Monday, February 15, 2010

Week Three: Snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodle ingredients (dog optional).

Late last week I was seized with an inexplicable and strong craving for the simple, cinnamony goodness of snickerdoodles. I had never made them, and the recipes I found online seemed straightforward enough: butter or shortening, sugar (in shockingly varying amounts), eggs, cinnamon, baking soda, flour, cream of tartar.

Cream of tartar? Weird, I thought, who has that on hand? Not me, I don't think. But surely this must be a fluke. Next recipe: cream of tartar. Every single recipe called for it, so I went to see if I had any. I did not, and with fresh snow on the ground and a generally lazy day-off-work outlook, I began to troll the Interwebs to see if I could substitute something else.

And that's why you see that big jug of vinegar in the photo above. My reserach revealed that cream of tartar is an acid salt, a byproduct of winemaking that inhibits the formation of crystals and is generally used to stabilize beaten egg whites, make frostings creamier, and clean brass and copper. The substitutions of choice are lemon juice and white vinegar, in a three-to-one ratio to the original amount called for.
I knew I didn't have any lemons in the fridge, but because this is humidifier season, and the crusty gunk that accumulates inside them responds well to vinegar, I have the aforementioned jug stting on my pantry floor.

Problem solved, I set about making the recipe I selected for its low cream of tartar content and reasonable sugar-to-butter ratio. I'd decided to use margarine, because A) butter is difficult to work with if, like me, you don't own a stand mixer, and B) many recipes I found called for shortening, so it seemed like a workable substitution.

The dough, even having been refrigerated for an hour, was sticky beyond what seemed reasonable, but I was able to make a full dozen one-inch balls and roll them in the cinnamon sugar. I stuck them in the oven and crossed my fingers, and put the remaining dough in the freezer to see if that would up the rollability factor (it did, but only for the first 2.5 minutes).

The results: Totally delicious, crispy on the edges and soft in the middle, excellent with mid-morning coffee. Next time around, I'll use at least half butter, but I'll stick with the vinegar substitution, or just leave it out and see what happens. FYI, the recipe I used makes about three dozen -- if there are no raw dough fiends in your house.


Brandi said...

I, too, am a fan of the King Arthur flours. Also, I want a Kitchenaid standing mixer so bad I can taste it! (BTW, a Kitchenaid standing mixer tastes delish!)

HMDean said...

I've been happy with the King Arthur, though I'm not a connoisseur. How is it superior to, say, Gold Medal?

You know those mixers come in all kinds of fun colors, which always make me think of flavors. The trouble for me with one of those, though, is storage and/or giving up counter space.