At the risk of being accused of bastardizing a classic, Brilliant Daughter and I reinvented the old-time favorite snickerdoodle to incorporate flavorful chai spices. (Brilliant because she came up with the idea in the first place.)
Snickerdoodles were one of the kids’ favorite cookies growing up. I didn’t make them as often as say, Tollhouse Chocolate Chip, as they required hand rolling in a sugar/cinnamon mixture, which was a bit more time consuming and meant my eyes were less attentive to active children (though they did like to help me roll the cookies in the sugar—hands caked in cinnamon by the end). But these cookies were always well received, not only by my own kids, but by the neighborhood kids as well. Snickerdoodles are a rich buttery-eggy tasting cookie with a slightly crisp sugar/cinnamon outer shell. The ingredients are basic, the dough easy and quick to make, with the only requirement that you hand roll the dough into balls and coat in sugar and cinnamon.
We were debating the origin of the snickerdoodle, or at least the hilarity of the name, and to further educate ourselves we found the following information at the James Beard Foundation: Foundation Snickerdoodles are: A cookie with character. There’s no question that these simple, old-fashioned, cinnamon-dusted sugar cookies are delicious, but culinary historians have a difficult time reaching consensus on the origin of their funny name. Sherry Yard in her Secrets of Baking contends that snickerdoodles are named after a character from an early 20th century children’s story. Apparently, Snickerdoodle (nephew of Yankee Doodle and cousin to Polly Wolly Doodle) was a tiny guy who drove a peanut car and heroically solved big problems—much like a snickerdoodle with a glass of milk can do on a rough day. Others argue that snickerdoodle is merely a nonsense word like doodly-squat, a word that gave rise to the song “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” Still other historians believe that snickerdoodle is, in fact, a very old name that comes from a New England tradition of giving little cakes and cookies fantastical names, such as Jolly Boys, Tangle Breeches, and Kinkawoodles. Snickerdoodles resemble many cookies that have come from England and Germany, but New Englanders usually get credit for their creation in the 18th or 19th century when a slew of similar spice cookies was popular. The recipe for these homey cookies reveals their age: it typically calls for cream of tartar and baking soda—not baking power as a more modern recipe might.
My snickerdoodle recipe is old and loved and I have never wavered from it. But we have been experimenting lately with flavorings for bread pudding, and the last one in the test kitchen was a chai bread pudding because we are a chai-loving household. Introduced to us by our Nepali friend Raj, it is a winter staple, warm and frothy, its scent permeating the whole house as it simmers. So there was a natural progression of thought, at least in our mind, with the bread pudding, chai, and snickerdoodles. Combining two of our favorite things to make something new seems to be our mission these days. So, we took the basic recipe, adjusted the rolling mixture, and saved ourselves some time by scooping the dough with a small ice cream scoop.
So, without further ado, we offer you the Chaidoodle:
1 c butter, softened
1 ½ c sugar
2 /34 cup flour
2 t cream of tartar
1 t soda
¼ t salt
Cream together the first 3 ingredients. Sift dry ingredients together and add to creamed mixture, incorporating well. Shake together the following in a lidded plastic container:
3-4 T sugar
1 t ground cardamom
2 t cinnamon
¼ t clove
¼ t ginger
¼ t allspice
Roll dough into walnut-size balls, or scoop with small ice-cream scooper, and drop several at a time into the lidded container. Shake to coat, and place on ungreased cookie sheet or silpat. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, or until cookies puff up and flatten out and are slightly brown.