I know I’ve been doing a lot of baking recently. But it is Christmas and all I want to do is jam my maw with sweets. So welcome to Cookie Week!
On Sunday, I appeared on the Heritage Radio Network’s show We Dig Plants, talking with hosts Carmen Devito & Alice Marcus Krieg about the salacious history of cloves and cinnamon. Listen to the full 30 minute show for free here.
I got curious about the history of the Snickerdoodle cookie: when we’re talking cinnamon in baking, the Snickerdoodle is king. For those of you that don’t know, the Snickerdoodle is a crispy combination of cinnamon and sugar. No other baked good features the flavor of cinnamon so prominently.
I began poking around for a little information on the origin of the Snickerdoodle. There’s some vague sense on the internet that it was invented in the 19th century, but there’s a lot of back and forth about where the name came from: what German word it descended from, what cookies were called Snickerdoodles before. To me, that’s unimportant. What’s interesting about the Snickerdoodle is that it’s just a cinnamon cookie. No bells and whistles. No currents. No rosewater. No 50 spice blend. It’s a cookie entirely different than all other 19th century cookies.
So I went to Feeding America, an online archive of the most important cookbooks of the 19th and early 20th century cookbooks, and I punched “Snickerdoodles” into the search. No hits. This usually a bad sign, as it often indicates a recipe did not evolve in the 19th century. Then I shortened my search to just “doodle,” and got this:
Not only does this appear to be a proto-Snickerdoodle recipe, but it also seems to indicate that the cookie came before the contemporary name.
So I put the Snippodoodle to the test.
What makes this recipe unique is that its baked in a sheet, then cut, as opposed to a modern Snickerdoodle which is rolled into a ball and dipped into cinnamon sugar. My cookies did not come out thin and crispy, as the recipe suggests, but cakey and a little chewy. I should note that I made one major substition: I starting mixing up my batter only to discover that I was out of milk. I had already been to the deli once to get eggs and I just couldn’t convince myself to go back out into the cold. I opened the fridge: I didn’t have milk, but I did have homemade, boozey, creamy eggnog. Done and done.
From Good Things to Eat by Rufus Estes, 1911.
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup milk (or eggnog)
1 medium egg
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Sift together flour, cinnamon, and baking powder (or just throw it in a bowl and whisk it if you’re lazy like me).
3. Whisk together milk and egg.
4. With mixer on medium speed, cream together butter and sugar for 30 seconds. Scrape bowl.
5. Add milk and eggs; mix until combined.
6. With mixer on low, slowly add flour mixture. Mix until fully combined.
7. Using a spatula, or buttered fingers, spread/press the mixture into a 9 x 13 baking pan. It will seem thin, but don’t worry. It’s supposed to.
8. Bake thirteen minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Slice into squares and remove to a rack to cool.
Delicious? Yes. Does the Snippodoodle surpass the modern Snickerdoodle in texture in flavor? No. It’s a good cookie, but not an improvement. However, is substituting eggnog for milk in a cookie recipe a good idea? Yes, it’s an awesome idea. And I think that’s a lesson we all can learn.