Monday, December 15, 2008

Snickerdoodles (Christmas Cookies 1)

I'm going to be posting the recipes for the family Christmas cookies. Most are not unusual and a couple I'm pretty sure come from an old Betty Crocker cookbook that my mom had when I was growing up. You know, that really huge one that, over time, loses its binding and is stuck together with Scotch tape? In fact, I'm pretty sure that the Snickerdoodle and Russian Teacake recipes were on the same page, a page that had fallen loose from the book and was covered in sugar and butter stains and, inexplicably, a burn mark in the corner. (Were we baking by candlelight or something?)

I've made these cookies in three countries and as many states. My mother early became tired of doing the baking, so my siblings and I took over. I am pretty sure, though, that I'm the only one who carries on the tradition. I now post a box of cookies to my family every year--I have to, as I insist on making four types of cookies, each recipe of which yields at least 4 dozen!

As noted above, this Snickerdoodle recipe comes from the Betty Crocker cookbook. The only changes I have made to the recipe is my use of whole wheat pastry flour and the fact that I use at least 50% cinnamon in my cinnamon-sugar mix, whereas most recipes call for a lot more sugar than cinnamon.

I tend to make all of my Christmas cookies in one day or one weekend. This way, the oven just stays on and I give a quick rinse to the mixing bowl and the baking sheets. I tend to do them in the same order, as well: Snickerdoodles, Sugar Cookies, Russian Teacakes, and Spritz. This is because first two bake at 350 and the second two at 400. Last year, when Elspeth was so little and I had very few long stretches of time to myself, I mixed all the doughs (with the exception of the Spritz, I think), rolled it into balls and then froze them on baking trays. Then, when I had time or when we wanted fresh cookies, I thawed and baked them. This year, I mixed all the doughs on Saturday, but only baked the Snickerdoodles and Russian teacakes (arguably the two easiest) that day. I baked up the Sugar Cookies and Spritz on Sunday.

If you're crazy like me and plan to make all four types (without halving any batches), you'll need to ensure you're stocked with 2 pounds butter, 6 eggs, 2 1/2 cups evaporated cane granulated sugar, 3 cups evaporated cane juice powdered sugar with extra for rolling and 9 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, plus other various ingredients like cream of tartar, vanilla and almond extracts.

One more thing--this year I decided to weigh all of my flour and granulated sugar (Fanny Farmer didn't have weight equivalents for powdered sugar or I would have done that, too). It's not that I'm super fussy about texture. Rather, I love the ease of using a big bowl, zeroing out the scale, and then dumping in the flour without having to worry about having the right sized measuring cup and leveling off, etc. etc.

INGREDIENTS
1 c (2 sticks, 1/2 lb) butter
1 1/2 c. evaporated cane juice granulated sugar (or 9 1/2 ounces)
2 eggs
2 3/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour (or 13 3/4 ounces)
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Cinnamon and evaporated cane juice sugar mixed together at your preferred ratio. You'll need about 1/2 c. of the mix, I'd guess.

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make sure your oven racks are in middle positions (I always bake two trays at a time--with this many cookies it would take forever to do them one by one! I also always line my trays with Silpat, but this isn't required)
  2. Either weigh or scoop the flour into a large bowl. Add the cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Stir together and set aside
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. (A hand mixer does well if it's a powerful enough one. When I was in Europe, I had to do it by hand!)
  4. Add eggs one at a time and mix (according to Cooks Illustrated it makes things better to add the eggs one at a time)
  5. Add the flour mixture a little at a time and mix
  6. Roll the dough into balls the size of a walnut. Sigh. I always make mine too big--they're more like the walnut with the shell still on so my recipe yield was 4 1/2 dozen rather than the expected 5 dozen. It's hardly a tragedy and I'm certainly not going to weigh the dough balls!
  7. Roll the balls in your cinnamon sugar mixture and place on the baking trays. If you're using a professional half-sheet pan, you can fit 15 on each one. Otherwise, it's likely you'll only fit one dozen per sheet
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden
  9. Remove to a cooling rack and store in an airtight container once cooled
  10. Cool cookie sheets before making next round

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