to puff up and then fall.  My cookies use half shortening and half butter, to take advantage of both the flavor of butter and the higher melting point of the shortening.  Since I don’t want my cookies to spread too much as they bake, I form them into balls prior to rolling in the cinnamon sugar mixture.  This combined with shortening’s higher melting point will force the cookies to keep their structure long enough for the other ingredients to set, thus preventing excessive spreading. 

I know that shortening tends to get a bad rap, but it does have 50% less saturated fat than butter and no trans fats, so don’t overlook it’s benefits in baking. 

Easy to make and completely addictive, try this snickerdoodle recipe the next time you are in the mood to bake a batch of cookies.


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