I was really craving some snickerdoodles the other day, and I was pleased to discover I had all but one ingredient to make them. That one ingredient was cream of tartar. At the time, I had no idea why I needed it, but it seemed like something I shouldn’t leave out. As I was munching on my freshly baked cookies, I did some research.
I learned that cream of tartar (tartaric acid) is what separates snickerdoodles from sugar cookies. Being an acid, it reacts with another ingredient, baking soda, which is a base. You’re probably familiar with how baking soda reacts with vinegar, another type of acid, so you probably know that the two form carbon dioxide gas.
The carbon dioxide bubbles that form from the cream of tartar and baking soda is what makes snickerdoodles so light and airy. The acidity is also what gives snickerdoodles their classic tang. Unlike sugar cookies, snickerdoodles have no vanilla since that would interfere with the tangy flavor.
I found the following recipe from Betty Crocker. I didn’t change any ingredients, but I did change some of the directions. I also cut the recipe in half and found that half makes about 20 cookies. I suspect it’s not quite two dozen because I kept eating the dough, but it was worth it.
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup sugar (for the coating)
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (for the coating)
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon for the coating. Set aside.
- With an electric mixer, combine butter, shortening, and 1 1/2 cups sugar until well incorporated. Add in the eggs. Once that is all combined, start slowly adding in the flour mixture until a dough just begins to form. Try not to overwork the dough.
- Roll dough into 1 1/4 inch balls. Roll balls in the cinnamon sugar and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Allow the cookies to cool slightly before devouring.
Tip: If you overbake your cookies, they make for excellent dunkers, especially in hot chocolate.
Got leftover cinnamon sugar? Sprinkle it on toast, or use it to make cinnamon sugar popcorn!